x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

26-year-old Emirati military aspirant finds himself in limbo due to his age

Saif Al Menhali cannot sign up for national service as he falls between the mandatory and voluntary ages of recruitment - despite having a strong desire to enlist.

Emirati Saif Al Menhali is in the unusal position of being eager to volunteer for military service but cannot right now as he is 26. Delores Johnson / The National
Emirati Saif Al Menhali is in the unusal position of being eager to volunteer for military service but cannot right now as he is 26. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // When he was growing up, Saif Al Menhali always thought his life would take a straightforward career path from school to university and then a civilian job – but secretly he always dreamt of life in the military.

“It’s an exciting challenge for me. I’ve always wanted to be in the army since I was a kid and now it’s the perfect time,” said Mr Al Menhali, who works at Aldar Properties as an assistant development manager.

There is just one problem with his situation, however: he can’t join up yet.

At 26, Mr Al Menhali is neither eligible for the fresh-graduate batch who enrol this Saturday, nor will he be old enough to join the 27-30 demographic for volunteer military service.

As the first batch of recruits begin their training and the 27-30 group due to start in the winter, Mr Al Menhali will have to wait for another year before he can sign up.

The UK-educated Emirati said there was no better time for him to join than now, as he is still preparing himself to begin his professional career.

“For me, now is the time. Now while I’m still developing my skills because, maybe in three years, I’ll be in a position that won’t afford me the luxury of nine months off as I will have more responsibilities. I want to do it now so I can contribute to my personal development.”

Only recently employed, he is still learning his job. For him, joining now would be better than in a year since his day-to-day responsibilities are not as strenuous now as they might be by the time he can enlist.

“So while I’m still getting better at my job, I want to receive the military training, get it under my belt and come back to work with those skills of leadership and discipline that are inherent in military training,” Mr Al Menhali said.

“Not only that, the physical aspect is a challenge I look forward to.”

A keen gym enthusiast, he has been working out six times a week for the past year at a fitness club in Zayed Sports City.

Having previously been 50kg overweight, Mr Al Menhali knows the dangers of obesity and the benefits of being healthy for both himself and his countrymen.

“Aside from the fact that I want to do this for the love of my country, I think that it’s important to stay healthy, and it can provide a lot of discipline and health benefits to society,” he said.

In addition to the physical benefits of bootcamp, Mr Al Menhali thinks Emiratis will also benefit mentally through generational military training.

“I love my country, I think it’s important that everyone learns discipline and there’s no better way to do that than in the army,” he said.

“It’s a dream for me, and I really can’t wait for my chance and for us to make the UAE an even stronger place.”