An Alternative TA Model

A guest post from Phil…

This explores a possible model for the TA of the future.

It is based on the SDSR Army model of 2 light intervention groupings and 5 enduring operations groupings. Since this model is the current official one I think it would be more interesting to discuss how well this reservist model could complement the SDSR model rather than drift off into our own alternative SDSR models.

I am not into fantasy forces so this has been deliberately grounded in some sort of reality. Some of it is somewhat vague but that is because I have no idea of the ratio’s needed to achieve certain effects or how many people it would take to do it.

The organic Brigade reinforcement model (enduring operations) is simply a template, the Brigade commander could chose to organise this force as he sees fit depending on the mission, but these would be the building blocks.

The Brigade Groups would have their reservist units entirely integrated with them and be both OPCON and ADCON for them.

Apart from the higher commitment for Officers / SNCOs and in the final 18 months of the readiness cycle I have left the ToS as is for reasons of not stepping on cross policy toes.


  • Able to generate infantry battalion as part of force generation cycle
  • Able to generate other CS manning increments as part of force generation cycle
  • Able to generate CSS formed units and increments as part of force generation cycle
  • Able to generate a third Theatre Support Group
  • Able to generate a third divisional level Support Group
  • Able to generate a Force Support Hospital on an enduring basis and provide surge capability of a 100 bed Field Hospital
  • Able to generate specialist units as needed
  • Able to support and maintain specialist pools of trades
  • Able to provide UK wide resilient communication network
  • Provide the framework for utilising regular reservist volunteers



  • Lack of training time
  • Unbalanced commitment
  • Poor ratio of effectives to ration strength
  • Perceived risk in SNCO and Officer abilities
  • Perceived risk in deploying formed combat units
  • Perceived as ‘second line’
  • Poor career development opportunities
  • Lack of diffusion between TA and regular
  • Poor use of regular reservists


Force Generation Model

  • Third Theatre Support Group and third Divisional Support Group at present state of readiness since it will be comprised of CSS units and will only be deployed at considerable notice.
  • Specialist individuals, pools and Force Support Hospitals will rotate through the same readiness level as their assigned Brigade Group: the surge hospitals will maintain a standard readiness baseline which would be elevated as their need became more imminent.
  • The UK resilience communication networks would make use of sponsored reservists and would be at a high state of readiness for local communication assurance and varying readiness levels for regional and national communication needs.
  • The units assigned to each Brigade Group would cycle through the parent Brigades readiness cycle, each brigade would have 2x reserve units so that the readiness cycle was 1 deployment every approx 6 years. For example, 1 reserve infantry battalion will generate to highest readiness over 24 months, supported by the second reserve battalion, switching on the brigades next cycle.


Brigade Group Readiness Cycle

  • Training commitment would build to an enhanced training commitment in the final year of the readiness cycle with an additional two week camp on a Brigade FTX and a MOBEX at the end of the generation cycle and a DEMOBEX at the end of the deployment phase.
  • The battalion would be reinforced by those regular reservists who leave their parent unit in the 12 months prior to the culmination of the readiness cycle and by volunteers from the second reserve unit and by additional regular reservist volunteers and shadow volunteers.
  • Each unit would in the 12 months before the culmination of the readiness cycle receive a manning increment from the regulars which would include additional permanent staff, shadow officers and reinforcement to the HQ elements that would enable the battalion to conduct operations independently.
  • Every SNCO and Officer in the reserves found to be wanting in any capacity will be replaced via the regulars or via the regular reserve of officers in the 12 month build up phase.


Maximum Level of Brigade reinforcement (enduring operation)

  • 1 infantry battalion, mounted as appropriate
  • 1 tank regiment of 2 squadrons
  • 1 FR regiment of 2 squadrons
  • 1 artillery regiment of 2 batteries
  • 1 Engineer squadron
  • 1 REME company
  • 1 Logistics company
  • 1 RMP platoon
  • 1 Medical squadron
  • Specialists as needed for the operation
  • Regular reservist and other reserve IR volunteers


Maximum Level of organic Brigade reinforcement (surge and in addition to above)

  • 1 infantry company
  • 1 tank squadron
  • 1 FR squadron
  • 1 artillery battery
  • 1 Engineer element
  • 1 REME element
  • 1 Logistics element
  • 1 Medical increment
  • Additional specialists
  • Additional regular reservist and reserve IR volunteers


Additional non organic surge capability

  • Reserve units from other brigades can be trawled for IR and BCRs and the regular reserve will trawled also. These IRs would reinforce regular and reserve units in a surge operation.


