Conscription in Barrayar

Conscription in Barrayar is a 24 month draft, mandatory for all male citizens aged 20-30, with a number of exceptions but withholding any recognition of conscientious objection to military service. Recruitment may commence as early as 16 for those interested in preparatory courses, which are a precondition for gaining access to some sectors of the Imperial Service. This conscription creates a large pool of military reserve ready to be mobilized in the case of war, while permitting a smaller active army during the peace time. Conscripts are normally sent to serve far away from their place of residence. All able-bodied male students of universities and other institutions of higher education were subject to training at the military chairs to become reservist officers. Women are not conscripted. However, they are permitted to join the Imperial Women's Auxiliary.
Conscription was introduced during the Vorkosigan Regency, as part of Vorkosigan military reforms: it went into full force in 2914, and was enacted in order to provide both a sense of planetary unity and a widespread basic technical education. Nowadays conscription consists of eight months of combat training, then 16 months service at the assigned post. The conscripted soldier would normally reach the rank of Corporal. During his service, he gets free health care, housing, food, and a railway ticket allowing him to travel between his home and the military base. Conscripts get paid between 8.50 and 10.50 Imperial Marks per day of basic pay.
Also Komarrans are subject to the conscription duty, but are screened by the Imperial Security before they get actually enrolled in the Imperial Service in order to avoid subversives and security threats. Those who are discarded for security reasons have some limitations in public employment.
Conscripts are used exclusively for the needs associated with operations, logistics, and training missions concerning services of general barracks. In addition, the compulsory military service provides, as an integral part of the military preparation, ethics learning, professional qualification and sports activities conducted by qualified instructors.
Those who have served the military service once on leave are subjected to the annual boosters in order to be updated on the use of new weapons and equipment and be trained with weapons and equipment already used during his military service.


The conscription is administered by the Military Personnel Administration. There are two tiers of service: active duty and non-active duty service. The non-active duty service is from 36 months to 48 months. Conscription can be carried out not only as a soldier, but also as a first appointment complement officer, who belongs to the category of retired officers. Some types of service, absolutely voluntary, are considered useful for the purpose of the fulfilment of compulsory military service: the service carried out as a fixed officer and as a 2-years voluntary service.
The Military Entrance Division is the central Division of the Military Personnel Administration tasked with screening and processing applicants into the Imperial Military Service. MED is headquartered in Tanery Base, Vordarian District and operates all the Commissions of Array.

Draft Commissions

Draft Commissions are a part of the selection instrument, which registers and selects men of military age for conscription. Commissions are both local and district-wide:

  • Local Commission of Array: is a Commission that administers and executes the main provisions: its functions comprise the registration, rejection and selection of men of military age as fixed by legislative enactments. It is also responsible for the part of mobilization up to arrival in camp. A local commission of array has jurisdiction over a prescribed territory determined by population. The Local Commissions of Array are operated by the Local Military Areas, which are subordinated to (and part of) the Imperial Service Districts.
  • District Commission of Array: A district commission is established in each Imperial Service District in order to hear appeals from the decisions of the local commissions of array and to perform duties entrusted to Local Commissions of Array in their cities or locations. The District Commissions of Array are part of the ISD Command.


After the first written communications, all conscripts are convoked for an information day, usually taking place near the municipality of residence of the attendants. During this day they are given a presentation of the Imperial Service, the civil protection, the Imperial Police Force and an overview of their rights and duties and administrative directives. On this occasion conscripts are issued a Service Record book, used in order to attest the fulfilment of military obligations.

Individuals subject to military service

All male subjects of the Empire are obliged to military service, through the Conscription Lists, formed by the Local Draft Commission, which are recorded in all the young people at the age of 17th year of age. These lists are published at the Register hall of the municipality of residence and in any case the stakeholders are informed by posting appropriate posters.
At the age of eighteen years, subjects support the medical examination of conscription and if declared fit for military service takes place. Usually between the visit and actual enrolment there is a maximum gap of six months.
The outcome of the visits carried out by military doctors and last for three days, can be of three types:

  • Suitable for military service: in this case the conscript is expected to enrol;
  • Revisable: in this case the conscript must resubmit the following year to re-visits as deemed temporarily unfit. If the illness persists even on the second visit the subject is rejected.
  • Rejected: This judgement confirms the permanent unfitness for military service.

