Emirati high-school graduates begin national service

Hundreds of Emirati high-school graduates began queuing outside a military barracks on the outskirts of Al Ain early Saturday morning to begin their new lives in the military.

ABU DHABI // Hundreds of Emirati high-school graduates began queuing outside a military barracks on the outskirts of Al Ain early Saturday morning to begin their new lives in the military.

Fathers, relatives, and friends said their quick goodbyes outside Seeh Al Hama military camp near the Omani border where the cadets will experience three weeks of boot camp.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and hoping an idea like this would become reality,” said Mohammed Obaid Al Romaithi who handed off his 17-year-old son Rashid to the officers receiving the cadets.

With another son scheduled to serve next year and a third waiting to complete university to provide his services, Mr Al Romaithi feels all three will benefit greatly from the experience.

“Military life will teach them many lessons such as patience, discipline and responsibility, it can only be good thing.”

Ma’idh Al Ahbabi was also excited for his three younger brothers which he had just sent on their way.

“My brothers will not only benefit from the training and knowledge they will learn but also in the interactions they have with officers, instructors and other students,” said Mr Al Ahbabi, who had driven in from Al Ain.

When asked if his family’s home would feel empty during the three weeks of boot camp he said: “We will miss them but we would give them up for four or even five years if our country asked us to.”

Having already served in the UAE armed forces for seven years he said he would have gladly gone through the training again if he did not exceed the cut-off age of 30.

By 9am the summer sun was already beating down hard on the growing number of cadets queued outside - but they did not have to wait long.

They and the luggage they had packed, which they would soon learn was of no need, were promptly ushered into a reception hall where the registration of bodies and baggage got under way.

“I only learned I was coming for sure two weeks ago,” said Mohammed Al Balushi, 19, who was waiting his turn to hand over his possessions.

Mr Al Balushi, was excited about the chance to serve his country as he had recently applied to Zayed Military II College unsuccessfully.

“I’m glad I get a chance to go through the same training now and look forward to the next three weeks,” said the Al Ain native whose service is mandatory.

Not all the cadets had compulsory attendance however.

Despite Mohammed Salim Al Seri, 18, having the option of postponing National Service due to his graduating from high school with a grade of above 90 he decided to enlist right after school.

“My family really wanted me to continue studies like all of my friends who got more than 90,” said Mr Al Seri, who intends to study Engineering at the Higher Colleges of Technology.

“But I didn’t want it hanging over my head and I think it will help me do even better when I eventually go to university,” he said.

After handing over their luggage and possessions the cadets proceeded to a hangar where they received some of the few items they would posses during boot camp, their military fatigues.

Looking somewhat apprehensive, Abdulaziz Mohammed Bouzi, 17, said he was waiting to see how he was going to benefit from the service.

“I am not very active and to prepare for the physical part I began to take walks in the heat a week ago,” said Mr Bouzi.

Hoping to study Information Technology in the near future, Mr Bouzi said he wanted to benefit from the experience as much as possible and was hoping to eventually be assigned an IT related position.

Long after four of his closest friends had been admitted to the barracks after he had driven them from Abu Dhabi, Ali Al Qubaisi, 17, was still waiting outside the military desert camp.

“I’m proud my friends get to be a part of the first group representing our country in the National Service,” said the upcoming high school senior who is looking forward to his turn next year.

“I know we’ll get the best training and we and the country will be better for it,” he said.

Recruitment took place at five camps across the country on Saturday - in Musaffah, two in Al Ain, Liwa and Sharjah.