Required organic Brigade reserve units

  • 2 infantry battalions + regular reservist cell
  • 2 tank regiments with 2 squadrons ea + RR cell
  • 2 FR regiments with 2 squadrons ea + RR cell
  • 2 artillery regiments with 2 batteries ea + RR cell
  • 1 engineer regiment with 2 squadrons + RR cell
  • 1 logistics regiments with 2 squadrons + RR cell
  • 1 RMP company with 2 platoons + RR cell
  • 1 medical regiment with 2 squadrons + RR cell

These will have their HQs aligned with regular unit locations to ensure equipment can be pooled and shared and to ensure shared expertise and familiarity. The readiness reserve unit will be included in all regular unit training and planning preparations and meetings. There will be a regular liaison officer from the regular unit liaising directly with the reserve unit. The 2 tank regiments etc could be formed into one larger unit with 4 squadrons, 2 separate units are listed for ease of administration.


The Manpower

  • Officer training requires more routes. Current TA route should be supplemented with the option of doing the full Sandhurst course or an abridged Sandhurst course as part of a new UOTC stream. Reserve Officers should have access to the entire range of regular training courses. Regular and reserve Officers should be able to move freely (needs of the service permitting) between reserve and regular posts via all Officer posts being made “One Army”. This would be actively managed by the Army to ensure relevant ability and experience is kept in the regular forces (ie perhaps having limits on movements per year, or having service points etc). Reserve Officers in the pre-deployment phase would be mentored by temporary shadow regular or regular reserve Officers. Officers would all have a higher training commitment and perhaps should serve for 6 months if not on operations in the readiness cycle, amongst a regular unit on an FTRS type contract.
  • SNCOs, most of the above would apply. Higher training commitment and possibly spending 6 months every 6 years either on operations or serving in the regular army.
  • Other Ranks would continue much as now but with the higher training commitment when the unit comes to the last 18 months of the force generation cycle. They would be able to move freely between regular and reserve units and would have the option of conducting regular basic training and promotions courses and trade courses if they wished. They could also have the option of a 6 month FTRS type contract if not on ops but this would be voluntary. OR would receive reservist career postings and reserve professional development.
  • There would be a training establishment above and beyond the core strength establishment.
  • All personnel would get regular scales of personal equipment and receive a retainer during the 6 months of the culmination of the readiness period if not on operations to compensate for the higher level of readiness they would be expected to have.


Problems thus solved:

  • Lack of training time
    • increased funding and extra commitment
    • regular course posting and training opportunities
  • Unbalanced commitment
    • Higher compulsory commitment in the final 18 months of cycle
    • Higher quality SNCO and Officers produce better incentives and traininig
  • Poor ratio of effectives to ration strength
    • Better Officers more able to remove dead wood
  • Perceived risk in SNCO and Officer abilities
    • More integration, training and exposure to regular army
  • Perceived risk in deploying formed combat units
    • Build up
    • Regular increment
    • Shadow Officers
    • Joint training
  • Perceived as ‘second line’
    • Officer and SNCO posts become One Army posts
    • Kit becomes uniform and pooled
  • Poor career development opportunities
    • Better Officers and SNCOs better able to handle development
    • Regular army opportunities
  • Lack of diffusion between TA and regular
    • One Army posts and movement opportunities
  • Poor use of regular reservists
    • Regular reservist role enhanced and integrated


Regular Reserves

Better use of regular reserves needs to be made.

Every reserve unit will have a regular reservist cell which will liaise and work with regular reservists who volunteer to be at a higher state of readiness than normal regular reservists but lower than the TA commitment and liable for deployment – for specialist personnel mainly (essentially like the Danish contract soldiers).

They would be known as Section A regular reservists. Section B regular reservists would be those that have been released from the Colours but have to spend a period of time on the TA commitment level and will be liable for deployment; and also those regular reservists who wish to do this also for periods of time.

