Bulgaria Table of Contents
Military training began with mandatory premilitary training through the Organization for Cooperation in Defense, a mass organization with more than 10,000 affiliates in schools, cooperative farms, and enterprises throughout the country. Under its auspices, reserve officers and active-duty junior officers trained thousands of young men and women between the ages of sixteen and eighteen in a year-round program. In classroom and field exercises, trainees learned marksmanship, radio communications, scuba diving, and technical military specialties such as aircraft and vehicle operations and maintenance. For the last, the Organization for Cooperation in Defense had an inventory of more than seventy BTR-60 and MT-LB armored personnel carriers. Although the organization also sponsored sports competitions and summer camps less directly related to military service, the main goal of premilitary training was to reduce the time required to adapt young inductees to military life.
Military training followed the Soviet model because the Sovietmade weapons and equipment in the inventory required specialized training in operation and maintenance. Training, which also followed Soviet tactical concepts, moved in an annual cycle under the two-year service term. Adjustments in the training cycle were expected to compensate for the shorter eighteen-month service term. On the other hand, in 1990 elimination of political indoctrination requirements freed as much as 25 percent of conscript training time for military and physical training. Immediately after induction, conscripts began basic physical conditioning, training in handling and maintenance of small arms, drill, and general military indoctrination. They learned a range of individual skills required in small unit combat situations, including first aid, radiation and chemical decontamination, and camouflage techniques. After basic training, soldiers formed crews for training on larger weapons and equipment. They participated in exercises of increasing scale until the training cycle culminated in a large-scale combined arms maneuver held each year. In 1990 the minister of national defense called for more realistic training, especially for combat at night and in poor visibility conditions. Conscripts received specialist training in a variety of fields. Separate schools trained junior specialists in transport and rear services, tank and vehicle maintenance, POL handling, and military music.
The majority of NCOs were new inductees selected at induction for special training at service schools. NCOs served longer than the usual conscription period. In the early 1970s, special secondary schools were also established for NCO training. These schools were available to acceptable applicants who had completed the eighth grade. The course of study lasted three years and graduates were obligated to serve in the armed forces for ten years.
Military life was generally austere but not significantly different from conditions throughout the country. The greatest hardship was the requirement that conscripts serve outside their home provinces. In 1991 increasing criticism was leveled at the negative aspects of military service, especially the hazing of new conscripts. The press widely reported complaints from conscripts and parents that hazing often included intimidation and violence against young recruits by senior soldiers. In response, junior officers were assigned barracks duty to prevent such excesses. A general decline in military discipline also had become a problem in 1991. The press reported widespread cases of soldiers failing to wear proper uniforms or to carry proper identity papers, increased rates of absence without leave, and black market activities by soldiers. Misappropriation of money and property, theft of weapons and ammunition, and violent assault and murder were cited as increasingly common occurrences. The Plovdiv garrison alone reported 600 violations of military conduct rules during the last six months of 1990. Burgas, Stara Zagora, and other garrisons in southeastern Bulgaria were cited as particular problem areas. A spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense voiced concern that the process of democratization had the unintended side effect of undermining order in the ranks of the BPA. The spokesperson accused the media and political parties of encouraging disciplinary violations and disobedience among conscripts without regard to the need to maintain the integrity and capabilities of the BPA. On the other hand, the military leadership tended to label all agitation for better living conditions as simply a failure of discipline.
Data as of June 1992
Bulgaria Table of Contents