New NATO Troops Often
Have Hygiene Problem
WARSAW - NATO's latest recruits from Poland are often smelly, many don't get time to wash and some conscripts only change their underwear once a month, according to an official survey released Monday.
"Physicians have noticed that soldiers stink and their underwear is grey,'' Supreme Auditing Chamber (NIK) chief Janusz Wojciechowski told a new conference. He was presenting the survey which was conducted in 1997 and early 1998 in eight Polish military units.
Friday, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became the first former members of the old Soviet bloc to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, expanding the alliance to 19 members.
The survey showed that in one unit some 700 conscripts were given only three hours a week to take showers. In another, the soldiers' underwear was not changed for a month.
Wojciechowski said Poland's small defense funds and insufficient supervision were to blame.
The report also showed that in some cases people unsuitable for service " mentally retarded or ill " were enlisted.
It revealed commanders' failures to report embarrassing incidents in their units and of senior grade conscripts humiliating or even torturing their juniors.
"In one unit there have been failures to report a suicide or a case of a drunken soldier slipping out of the window from the second floor,'' Wojciechowski said.
The office of the chief-of-staff admitted such cases did occur, but said they were the exception.
"They are not a standard. Such cases stem from small funds for the armed forces, but these are not up to us but up to political decision-makers,'' chief-of-staff office spokesman Zdzislaw Gnatowski told Reuters.
Poland has about 230,000 people in uniform, 35 percent of them professionals. Under a $4 billion program, it plans to trim and modernize the forces in the next 15 years.