Therese Diaz |

Madrid (EFE).- There are currently 3,016 volunteer reservists in Spain, of which more than 20% are women. They are citizens who want to “serve Spain” and, to do so, contribute their skills and knowledge to the various missions carried out by the armed forces inside and outside the national territory.

“We are here to serve”, underlines to Efe Jorge Bañón, honorary reservist for a year and responsible for communication of the Association of Spanish reservists ARES, the majority of the group.

Reservists have come to the fore following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent announcement to recruit 300,000 for the war in Ukraine. But what this figure means in Russia and Spain is totally different.

The concept was similar when in our country there was compulsory military service. Until the end of 2001, which ceased to be, once the “military” ended, the soldiers went into reserve, a situation in which they remained for several years during which they could be mobilized.

Operation Atalanta soldiers
Arrival in Rota of the amphibious assault ship “”Castilla””, deployed in Operation Atalanta. EFE/Roman Rios

Requirements: Spanish nationality and age limit

In 2003 the figure of the voluntary reservist was created and since then any citizen can access it if they meet certain conditions such as having Spanish nationality, being 18 years old and not exceeding 58 years old if they access a position officer or non-commissioned officer, or 55 years old. years for troops and sailors.

In addition, you must have the necessary psychophysical skills, which will be verified by tests, and not be deprived of civic rights, as well as no criminal record, among others.

Being a voluntary reservist implies being able to be activated to be part of the contingents sent periodically on operations abroad or for missions in progress at the time of signing the commitment.

In crisis situations, when the needs of national defense cannot be met by professional soldiers, the Council of Ministers may adopt, exceptionally, the necessary measures for their incorporation into the armed forces.

A group of volunteer reservists
A group of volunteer reservists from different Spanish military units, in a file image. EFE/Federico Velez

Volunteer reservists sign an initial commitment of 3 years, specifying the duration of their activation each year and their willingness to carry out missions abroad or to participate in peacekeeping and security missions, renewable.

The basic training phase lasts a minimum of 1 day and a maximum of 30 days, depending on the candidate’s previous military experience.

Of more than 3,000 Spanish reservists, 245 were activated as of September 1 to carry out instruction and training exercises, training and refresher courses or provide services in units, centers or organizations of the Ministry of defense.

In this situation, they can stay a maximum of 30 days per year to participate in continuing education programs, while to provide service, it is fixed when activation is approved.

Volunteer Reservist Profile

There is no generic profile of the volunteer reservist and the motivations are very varied, although most are military, come from military families or have some affinity with security and defense, explains Bañón.

In his case, this digital marketing professional wanted to be a reservist because he had a “stuck thorn” from not having been able to fulfill his dream of joining the Navy to wear glasses.

“And when the figure of the voluntary reservist was launched, they were less demanding and I was able to enter without any problem,” he says.

Even to access the employment of troops and sailors, although the condition is to be a graduate of the school or the 2nd year of the ESO, “very specialized” trades are required, such as that of crane operator, highly valued profile on the market.

The average age of reservists is high, which the association attributes to the model, a merit-based competition in which places linked to “certain diplomas” and “very demanding” are offered.

“When you are asked for an expert in international relations with a master’s degree, he is not a kid, he is already a person of a certain age”, which “limits access a lot”, explains Bañón.

The Minister of Defense during her visit to Division Headquarters "Saint Martial"in Burgos
Defense Minister Margarita Robles (d) at the headquarters of the “San Marcial” division, in Burgos. EFE/Santi Otero

10,000 candidates for 200 places

The replacement rate is low since the places offered, 200 on average each year, do not cover cancellations due to age (from 380 to 400 each year). During the last call in October 2021, 250 places were offered.

And despite the fact that “many” have not been promoted from the various defense ministries, with each call, 10,000 candidates show up, according to the association’s data.

The figure of the voluntary reservist is “attractive” for women, as evidenced by the fact that they represent more than 20% of the total against 8% in the armies.

And this, despite the fact that they have a “significant handicap”, says Bañón, since in the scale of merits, the fact of not having done military service takes away points, which the association considers discriminatory.

They also believe that candidates who are not civil servants are discriminated against, since they “have many more access points than those who arrived from the street”.

In Operation Atalanta or in Lebanon

Bañón stresses that the volunteer reservists are there to serve and do not wonder “if it is in Albacete or elsewhere”.
“When we renew our commitment, we are asked about our willingness to go on a mission abroad or to participate with the Emergency Military Unit (UME) in the face of natural disasters”, he specifies.

There have been reservists in Atalanta, the European Union’s anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean off Somalia, or in Lebanon.

The reservists are aware that “at any time a conflict can break out and we can be called up”, explains Bañón.

Web edition: Rosa Corona

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