Monday, 9 July 2012
In the aftermath of yesterday's excitement - well done Andy, you did us proud - I had a meal with friends.
The conversation drifted to the Westminster government's plans for the Army to comprise of 25% reservists by 2020. It's planned the TA will expand to 30,000 part-timers who will be expected to fight on the front line with the regular Army.
But over the last two years the TA has failed to meet its recruitment targets by 20% and it will ned to recruit around 4,000 to 5,000 a year for the next eight years to have a fully trained, deployable force by 2020.
It would appear that the UK government have mistakenly bought into the idea of using reservist troops because the US military has successfully incorporated the use of part-time soldiers, marines and pilots into their regular forces. But the US National Guard has a multi-billion pound budget, enjoys huge support from employers and provides a range of benefits for troops.
A new UK TA recruit is paid £35.04 a day which rises to £43.54 once basic training has been completed. All soldiers who complete a minimum training commitment, 19 to 27 days depending on the unit, will also receive a bonus of £424.
Some TA units are run very professionally; in fact a few specialist units only recruit from within the regular Army, but there are other units run like weekend boys' clubs and the level of their expertise is limited.
Today's modern Army requires high quality personnel and, as many regular soldiers will tell you, a large percentage of the TA aren't fit enough to be on the front line. That is not a reflection upon TA personnel, but a criticism of naive politicians who have little understanding of military duties which require constant training and practice. A few weekends and a week or two on exercise a year spent training an individual in military skills will never produce the equivalent of a regular soldier.
Yesterday, one of my dinner companions was a local employer. He said he would not employ anyone who belonged to the TA, purely because of the disruption the absences would cause to his business and he was sure any government plans for financial compensation would be inadequate. We all agreed that was a perfectly acceptable reason.
The MoD is confident more people will join the TA under their new plans, but if yesterday's conversation is anything to go by, their confidence is misplaced. Private businesses will not want to be involved in the MoD's scheme, which will leave the public sector carrying the majority of their recruitment numbers. But will there be enough public sector workers willing to join the TA and put their lives at risk for £43.54 a day?