First test has been passed with honor - president at first National Defense Service graduation ceremony

  • 2024-05-31
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The first test has been passed with honor, but the next major test will be when the National Defense Service (NDS) will no longer have enough volunteers, President Edgars Rinkevics told members of the press today after the graduation ceremony of the first conscripted soldiers.

When the discussion on the introduction of the National Defense Service started, many people were skeptical and Rinkevics did not hide the fact that he had many questions, but now it can be said that the first test has been passed with honor.

The next major test will be when the compulsory nature of the service begins and volunteers are no longer enough. The President hopes, however, that the graduates of the NDS will be the best ambassadors to tell the public what is good about the service and what can be gained from it, whether they continue in the professional service or return fully to civilian life.

"I think we can be satisfied with the first phase, but this is only the beginning and it is not the end", stressed the President.

Prime Minister Evika Silina (New Unity), who attended the ceremony, pointed out that it was important that the soldiers of the NDS were not a separate part or "newcomers", but were included in the whole team. The young people admitted that this was the best time of their lives, which gives them a feeling of having succeeded in spite of historical memory. This recruitment will also be the one that can convince other young people to join the NDS, and this is a time when we need people who believe in Latvia and are ready to serve.

Defense Minister Andris Spruds (Progressives) also told reporters that the work is ongoing because the country's defense capabilities need to be strengthened and people are the biggest resource that contributes to the development of these capabilities.

The minister reminded that next year the NDS is to be manned with around 1,000 young people, with the aim of reaching 4,000 NDS soldiers per year. "There is still a lot of work to be done," the Minister added, pointing out that interest in joining the NDS on a voluntary basis remains high at the moment, but that additional random conscription will probably be necessary.

At the graduation ceremony, NDS Soldier Krisjanis Kalans pointed out to the dignitaries and relatives present that graduation marks not only an end, but also a new beginning. During their service, the soldiers have acquired not only military and technological skills, but also perseverance, discipline and teamwork, as well as values that will serve them for the rest of their lives. "Our time in the service has toughened not only our bodies, but also our spirits and made us realize that Latvia has its defenders," emphasized Kalans.

"Service members! We have become one, where our friendship and fraternity are like golden bonds that strengthen and unite us. The moments we share and the successes we achieve together will form stories that will live forever. May they serve as an example for each generation to come," said Kalans at the end of his speech.

On July 1, 2023, 253 soldiers started their service, 245 of whom graduated today.