Section C regular reservists would be all others still liable to recall and their regular units would be responsible for these. Section C reservists could volunteer for Section A level of commitment or B levels of commitment depending on their trade and skill.

This model would be underpinned by “intelligent selection” whereby as far as is possible Section B reservists only deploy voluntarily. The regular reserve of officers would have a mirror organisation but with a Section D for Staff Officers and a General Officer list.


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March 6, 2012 11:08 am

: great proposal. Deserves lots of thought, will come back to you later

Think Defence
March 6, 2012 12:34 pm

Good post Phil, I think the Achilles heel of the TA is the seniors because, unless they are either ex regular or have the ability to become almost full time, there is just not enough experience on which they can draw to justify them sitting in that rank on operations.

The future for the TA I think is in specialist roles and lower ranks but this has all sorts of problems.

It is a very tough challenge that no doubt is exercising a lot of clever people now but the problem as you identify, is doing all this without primary legislation

March 6, 2012 2:20 pm

@ TD – I agree about the legislation. More than that I think its a cultural issue. the uk lacks the broad support amongst the population and employers that the US national guard for instance has. Hard to see how we could really change things so that TA units could be cauld up on a 6 year rotation as with NG units.

March 6, 2012 2:34 pm


the level of thought I would expect from you ! However, I am being really dim, because I am not sure what your strategic aim is…..

Ref: “The units assigned to each Brigade Group would cycle through the parent Brigades readiness cycle, each brigade would have 2x reserve units so that the readiness cycle was 1 deployment every approx 6 years. For example, 1 reserve infantry battalion will generate to highest readiness over 24 months, supported by the second reserve battalion, switching on the brigades next cycle.”

Why ? So within the 5 MRB’s rotation, once every 6 years a TA infantry battalion would deploy instead of a regular one ?

I know I am missing something of your intent somewhere, but I am not sure what, so again, apologies for being dim !!

Brian Black
Brian Black
March 6, 2012 3:11 pm

Hi, Jed. I think he means two TA battalions alternately deploying in addition to the regulars, not instead of a regular battalion. At least that’s how I read it.

March 7, 2012 2:10 pm

, some comments, apologies for the tardy response:-

– I agree with the TA/Regular integration, but for readiness reasons would prefer it was done for some brigades only, so that some could deploy rapidly. However, I understand you are working on the MRB concept, so will say no more.

Outcomes: all good

Problems: great diagnosis

Force Generation Model: I suspect the issue with this is that with only two battalions available per brigade, we won’t be able to adopt the US “train for two years, deploy the third year” model. Both battalions will need to be accepting recruits during this lengthy time to maintain their strength. A better model would be that the units alternate accepting recruits every year, so one would always be available for deployment, say in the last 6 months of their “readiness” year

With regard to TA specialists assisting in communication resilience, I fear this is entirely impractical except for government only communications. The requirements are massive (imagine securing communications for large food distributors alone, let alone all the police and security systems that rely on IP, PSTN and cellular for backhaul), and while it’s resilience is *unquestionably* something of concern, it’s not something the TA would ever have the capacity for. I suspect it deserves it’s own post :-)

Brigade Group Readiness Cycle: accepting regular reservists and individual augmentees, during a training period would bring a battalion up to strength, but it would neither build unit cohesion, nor promote confidence in the TA’s ability to be deployed as a unit. Moreover, it promotes the current practice which leaves half the armed forces incapable of deploying due to shortages. Authorising a manning level of 110% would be a better solution. Removing dead wood should be an ongoing process: there’s nothing worse than working for an obvious twat :-(

Brigade reinforcement (enduring operation or surge): all looks good to me

Required organic Brigade reserve units: I would prefer RR’s were integrated into the reserve units completely, not held apart. If they have the same training commitment, keep it all “one Army”.

The Manpower: all good, but I feel in the interests of both One Army and reducing time spent “in training”, we should make basic full time training compulsory for OR and officers. Normally, this would mean 10 weeks for OR’s, with officers doing say the first Sandhurst term (or basic, plus a compressed Sandhurst), with the rest of the training year to come to readiness. Without the shared experience, no common respect.
Furthermore, the increase in training tempo during a work up year only is going to play havoc with civilian jobs, whatever legislation you pass. Better to keep the commitment steady until call up.

“One Army posts and movement opportunities”, absolutely, brilliant stuff.

