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Progressive models of the world’s armies. How experience from the U.S., Israel, and Switzerland can be helpful for Ukraine

The world's most advanced armies. Who's experience can be helpfup for Ukraine? Photo: Wikipedia

The world's most advanced armies. Who's experience can be helpfup for Ukraine? Photo: Wikipedia

On October 14, Ukraine celebrates Defenders Day. This year, the day came in the midst of a full-scale war with Russia.

Ukraine also rose to 22nd place among 142 countries in the 2022 Global Firepower Military Strength Ranking.

The website ranks the defense strength of countries according to more than 50 factors, including manpower, equipment, budget, geography, etc.

The latter is the key. It brought together the U.S. (the 1st place) and Russia (the 2nd place), countries that have diametrically opposite approaches to command and control but equally wide access to the sea.

Given the neighboring terrorist country and the risk of the war protracting or recurring over time, the Ukrainian army will undergo further modernization and development. NATO has been putting much effort into it.

The Page has looked into the structure of the most advanced armies of the U.S., Israel, and Switzerland. The latter was mentioned this spring by Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the President’s Chief of Staff, who said its mixed conscription model could be acceptable for Ukraine. But what are the real achievements, apart from the natural advantages of these countries, that make their armies cited as the world’s most progressive ones?


The U.S. army: conscription, entry tests, and equality

The U.S. Department of Defense employs about 3 million people. Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. Department of Defense employs about 3 million people. Photo: Wikipedia

There’s an interesting fact that explains a lot: the largest employer in the United States is the Department of Defense. About 3 million of the country’s 332-million population (estimation as of 2022) are working for it.

The structure of the U.S. army

The U.S. Armed Forces consist of the Space Force, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as two types of reserve.

Reservists of the first type are those who have recently completed military service and therefore need no additional training or those who have completed adequate special training.

There are two types of reserve in the U.S. army. Photo: Wikipedia

There are two types of reserve in the U.S. army. Photo: Wikipedia

The second type is the National Guard service members, who undergo combat training while holding their full-time civilian jobs.

All these branches report to the Department of Defense.

Conscription and selection to the U.S. army

All male U.S. citizens and immigrants 18 through 25 years of age are subject to conscription, or draft. First, they have to register with the government. Failure to register for the draft before turning 26 is considered a felony and will be a reason to deny government benefits.

Meanwhile, not everyone can enlist in the U.S. army voluntarily. Contractual service has no gender restrictions, but there’s an age requirement: to join the army, one has to be at least 17 and not older than 35 years.

Although all men must register for the draft, it's not easy to enlist in the U.S. army. Photo: Wikipedia

Although all men must register for the draft, it's not easy to enlist in the U.S. army. Photo: Wikipedia

Before signing a contract, a candidate has to pass the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test to reveal their areas of strength and ability in science, math, and language.

Another entry requirement is the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which includes two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a timed two-mile run.

Moreover, those wanting to enlist are also checked for previous convictions, debts, and tattoos on highly visible body areas. A high school degree or equivalent is also required.

Incentives offered to U.S. service members

In the U.S., defending the country is not only an honorable job but a profitable one. The average salary of a service member is estimated at $65,000 a year, or $3,000 a month. This is equivalent to about UAH 2,5 million and UAH 111,000, respectively.

The U.S. service members are paid about $3,000 a month. Photo: Wikipedia

The U.S. service members are paid about $3,000 a month. Photo: Wikipedia

Moreover, they receive many services free of charge or at a reduced rate. This includes shopping, repairs, entertainment, travel, etc.

But it’s not only about money! The package of benefits includes, in addition to scholarships and health care plans for soldiers and their families, psychological and legal aid, both during active service and after it.

Gender equality in the U.S. army

Since 2016, all specialties and positions in the U.S. army are available to women without exception.

However, women’s roles on the frontline raise the debate concerning the U.S. observing international humanitarian law.

All specialties in the U.S. army are available to women without exception. Photo: army.mil

All specialties in the U.S. army are available to women without exception. Photo: army.mil

A report titled "Culture, Gender, and Women in the Military" published by researchers in 2021 says that, despite integration programs introduced by the government, the gender gap still persists, as does the culture of toxic masculinity and stereotypes around women, which, in turn, create an environment that enables sexual harassment.

The army of Israel: what is known about it

The Israeli army is called one of the least hierarchical ones. Photo: Wikipedia

The Israeli army is called one of the least hierarchical ones. Photo: Wikipedia

Tzahal, or the Israel Defense Forces, was created on May 31, 1948, just two weeks after the Israeli Declaration of Independence. It is one of the world’s least hierarchical military structures, and any attempted abusive treatment there entails severe punishment.

The structure of the Israeli army

The Israel Defense Forces consist of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In 2019, their personnel was 178,000 members.

The guiding principles of Tzahal were formed by the country’s need to defend itself from its numerically superior neighbors, which is why it cannot afford to lose a single war.

