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Specialized-Officer Programs

Despite the benefits, youth in the late 1980s showed little interest in professional military careers. According to the Ministry of Defense, this lack of interest resulted in a pool of applicants smaller than the number needed for a good selection of candidates.

Candidates for officer training were chosen by the ministries of defense, interior, and education, together with the Communist Youth League's central committee (see Mass Organizations , ch. 2). These candidates had to be of "good character," politically reliable, physically fit, single, and not over twenty-one years of age, and they had to demonstrate military aptitude. They were required to take mathematics and physics tests and psychological examinations. Knowledge of Russian was necessary to become an officer in the air force. After such screening, candidates then attended a military college for four years as officer cadets. After passing final examinations, they became junior officers (in the army, air force, or border guard) and were obligated to serve fifteen years.

Political officers were trained in military colleges but took different courses. A background in the Communist Youth League and the Hungarian National Defense Association (Magyar honvedelmi szovetseg--MHSz) helped in selection for this career. Older candidates were chosen from the party apparatus or from those with degrees in the "science of Marxism-Leninism." The Ministry of Defense's Main Political Administration oversaw the selection and screening of political officers.

In the late 1980s, the HPA operated schools ranging from secondary schools through colleges for the academic, technical, and political training and advancement of regular personnel. Many senior officers, in addition to successfully completing military schooling at all levels, also were sent to the Soviet Union for courses in that country's military institutions. Such Soviet schools included the Voroshilov General Staff Military Academy in Moscow, the Frunze Military Academy and the Malinovskii Military Academy, the Zhukov Air Defense Academy, and the Moscow Military Academy of the General Staff. Courses of study in the Soviet Union lasted from two to eight years. The Soviet Union also sent lecturers and textbooks to Hungary. Hungarian officers also were trained in Czechoslovakia and Poland.

The military academies were the highest level of military schooling, the most important of which was the Miklos Zrinyi Military Academy in Budapest. Before 1968 its entrance requirements were lenient, but after that time entry was obtained only upon the successful completion of a military college or an officers' training school of equivalent ranking. The course of study took three years, and a variety of subjects were offered. Graduation from the Miklos Zrinyi Military Academy was necessary to attain high-level command positions.

The Lajos Kossuth Military Academy in Szentendre in Pest County also ranked high in the military education system. It was considered to be academically equal to other institutions of higher learning. Graduates were commissioned as army officers. The Lajos Kossuth Military Academy offered specialized training in mechanized infantry, armored troops, surface-to-surface artillery, engineering, military economy and supply, and border guard work. The Kossuth Academy required knowledge of two foreign languages, one of which had to be Russian. The school also offered many courses on various aspects of Marxism-Leninism.

Other high-level military schools included the Mate Zalka Technical Military Academy in Budapest, which specialized in antiaircraft, artillery, radar technology, signaling and telecommunications, and nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) defense and warfare; the Gyorgy Kilian Technical Air Force Academy, which trained ground and air crews and taught aviation and aircraft maintenance; the Honved Military College, which offered a three-year course of study for university graduates training to become officers; and the Frigyes Karikas Military College. The HPA also operated specialized military high schools in Eger, Nyiregyhaza, and Tata.

Volunteers for military colleges were generally between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one and were drawn from all parts of the country. As a group, their precollege academic performance was not impressive. Nearly three-quarters chose a military career because they liked the military life-style and its contribution to society. The remainder had motives that the HPA found less than admirable, such as the desire for high pay and fringe benefits, and had goals that have been described as "incoherent" or "selfish," such as a desire for adventure. Some students also came from families with a strong military tradition. In the mid1970s , about 14 percent of the students at the Gyorgy Kilian Technical Air Force Academy and 19 percent of those sent to study at Soviet military colleges had at least one parent with a military background.

Warrant officers were selected from career servicemen and conscripts. They could not be older than twenty-three, and they had to have had at least an eight-year general (elementary) school education certificate. Their training took two years, and they could be promoted to the rank of sergeant or staff sergeant. They were obligated to serve at least twelve years.

Officers and regimental sergeants major (sergeant, master sergeant, and sergeant major) in the military were compensated relatively well. Although starting salaries were low, they more than doubled after fifteen to twenty years of service. Officers also received an additional clothing allowance. They could retire at age fifty-five instead of age sixty (the age required for the rest of the population), and their pensions totaled 60 to 90 percent of the average of their last five years' salaries. They also received from twenty-five to thirty-seven days of vacation a year.

However, the professional military life also had its disadvantages. Officers could not engage in the second, unofficial economy and were thus required to live solely off their salaries, a difficult situation in Hungary (see Domestic Consumption , ch. 3). The housing provided by the military was both cramped and substandard. A professional soldier could be assigned to four or five different garrisons during his career, requiring moves by the entire family. In some locations, wives could not easily find suitable employment, essential foods, and social services. Military authorities were very concerned about the increasing alienation and materialism and the resulting high rates of alcoholism, suicide, and divorce among officers of the HPA.

Data as of September 1989

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