ABU DHABI // National Service recruits and volunteers have come away from military training with greater discipline, patience, appreciation for those serving in the Armed Forces, and life-long friends.
Following months of physical and technical training at Armed Forces’ National Service centres across the country, conscripts have said their time spent serving has had a profound effect on their physique, attitude and outlook.
“Everyone told me that my personality has changed,” said Naser Al Marzooqi, who completed nine months of service at the end of 2015 as part of the National Service’s third intake.
Mr Al Marzooqi said family, friends, and colleagues told him that he had become more focused and organised.
“The training improved me mentally more than physically,” said the 29-year-old assistant financial manager.
Better time management, approaching tasks with more determination and a greater reliance on himself are traits Mr Al Marzooqi said he owes to the National Service.
“It taught us how to be self-sufficient and take things on our own regardless of our economical situation,” he said.
Patience was another characteristic Mr Al Marzooqi developed early in his training.
“We had to train in summer, which was difficult, but it teaches you how to survive and be very patient,” he said.
Overcoming tough challenges with help from fellow recruits created strong bonds between those enlisted. Emiratis of different socio-economic classes trained, slept, ate and cleaned along side each other.
“Even if we were all from the same country, we had different backgrounds, opinions and cultures. Our differences taught us a lot,” Mr Al Marzooqi said.
Abdulrahman Al Shamsi, who completed a year of service in January, said he served alongside cadets who had spent all their lives abroad.
“Some of them didn’t know much Arabic so we had to help them with the translation of the orders – something which brought us even closer together,” said the 30-year-old Emirati.
Both Mr Al Marzooqi and Mr Al Shamsi said they began considering many of their fellow recruits as family.
“In the beginning we used to go home and return to the camp in separate cars, but we quickly began packing in in one car. They are like brothers now,” said Mr Al Shamsi.
Since completing military training, Mr Al Shamsi has attended two weddings of fellow recruits, while Mr Al Marzooqi has been on vacation with some of his. Both regularly meet up with their brothers-in-arms.
The most profound change they underwent, however, was their appreciation for the sacrifices made by Emirati soldiers.
This was a sentiment shared by Hadi Al Badi, a National Service volunteer who had a chance to serve in Yemen.
“It is easy to take life for granted here, but when you see how many people are sacrificing their lives and time, you quickly appreciate what we have,” said Mr Al Badi, who is vice president of an energy company and UAE university PhD student.
The UAE has lost more than 100 servicemen in the ongoing conflict in Yemen participating as part of the Saudi-led coalition. The involvement of the UAE in the conflict has contributed to the Armed Forces’ elevated role in society.
“Seeing guys sitting in the mountains over there and knowing they haven’t seen their family for three or four months really puts things in perspective,” said the 37-year-old, who was part of the first group of Emirati men between ages 30 and 40 to volunteer for National Service last July.
Mr Al Badi said his 15-week training taught him about surrendering to a greater cause. He learnt from challenges such as taking orders from people much younger than him, marching in temperatures approaching 50ºC and sharing cleaning duties with fellow cadets.
“Yes, in Islam, we know about surrendering to faith, but in the military you find out what fully surrendering to a leader and your country means,” said Mr Al Badi.
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