Territorial Defense soldiers are young, educated, patriotic: report

A report about the demographics of Territorial Defense Force (WOT) reveals who and why has joined the formation.

“The idea behind our force is connecting youthful energy with the experience of older people, this is done in so called ‘wonderful twelves’, 12-man sections of light infantry, where all positions are doubled and one is filled by an older and one by a younger soldier, obviously this is about transferring knowledge, but also about introducing some innovation and thinking out of the box,” explains lieutenant colonel Marek Pietrzak.

By “older people” WOT understand soldiers who have some previous military experience, by “younger people”, fresh volunteers with no previous military training. Soldiers 25 years old or younger make up 32 percent of the force, these above 46 years-just 5 percent. The average age is 32.

When it comes to education, 34 percent of soldier have higher education (an overrepresentation compared to the general Polish population), 46 percent medium and only 11 percent basic. Among the higher educated, plurality of 40 percent hold technical degrees, which are preferred by the Ministry of Defence.

Some 62 percent of the soldiers hold a regular job, 5 percent have their own business, 3 percent their own farm and 15 percent are students.

According to the Colonel, both younger and older people are attracted to the Force because of “the form of service, which allows for a balance between private, business and military service time”. After the 16 days long basic training, WOT soldiers are called to service just two days every month plus an additional two weeks long exercise once a year.

Woman make up 13 percent of the force, twice higher than in the regular Polish Armed Forces.

“The highest number of people name patriotism and will to serve the fatherland as the main reason for joining WOT. But also the will to check their abilities and family traditions attract them to the Force. Others think everyone should go through military training, and there isn’t any difference between man and woman here,” says mayor Konrad Radzik.

Territorial Defense Force were created in 2017 with the mission to act as a deterrent capable of responding in the early stages of a hybrid conflict. So far it numbers 17,200 soldiers, but the ultimate size of the Force is planned at 53,000.

Critics say that the Force is badly organised, saying it should serve as a reserve to the regular Army, not a separate armed forces branch.