Benefits of national service outlined to mothers of Emirati recruits

National service for young recruits from across the UAE will focus on lifestyle, behaviour and spirituality, General Women’s Union is reassured

Sheikh Ahmad bin Tahnoon addresses the General Women’s Union. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Mothers whose sons have enrolled in national service have been reassured that their time with the Armed Forces will teach them to be independent, committed and healthy.

Brig Gen Sheikh Ahmad bin Tahnoon, chairman of the National and Reserve Service Authority, addressed mothers at the General Women’s Union in a seminar on Monday.

It was organised by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, chairwoman of the union.

Dr Habeeb Al Mulla was worried about the implications of teaching the young how to use firearms.

“Today, the situation is difficult in the Arab region, for example in Syria,” Dr Al Mulla said.

“Why is there an endless war between two groups? Because everyone learnt how to raise a weapon. So, even though this project is very positive, it might be dangerous to put a weapon in the hands of everyone.

“Hopefully, there is a certain strategy to deal with this because you cannot guarantee what might happen.”

Sheikh Ahmad assured the group that teaching the recruits how to use weapons would not lead to civil conflict.

“Don’t forget, the arms will remain with the Armed Forces and conscripts will pass through many security and educational stages,” he said.

“In Syria, the weapons are in the hands of the people to begin with.”

Health, religion and national education will also have a prominent place in the military programme, Sheikh Ahmad said.

“I assure you that this programme will change the psyche of people and their lifestyle, and the way they deal with others,” he said. “I am certain this will happen and you will see this with your children.”

He said that national service would provide job opportunities to locals who were jobless or lacked academic qualifications.

To date, 8,000 have joined in the first round of recruitment and between 5,000 and 6,000 would be enrolled in the second round, which starts on December 17.

Those who fail to sign up face fines ranging from Dh10,000 to Dh50,000, a jail sentence of between one month and a year, or both.

Those who try to avoid service by faking medical conditions or injuring themselves on purpose, would face a minimum sentence of one year and fines of up to Dh100,000.

No student will be allowed to register for university or college before he defines his status with the national service, the seminar was told.

One woman, who works in the Western Region, said there was a lack of examination centres for the service in the area.

Sheikh Ahmad said centres would be set up in Dalma, Ghayathi and Sila’a.

Experts on diet and well-being would be provided at the training camps to ensure all cadets followed a healthy lifestyle, said Dr Mouza Al Shehhi, head of health and sports medicine for the Armed Forces.

“We will be focusing on aspects to do with health, diet, environment, psychology, behaviour, spirituality and social status,” Dr Al Shehhi said.

An added benefit was that the cadets would return to their families and pass on the healthy lifestyle and diet they adopted in the service, she said.

Sheikh Ahmad said the situation was promising after what he had heard from those who attended the seminar.

“The intention of Sheikha Fatima was for us to communicate with mothers and women, and such forums will continue at the General Women’s Union,” he said.

“After what I have seen today, I feel assured.”

Sgt Fathiya Al Jabri, a mother of six, said she was looking forward to her 17-year-old son joining the service.

“He is too messy and uncommitted,” said Sgt Al Jabri, 45. “He does not care about his studies or anything.”

She said she hoped that the service would teach him discipline and responsibility.