x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A proud moment for the country and its citizens

As national service begins, it will bring with it many benefits to both individuals and society

Members of the United Arab Emirates' armed forces take part in a military show. The first crop of civilians entering national service began this weekend. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB
Members of the United Arab Emirates' armed forces take part in a military show. The first crop of civilians entering national service began this weekend. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB

This weekend marked a historic moment for the UAE as the first batch of young Emiratis began their national service. Behind them were proud members of their families, ahead of them is a potentially life-changing experience that will allow these young recruits to be more prepared for future challenges.

It won’t be easy. Few things of value are, of course, but apart from those who play sport regularly, the training for national service will be of a different order of difficulty than anything they have previously experienced. For those who tough it out, this period will pay dividends, personally, socially and for the country as a whole.

Serving time in the military is character-building: it will make recruits more disciplined, more comfortable depending on themselves in their daily lives and more resilient to stress and distress.

All of these are “soft” skills that will help them in later life. For those who enrol directly after high school, it presents an opportunity for these young recruits to properly think about the next stage in their lives and what they want from it.

Socially, too, there are benefits. The group experience will introduce them to new people from different backgrounds across the seven emirates. It will enhance their leadership and communication skills and broaden their horizons. In that sense, military service is a great melting pot – out of which recruits will emerge as even better citizens of this land. It can also reinforce their sense of pride and national identity.

Most of all there will be benefits for the UAE are a whole. A generation who have become accustomed to prosperity and a comfortable lifestyle, will now also develop a greater understanding of the fact that none of that comes without hard work and sacrifice. There may also be some recruits who, having enjoyed a brief taste of what the military has to offer during their period of national service, are persuaded to accept a longer commission from the armed forces.