The Israeli army has to maintain a constant reserve. Photo: Wikipedia

The Israeli army has to maintain a constant reserve. Photo: Wikipedia

Since the active-duty component of the Israeli army is relatively small, it needs to constantly maintain a well-trained reserve force that can be mobilized swiftly. Meanwhile, robust early warning systems, one of the world’s most advanced missile defense networks, and other military equipment create a solid ground for these human assets.

The commander of the IDF is the chief of general staff. This position, in turn, is supervised by the minister of defense.

The chiefs of the air force and navy report to the chief of general staff, as do regional commanders and the heads of various defense directorates. One such directorate is the Intelligence Corps, which, along with Mossad (external operations) and Shin Bet (internal operations), forms the three pillars of Israel’s intelligence and counterintelligence establishment.

Selection and conscription to the IDF

All Jews, Druze, and Circassian men must serve in the IDF. Photo: Wikipedia

All Jews, Druze, and Circassian men must serve in the IDF. Photo: Wikipedia

Military service is mandatory for all Jews and Druze, both men and women, and Circassians (men only). Students are granted deferments while married women, women with children, and men who are undertaking religious studies are exempted.

The active-duty conscription service lasts 32 months for men and 24 months for women. It is followed by a decades-long compulsory reserve duty, which lasts to the age of 55 for men and 50 for women.

Incentives offered to IDF service members

The system of motivation for Israeli service members, apart from public duty and respect for the discharge of it, is based primarily on the decent pay and compensation for damages and losses caused by military service.

Women are also subject to mandatory service in the IDF. Photo: Wikipedia

Women are also subject to mandatory service in the IDF. Photo: Wikipedia

An average soldier’s salary is $41,000 a year, or about UAH 1.5 million.

Gender equality in the IDF

As a rule, women don’t serve in combat roles, although it’s possible in certain cases.

A former Israel Defense Force officer and military analyst Yigal Levin explained in his interview with The Page:

Quote"The presence and visibility of women are a result of a decades-long process. The first full-fledged combat units where women held infantry positions appeared only in the 2000s, and women pilots in the 1990s. Before that, they had also been conscripted but served in logistics and similar areas. As of today, this glass ceiling has been broken."
There's an increasing number of women taking combat roles in the IDF. Photo: Wikipedia

There's an increasing number of women taking combat roles in the IDF. Photo: Wikipedia

The army of Switzerland: no vegans and no married men

Although Switzerland hasn’t been involved in armed conflicts for more than 500 years, it is one of the last Western European countries to have compulsory military service.

The structure of the Swiss army

Switzerland military size for 2019 was 20,000 service members.

The country’s armed forces act on the land and in the air, as well as in international waters. A bigger part of it is militia, while professional soldiers constitute a smaller part.

Selection and conscription to the Swiss army

Every male Swiss citizen is mandated to serve in the military or in the alternative civilian service, while women can serve voluntarily.

All men in Switzerland receive a summons after they turn 18. Photo: Wikipedia

All men in Switzerland receive a summons after they turn 18. Photo: Wikipedia

All Swiss men receive a summons the year they turn 18 to attend an information day and learn about basic training and the mandatory military service. Swiss women can also attend if they wish so.

A male Swiss must attend a recruitment event after he turns 19, but no later than age 24. The recruitment process takes two to three days. After a physical examination finds that a conscript is fit for military service, he attends an assignment interview based on which he is assigned the function he will be trained in at basic training.

Military service is not available to vegans in Switzerland. Photo: Wikipedia

Military service is not available to vegans in Switzerland. Photo: Wikipedia

Interestingly, vegans aren’t allowed to become members of the Swiss Armed Forces. Instead, they can serve either in civilian service (community help) or in civil defense (help in the event of disasters or major social events).

In addition, service members have to be unmarried and profess Catholicism, since they are obliged to attend Catholic liturgy and pray. There is even a special position of a priest chaplain who tends to the spiritual needs of the Swiss Guard.

Incentives offered to those who join the Swiss army

The Swiss deemed unfit for military service (except for people with disabilities) have to pay an additional tax on their income until they turn 30. It is payable even by those who have no income, but there’s a fixed amount of 400 francs (almost UAH 15,000) a year that applies in this case.

The law protects the military from being fired from their primary jobs during the period of their service and, in addition to their salaries, compensates them for loss of income.

A soldier’s salary depends on their rank, with the average being CHF 108,000 (about UAH 4 million) a year or almost CHF 9,000 (nearly UAH 333,000) a month. Another important thing is that it isn’t taxed.

Gender equality in the Swiss army

Men and women have equal duties in the Swiss army. Photo: swissinfo.ch

Men and women have equal duties in the Swiss army. Photo: swissinfo.ch

Since 2004, women and men have had equal duties in the Swiss army.

Moreover, the armed forces of Switzerland hope to increase the percentage of women from 1% to 10% within the next decade. The driving force behind this reform is the shortage of personnel in military service.

However, it causes a significant public resonance. Thus, those who advocate for gender equality argue that the current discrimination against Swiss men regarding military service compensates for discrimination against women in other areas, so obligating women to serve would be unfair.

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