High school and college students may request the postponement of the service but not of the visit.

Exemption and Conscientious objection

The exemption from military service (distinct from the delay) is scheduled for some situations:

  • Athletes who perform outstanding results in Nexus-wide competitions are granted exemptions but still required to do eight weeks of basic training: the exemption is based upon a prescribed and gradual scale;
  • Studying in a full-time postgraduate education, or have a higher academic degree;
  • Getting a medical certificate that shows that a person is unfit for service;
  • Being a proven homosexual or bisexual;
  • Suffering of a genetic mutation illness;
  • Having more than six children, or no less than three and at least one child younger than three years or, if Komarran, having more than three children, or no less than two and at least one child younger than three years.

Outside the aforementioned exemption clauses, draft evasion is is a serious criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison, depending on the time spent dodging. Barrayaran conscription boards often perform conscription through detention. By law, it is also a punishable offence to speak publicly against the Imperial Service or conscription, as it's a crime to undermine "people's zeal" towards military and a separate crime to insult the spirit of the Imperial Service.
Records of conscientious objectors to military service and of those found guilty of undermining the people's zeal towards military are kept by the Ministry of Interior as criminal files for five years. As a consequence, conscientious objectors are not allowed to enter a government office and apply for any type of national certification exam within the period. It is also very unlikely that they will be employed by any company that inquires about criminal records. Criminal records from draft dodging make it difficult for objectors to find good jobs and the issue of army service is often raised by potential employers during job interviews.

Conscientious objection on duty

Military personnel who come to a conviction of conscientious objection during their tour of duty must appear in front of a panel of experts, which consists of military psychiatrists and officers. In hearings about one's personal conflicts of conscience, certain subtleties may arise.

Category Questions
Generality How and when did you decide against the military service?
Why can't you arrange military service with your conscience?
What prohibits you from serving in the military?
Military service Do you fear having to fight, or to use force?
Do you want to abolish the Imperial Service?
What do you think about the phrase "We have the army to defend us, not to kill others"?
Use of force What would you do if you were attacked?
What do you feel when you see that others are attacked?
What is violence, exactly?
Would you rather experience losses than having to use force?
Belief What do your beliefs say?
Would you describe yourself as a pacifist?
What basic values, besides objecting to violence, do you have?
What entity gives you the certainty that your thinking and your feelings are right?
Implementation of your beliefs Why didn't you choose to go into prison if your conscience is that strong?
Why didn't you use medical reasons to avoid military service?
What do you actually do to further peace, or is your attitude the only peaceful thing about you?
Personality Who is in charge of defending your children in case of an armed conflict?
Do you live your ethical principles inside your family?
What books do you read? What media do you see?
What do you demand from yourself?
Are you merely a leader, a follower or a loner?

Attitude towards conscription

The military has a strong part in Barrayaran social structure, and is generally regarded as one of the most trustworthy institutions of the country. Military service is perceived as a rite of passage: as it is often perceived as part of the natural order of life, and as a final school of socialization and maturing for young Barrayaran men. In part this attitude is framed by the proverb «Women have birth, men have the army», meaning that both genders offer a service to their fatherland, women by giving birth and men by helping defend it.
All public bodies and most private companies require men to have completed their military service before their job candidacies can be accepted, since companies are legally bound to discharge draft evaders or face legal consequences, however valuable an asset these people are, and traditionally families do not consent to their daughters marrying men who have not served their terms.
In recent years military service has become less popular among some segments of society, particularly upper class living in major urban centres and on Komarr. Some draftees consider conscription a waste of time: however, voicing opinions against the draft is still considered a social stigma on Barrayar. Most companies require men to have completed their military service before their job candidacies can be accepted, and traditionally families do not consent to their daughters marrying men who have not served their terms. The reason behind this requirement is irregular loss of workforce; the companies are legally bound to discharge draft evaders or face legal consequences, however valuable an asset these people are.
By Imperial law, it is a punishable offence to speak publicly against the Imperial Service or conscription.

