Soldiers can use phones, sleep off-base: Army

Soldiers can use phones, sleep off-base: Army

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The R.O.C. Army yesterday said it plans to allow all soldiers to use smartphones in military bases and live in their own quarters with air conditioning as part of a set of newly-launched incentives to boost voluntary service recruitment.

Army Headquarters Political Warfare Office head Tseng Yu-fu (曾有福) said yesterday during a press conference that on Oct. 1 the army launched a trial-run of the project among 35 selected units nationwide.

Military personnel in these selected units can enjoy special privileges, including the use of smartphones in designated areas, installation of AC in their private quarters, and the right to apply for living off-base more frequently given their behaviour does not affect routine combat readiness duties, Tseng said.

The trial-run will conclude on Dec. 31 this year. If proven successful, the Army will expand the scope of the project and ultimately allow all of its personnel to enjoy similar treatment, he said.

"The project is aimed to offer Army personnel a more comfortable and humane living environment in the military bases in which they serve, with the ultimate goal to boost voluntary recruitment," he said.

Currently, the military has imposed a ban on soldiers carrying cellphones with video camera functions and internet connectivity because such devices could pose serious threats to national security.

Also, most military personnel, with the exception of high-ranking officers, now share dormitories with 10 to 20 other colleagues instead of having their own quarters in military bases.

Current rules stipulate that military personnel can only apply for sleeping off-base two times a week.

The latest project is seen as a move to boost voluntary service recruitment, which has been sluggish over recent years.

The military originally expected to abolish the existing conscription system and replace it with a full voluntary system by Jan. 1, 2015.

However, officials have faced difficulties in convincing Taiwanese youths to join the armed forces.

The military only managed to recruit 4,200 to join the armed forces between January and July this year. It originally hoped to recruit around 28,000 voluntary soldiers by the end of this year.

Facing sluggish volunteer recruitment, the Ministry of National Defence announced last month that it would postpone the abolishment of the conscription system by two years, moving it to 2017.

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