In an open conversation, the participants of the meeting discussed the problems of the army and military service, the possible solution, steps taken by the government and reforms in the armed forces. In addition, the results of the survey conducted under Watchtower program initiated by the Ministry of Defence were presented at the meeting. A number of discharged conscripts attended the meeting as well.
President Sargsyan first congratulated the participants on accomplishing their duty to the Homeland and returning home, as well as on St. Sargis Day marked today, and the upcoming 26th anniversary of the Armenian armed forces. He then emphasized the importance of such meetings and spoke about their main goal.
"Everyone understands that military service is not a light ride; military service has its difficulties and hardships, but I am sure that each of you, after ending his service successfully, will then remember years of service with pride and warmth. And even if somebody has been upset about something or has had some difficulties, they will go away over time, and you will only remember that you have fulfilled your duty to our state and people in this period of your life. Therefore, I thank you for your honest fulfilment of your duty on behalf of our people and the government.
Second, I want to congratulate you on the occasion of the St. Sargis holiday. A few hours ago, the defence minister and I, under the arches of the St. Sargis church, prayed to God to support the Armenian army and protect our soldiers and officers and the souls of our martyred friends.
Third, I would like to congratulate all of you on the 26th anniversary of the Armenian Army. Tomorrow, of course, we will celebrate, we will remember our best officers, soldiers, our killed friends, we will speak from our heart to the army, and we will pay tribute to the Armenian army.
I don’t even know how to address you: beloved soldiers, guys, because if someone serves conscientiously, pays his duty, he always remains a soldier, a soldier of the army, a solider of making the country prosper, a soldier who is keen to get knowledge. Nevertheless, guys, such meetings, have at least two goals. The first is that you hear from my lips that after returning home, after having paid your duty, you can also expect the government’s support. If any of you has decided to get an education or a profession, the Ministry of Defence, our government will always stand by you. Of course, I am not talking about you only; I am talking about everybody who has been discharged.
The second goal is for me to get complete information about our armed forces. Obviously, I have plenty of channels to keep control of the situation in the army, to see the problems and to find solutions, but it is extremely crucial to listen to suggestions of those immediately involved in the process.
Last year, we conducted a project called Watchtower, the aim of which is to conduct anonymous surveys among soldiers discharged in the summer of 2017 and to ask all the soldiers a few questions, and use the findings in our future work.
Today, the defence minister and sociologist Hovhannes Grigoryan, the general director of our partner company, Bevis, will present a part of that huge study. Then I will ask you to comment on some of the conclusions or give your own conclusions or try to clarify certain circumstances or make suggestions. This is very important for our armed forces because our armed forces, our army are a people’s army. Almost everybody of conscript age -- a huge part of our society – serves in our army. By the way, I must say that our armed forces are the youngest body because there is no other body that involves such a large number of young people at the same time. Therefore, it is very important for us that our soldiers and officers serve with pleasure, so they can be inspired by the fact that they have the luck to serve during this period of our millennial-long nations’ eternal march. Perhaps you can’t completely appreciate it now, but believe me, over time, you will understand that serving your people and country is the biggest pleasure, President Sargsyan said.
Defence Minister Vigen Sargsyan, participating in the meeting, thanked the discharged servicemen for their good service and highlighted the importance of such meetings that are held for the third in this format and. The meetings held under the instruction of the country’s president, according to him, give the opportunity to combine the proposed policy and reforms with opinions and impressions of discharged servicemen. Minister Sargsyan also spoke about the survey conducted under the Watchtower program, the findings of which were also presented at the annual summarizing board meeting held at the Ministry of Defence.
"Instructions have been given in relevant directions to understand what each unit or agency has to do with regard to negative or disturbing answers. We also reviewed the each military unit. Yesterday, during the meeting of the board, we pointed to the units that are in an noticeable better position and where the issues of discharged conscripts are addressed in a better manner in the public perception, and to the units where there were concerns in every direction. We will work separately with the commander of every military unit to make corrections, find solutions," Minister Sargsyan said.
Speaking about the findings of survey, Brevis General Director Grigoryan said that the company’s interviewers visited 47 urban and 688 rural settlements to conduct surveys among the conscripts discharged during the summer of 2017 and who have served for at least 12 months and agreed in writing to participate in the survey. or more. About 73% of those available took part in the poll.
"Specific requirements have been put forward for the survey, such as creating conditions for the data security as well as the freedom of expression for those involved. A special software was developed, which transmits the data from the tablets used for polls to a secure field in a matter of minutes, making it inaccessible for interested parties, even for the surveyors," he said, adding that the company's analyst team spent about a month analyzing the data and then presented them in detailed reports to the Ministry of Defence.
The research created an extensive database -- about 560 questions and sub-questions – and findings obtained as a result of their combination. They apply r to all aspects of the army life: from material-economic base, health issues, education and entertainment to living conditions and non-formal relationships.
He said that the research data give a clear picture of discharged persons’ attitude to military service.
Grigoryan, detailing the positive and negative opinions received from the respondents, emphasized that the research showed that young people have some stereotypes of the military service before joining the military but that significantly changes after being discharged. He said that those who have participated in the poll and others who have contributed to the army modernization will also have the opportunity to see the full findings of the survey at the reception to be held at the Ministry of Defence on February 3.
After discussing the survey findings with the discharged servicemen, President Sargsyan suggested that the meeting should continue without cameras so the participants could address those and other issues in a more casual environment.