Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Polish Soldiers Take Ill En Masse

Stop the presses! Polish soldiers have come down sick in droves. Nerve problems and back aches are also sending troops to the infirmary. Have nefarious secret forces unleashed a virus but one happening IRL? Is this the prelude to an impending invasion by supposedly benign neighbours? Will all Poles be speaking Lithuanian soon?

The truth, as so often, is a tad bit more mundane, and definitely more embarrassing for a military that is supposed to be professionalising.

It turns out Polish soldiers are calling in "sick," as it were, in order to miss military exercises, according to a report in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. The problem is relatively simple: money.

"Before 2010 for a month of training soldiers made nearly 750 zloty, making going to training profitable. At present, I don't want to sit in the woods for 150 zloty," one officer said of the per diem cut to 5 zloty from 25 zloty. A soldier doesn't only get to stay at home but can even moonlight, he added. The total of 750 zloty is worth about 260 dollars and the 150 zloty some 50 dollars, meaning the soldiers are refusing to train over 110 bucks.

If this were a problem of one or two soldiers malingering, it might not be a big deal. But up to one-third or more of a unit call in "sick" for exercises. One officer said the plague of sick leaves was so big training exercises were severely disrupted.

The Defense Ministry vows to combat this new enemy. It wants to change regulations so that, like mere civilians, pay is cut to 80% of normal from 100% for sick leave and limits are set. The onslaught could come this year.

Poland's borders are safe these days, even if some on the quackier right believe in Russian coups and Lithuanian language blitzkrieg. But as proud members of NATO, Poland has buty on the ground in a relatively tense part of Afghanistan and its soldiers did a long tour in Iraq. Peace-keeping missions elsewhere firm up Poland's attempt to do its part for global democracy. Considering the real threats out there, military malingering seems like a parade-march in the wrong direction. Halt, about turn, and forward march!


  1. Poland's borders wouldn't hold up even a day against an attack from Belarus.

  2. The Belarussians are a mighty nation of hockey players -- I'm Canadian -- and the Poles tend to gravitate toward foot-to-ball. You thus might be right. But what about NATO? Could pose a problem methinks.

  3. Would NATO be able to mobilize in time, before the Belarussians get to Lublin, say?

  4. Lublin, I guess, could be sacrificed as a ruse to draw the Belarussian troops out, stretching their supply lines thin until NATO could mobilise and then, boom, the counter-attack would start and not stop till Minsk was back in Polish hands. Maybe then Poland's national hockey team could properly contest the world championships.