Acting Defence Minister Vigen Sargsyan's address

8 May, 2018

Distinguished generals, officers, special civil servants, soldiers, veterans and cadets,

Students of the Military Training College,

Dear compatriots,

My congratulations to all of us on the Great Patriotic War Victory Day, the day of the glorious liberation of Shushi and the anniversary of the Defence Army. I wish to express my gratitude to all our veterans, all our compatriots who have paid a high price for the victories. Let us always be led by the triumphant spirit and the civic principle of raising the Homeland above everything else.

However, today, I am addressing you on another occasion. As a result of political events, I will leave the post of the head of the army earlier than I was planning.

It’s the right decision. A minister’s position is a political one, and his work can be effective only when working within his team. It has nothing to do with professionalism or my willingness to serve my people: one can and should be useful to the society regardless his place or position. And I assure you that I will continue my service in other capacities.

When President Serzh Sargsyan -- one of the founders of the Armenian Army and organizers of the Artsakh Liberation War – offered me become the defence minister, I knew what kind of a responsibility I was to assume: to organize the defence of our beloved Homeland, to uphold the heroic victories of the Artsakh War and the security of our people. However, despite my many years of experience, I would never imagine how my whole life would change, how important the public side of my life would become at the expense of the private one in this new capacity.

I have served my Homeland during my entire professional life -- about 23 years. I have always tried to carry out my service honestly and in full. And still, all my pervious activities are nothing compared with only one day serving my country's security with you.

Each day of the defence minister starts from the report of the operative duty officer. During these years, I would start the day very early, at 6:30 am. Many were amazed and saw something strange in it, but it was not a great sacrifice. I simply could not sleep when knowing that tens of thousands of my young compatriots from Mehrab to Meghri and from Gyumri to Stepanakert would jump in their barracks to do one common job. In addition, my days were long: while everybody else was sleeping, I was awake along with those on combat duty and your proud, praying parents. At that late hour, thinking of your parents' prayers in mind, I would call the officer on duty to find out what the situation was.

Why do I stress this morning report and the evening phone call? I want you to know and be confident that the Defence Ministry and the General Staff, not matter how far from you they may seem, every day, hundreds of people read reports about your successes and failures, heroism and mistakes, incidents and illness, share your joy and sadness. As a defence minister, I demand of you, and as your compatriot, I ask you to continue serving in the way that makes our society proud of you.

Last year, on those same days, I addressed you with a message describing three cases and asking to be more vigilant. Detailed work on all levels followed. Thank you for heeding my words, and in 2017 and during the four months of this year, the number of accidents has sharply reduced.

But there is no threshold that would ever please me or our society. Because we seek to see not just a good but an ideal army. An army that is a family, where the weak are not humiliated, but instead are taught how to be strong. Because our society wants the army not to be its mirror, but a school, whose every graduate is bolder, stronger and more skilled.

Organisation of defence is a hard task, every moment you realize that dozens, hundreds, sometimes even thousands of lives depend on your actions and decisions. Every day, you have a new, interesting thing to do: from military science and industry, from armament and military technology to engineering and construction, from logistics to military medicine, education to personnel decisions, and military diplomacy. You have to deal with different kinds of people.

By the way, about people. Over these years, I really became stronger as I was working with exciting and unique people. At first glance, it is difficult for a civilian to understand military people; perceptions are quite different. But a true soldier is very clear and straightforward, just and strong while having a deep inner world. And it is always a pleasure to deal with such people.

Dear officers, I am grateful for your long and tough service and for making the defence of the Homeland your mission. You are the backbone of our nation. Be strong and our state will only move forward. I will repeat my great request to you: keep your sacred duty clean and pure. Be demanding to yourself and your friends; never tolerate any offense, maliciousness or any weakness of an Armenian officer. As a friend, you can quickly fix the situation and prevent big problems. I followed this rule and, after finishing my service, I can say for sure that I have never done anything that I am ashamed of.

We have been able to effectively fight corruption risks. Of course, this struggle still needs many more efforts, but I am proud that at the end of these years, there is no one among my fellow servicemen, contractors, who can smile when hearing these words from me.

I wouldn’t like to turn my speech into a report as my initial intention was to share my thoughts with you, but honestly speaking, I am really proud of our work in a number of areas. We are completing the work of replenishing the front line with video surveillance system; we have introduced modern and accurate equipment in the combat duty system, we have sharply increased the effectiveness of procurement and directed huge sums to armament projects. We have completely revised the legal framework and introduced the 7-year programme of the army modernisation. We gave a new breath to the military industry. We have opened the doors for our teens to the best high school in Armenia, the Monte Melkonian Military Training College, and provided the best conditions for the Homeland Defender's Rehabilitation Centre for our heroic soldiers. We found a solution to the problem of settling the housing problems for the families of the deceased and military disabled people, something that was on paper for years, with the help of the entire society, providing serious material support through the foundation. We created programmes for our citizens that allow them to combine military service and higher education, help them start their lives with more confidence: these programmes are already dramatically changing the expectations of young people. The "I am" and "I Have the Honour" programmes are innovative and attractive under international standards. The "From Soldier to Officer" programme for our soldiers who are willing to become officers is about to start. We conducted the largest military exercises in the history of our Armed Forces and initiated a thorough revision of the structure of the troops to increase efficiency. We outlined a comprehensive programme to reform the military commissariats.

I am proud to be transferring to my successor a stronger, more efficient and more combat ready army. I'm leaving an army with a considerably larger budget, expanded infrastructure, improved statistics, and urge him to take real care of it, and I wish him more victories.

I'm sorry that many programmes, especially in the field of social security in the military, are still in the stage of introduction. I will give the next defence minister detailed account of the remaining, pointing to the financial sources and legal arrangements of their implementation, and I am willing to support him and all future ministers in bringing the security of our country to a higher level. I hope they will be consistent in developing and successfully implementing the programmes. Even if we have opposite political views, I sincerely wish success to the next minister, because it means that he will leave a better army and country to his own successor and our next generations.

I am grateful to all of you and every one of you: from privates to generals, from civil servants of the ministry to the General Staff, to my political and discretionary teams, to the NGOs and the media keeping their eyes on us, to the heads and residents of the border communities who have always stood firm with the army, to the veterans of all times, to the patient families of all our servicemen for serving our common cause with dignity.

God bless our soldiers and officers,

Our Nation-Army, Armenia and Artsakh.