President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed confidence in the chances of success for the shift to an all-volunteer military during an inspection on Thursday of a military unit in northern Taiwan made up of volunteer soldiers and officers.
The government’s efforts to push for an all-volunteer force have included salary increases, improved living quarters and allowing Internet and smartphone use when not on duty, Ma said during his visit to a multiple-launch rocket battalion in Taoyuan County.
It is one of 35 army units in which creature comfort initiatives have been implemented since October last year as part of the military’s efforts to improve public opinion of the armed forces and boost lower-than-expected enlistment figures as it continues the shift to an all-volunteer force.
The improved amenities have triggered soldiers’ interest in extending their service time, Ma said
Since October, 65.9 percent of soldiers from those units have volunteered to extend their service, up from the previous figure of 45.3 percent, the president added.
Ma said the high proportion of female soldiers and officers in the multiple launch rocket battalion was an indicator that the transition to an all-volunteer force was succeeding.
Forty-eight members of the 262-person unit are women, accounting for about 18 percent, the army said.
Ma also toured a recreation area at the base, which provides computers with Internet connections for soldiers and officers to use and Wi-Fi for their smartphones and tablet computers.
The nation plans to shift to an all-volunteer force by 2017. It had originally planned for the transition to be completed by next year, but pushed the date back due to lower-than-expected recruitment numbers.
The military aims to recruit about 10,500 volunteer soldiers this year, Ma said.
To give young people more incentive to pursue a military career, the government on Jan. 1 increased its monthly duty allowances for volunteer soldiers and non-commissioned officers by between NT$2,000 and NT$4,000. The military is also offering more opportunities for enlisted soldiers to further their studies and obtain bachelors degrees, Ma said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense continues to streamline the military in an effort to reorganize the national defense apparatus and restructure the armed forces, Ma added.