GAP YEAR OR NINE MONTHS OF VOLUNTEERING IN THE ARMY?

 

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Three years ago a new law came to Lithuania. The government decided that every year 3000 young men between 18 and 25 years old, who are not students, will be selected to spend 9 months in the army. This law did not get much support, because spending a year in the army might seem a very frightening idea to the majority and a person who is chosen cannot leave the army before the 9 moths are over.

However, no one expected that every year those 3000 places will be filled by volunteers, young men, who actually admire this idea. Arnas Klymantas is one of the volunteers this year and shares stories about life in the army.

Arnas joined the battalion in the forest of Sakalinė in Lithuania just after school graduation, because he wanted to test himself to his limits and “become a stronger man”. “The army is a life school. There they taught me so much more than you can think. It changed me as a person, I became physically and emotionally stronger, logical and my way of thinking improved, I have new habits now and even learnt ethics.”

Arnas Klymantas admitted that after graduating from school he did not know what to do next. He wanted to study but could not decide what, he only knew that wasting one year and a gap year would not be a choice for him. When he came up with the idea of joining the army his mother did not approve right away. She was scared, but now that she realises that army is actually a very mature choice she is very proud of Arnas.

The challenges started before actually getting in the army. Arnas had to pass many IQ, physical, health and psychological tests, to ensure that his mental and physical health is perfect. “We got a piece of paper with like a 150 questions and when the results came, I was really relieved that I passed. It was hard and the questions were weird, I was asked questions that I never thought could actually tell my psychological state.”

When we talked about activities that volunteers do in the army Arnas was very excited. “Mostly we are trained, but everyday is different from the other. We never have the same timetable, the only thing that is never changing is that we have to wake up at 5.45 a.m., which I will probably never get used to, get ready in 15 minutes and be outside for the morning exercise. After breakfast at 8.00 a.m. the commander comes to check everything: our boots and clothes have to be clean, beds have to be made and obviously the room we sleep in must be shining as well.”

„Sometimes we have hikes in the forest, which are very challenging, however, they are very interesting. We are put into groups and we imitate attacks, we have to learn discipline, to defende ourselves, spot the „enemies“. Sometimes we have to walk a lot of miles from one military base to another, carrying bags that weight around 66 pounds.”
During the nights they have to set up a camping place: put up tents (that only protect from rain), fence the area with the rope and dig toilets. “During the first month a lot of us got colds all the time, because in the forest the temperature can be just above zero, or even below, and our tents are barely a roof above the head. They don’t protect from wind or cold. But after a while we all got immune.”

Arnas Klymantas also shared the most memorable experience: “Once during the hike we had to pass “Vilko Takas” which is an obstacle course created especially for training soldiers. It was the most difficult thing we ever did. We had to do bewildering variety of activities there and it was freezing cold! Climb walls, run through mud, you can look up in the “youtube”, actually. Most dreadful was when we had to walk in a deep canal for almost one mile. The most of us did not pass this, because we were shivering all the time, the clothes were wet, and muscles refused to move. Water temperature that day was barely above zero. When we got back to the barracks the water in the shower did not comfort as well. By the time it was my turn to get the shower the hot water ran out…”

Even though every day in the army is a new challenge, Arnas says that he does not regret his decision. Even though most of the volunteers after the nine months are over decide to continue their plans, get jobs or apply to universities, Arnas enjoys being in the army and started to think that he might turn it into a career and become a commander by the next autumn.

 

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