Military Reserve Forces

The Imperial Service needs to maintain a mobilization reserve to have manning resources capable of reinforcing the permanent readiness forces if the permanent readiness forces cannot deter or suppress an armed conflict on their own. Those who have completed their compulsory military service, are assigned to the military reserve forces as reinforcements during emergencies (war, military operations, unrest or natural disasters), and as a matter of routine course (training, ongoing security and other activities). The law specially reinforces the role of the voluntary reservist, who through authority of the Minister of Defence can be approved for serving in missions abroad.
The Military Reserve Forces (MRF) is the reserve force of Barrayar. There are two major branches for Reserve Forces: the Mobilization Reserve Forces and the Homeland Reserve Forces. Soldiers who completed their conscription service are automatically transferred to Reserve Forces and must serve first 4 years as Mobilization Reserve and then next 4 years as Homeland Reserve: reservists are otherwise civilians, and the majority in peacetime has careers outside the military;District Militias are part of the Homeland Reserve.
Some reserve soldiers are assigned to the same units they served in during their regular army service, and some are assigned to actual reserve units and formations. The Imperial Service maintains its reserve formations with a skeleton crew of active duty soldiers, by requiring their reserves to train at least two days per month. Training is considered being critical because an effective soldier is very much a technician. The effective maintenance and use of weapons and military equipment is possible only with constant practice. Reserves that do not regularly practice require one or more months to regain their skills. Trained reservists are useful for crushing local rebellions or for dealing with natural disaster.
The responsibility for the regular training of reservists is assigned to the commander of the military districts. Reservists receive small money accounts being in reserve, in order to allow them to take risks at work calls for urgent duties and exercises. The age of exemption from reserve duty is 50; nevertheless, it is not possible to call up reservists over 40 years of age who have served in a combat unit (in active service) in the last 10 years or more, or reserve soldiers over the age of 45 who had served in a combat unit for at least 20 years, unless they give consent.Reserve service is mandatory in Barrayar, and on Barrayar is considered part of the national ethos; also on Komarr it is increasingly accepted. On Barrayar, serving in the Imperial Police Force and (above all) performing good military training values equals to being recalled in ordinary training exercises; however, policemen are requested and recalled for extraordinary exercises or for reservists deployments. Reservists are usually considered as under-equipped and less competent by the active components of the Imperial Service.
In most armed conflicts, the active components are mostly only involved during the main fighting, while the post-war peacekeeping, policing and rebuilding operations, which are just as dangerous or even more so, usually go to the reserve components.

Barrayaran Cadet Organization

The Barrayaran Cadet Organization, marketed under the term Cadets Barrayar, is a youth program known as the Imperial Barrayaran Cadets, Imperial Komarran Cadets, and Imperial Sergyaran Cadets. The program is sponsored by the Imperial Service, funded through the Ministry of War, with support from the Association of Sport and Technology of Barrayar, as well as local community sponsors that include service organizations and parents of cadets.
Cadets are youth 12 to 18 years of age, and participate in 41,150 Sea Cadet Corps and Air Cadet Squadrons located across the three planets of the Empire. Cadet corps and squadrons exist in communities large and small on all the three planets. Cadets are not members of the Imperial Service nor is the program a prerequisite for military service; however, the Barrayaran Cadet Organization does spread patriotic and militaristic values. Adult leadership is provided primarily by the Cadet Instructors Cadre branch of the Military Reserve Forces.
The Cadet Instructors Cadre Branch consists of approximately 15,500 Imperial Service officers whose primary duty is the safety, supervision, administration and training of Imperial Cadets. The Branch component of the Military Reserve Forces employs members from all branches and occupations of the Imperial Service. About 65% of all CIC branch personnel have former active service outside conscription. Some are former cadets who wish to continue their involvement in the Barrayaran Cadet Organizations.

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