Suggestions: –

– probably the biggest cause of de-skilling in the TA is high turnover. Make regular and TA lengths of service the same, training plus 6 years, with regulars able to move to the TA for the last period of their service and vice versa

– training camps and weekends need to become compulsory. EOS

– given the size of the TA, units need to be able to recruit across a wider area. Make TA drill halls centres for weekday individual training, so individuals from any unit can attend a local hall for PT, weapons training, NBC etc. TA battalions should be based n regular garrisons, attending there for weekends and camps

– training commitment should be increased to two annual 2 week camps plus 12 weekends. Former should be compensated to employers the same way call up is.

– Your suggestion for Section C regular reservists to be attached to regular units will not help One Army much, nor the cause of regular readiness. Unless a individual specialist (Section A), you should either be a Section B serving in a TA unit, or if there are no slots, be a vanilla individual reservist, to be deployed whereever convenient

March 8, 2012 8:18 pm

Could we, like the USNG system, propose a law to employers that staff who are Reservists must have ‘time off’ for training? Or that in company recruitment, reservists are not to be held at a dissadvantage to non-reservists?
Not like holiday ;D but I mean, if HQ reasonably orders certain units/personel to exercises, then their employers must adknowledge and allow them to attend, this is outside the normal ‘weekend routine’, it would mean there is no risk to the employees career outside the TA.
Thats the general thinking when I talk to TA RAF Reg, I mean; such a move would protect the reservists main career choice, and allow training time and for larger exercises, that there is some level of protection so they can commit more to the TA.

I dunno, just an idea :)

March 8, 2012 8:39 pm

: agreed, just passing laws won’t fix reality. Hence the “unpaid leave plus comp” rule I suggested. The other hard reality is that being in the TA is a sacrifice: there will be compromises. If you work in retail, weekends will rapidly make it hell to be in the TA. Ditto if you are on 7*24 shift patterns. We can’t push all this pain onto employers, you will have to adapt your life. That being said, total reservist strength is likely to be 60K for the UK, so it’s hardly going to bring the country to a halt…

March 8, 2012 9:47 pm

Unfortunately the regular reserve will always be an untapped source, and only really available when the country is in danger.

When people leave the regular service they see it as they’ve done their bit and generally have very little to do with the forces afterwards, how many regularly keep Glasgow informed of their wherabouts?

After a few years if they have an inclination to do some further soldiering they drift back to the TA or look for a slot on operations, (if they are still cuurent).

I think you would get a lot of resentment from the RR’s if thet were forced to be called up on a regular basis when the country has no modern historical precedent of doing it, other than national crisis.

This in my opinion would erode the TA’s volunteer ethos which is it’s biggest asset.

March 8, 2012 10:10 pm

: I understand your point about RR’s better. They are indeed an untapped resource, which is why we both want to integrate them better within the TA generally.

With regard to emergency communications, that sounds like a great idea, but I suspect given the numbers and skills required we might be better off assigning the majority of it to a non-military but disciplined organisation, something similar to the old Royal Observer Corps for example. A requirement that if you want to submit tenders for government telco contracts, you have to contribute a certain number of sponsored reserves, would help.

Regarding readiness cycles, I forgot about the NG reserve cycle, I was thinking active force. I wasn’t thinking that TA units should be called up every other year, merely that by alternating readiness years, we maximise the deployable units if a surge is called for, maintain the interest level of the people, and ensure that the training value of a deployment is utilised within the unit, rather than having people do a tour and then leave. There is also the practical point that if we are embedding units within a brigade, we are effectively saying that only one brigade is deployable. My way, we could say half of them should be effectively deployable at any one time, something that would go down a lot better with the regulars generally, especially the brigade commanders

We really aren’t going to agree on basic training! Suffice it to say half the country has just watched a former TA reservist, fully “trained” according to the Army, with a full tour of Afghanistan behind him, having to do a full regular recruit course. Would that have happened if he had done the same basic training already? Continuing with the existing TA attitude of “leave when you want” will not help either, that is a relic of days when the TA was ten times bigger than it is now, and we don’t have the numbers to behave that way anymore :-(

March 8, 2012 10:10 pm

I like the idea of an SRB per brigade.

I would make it a combined arms Btn with force protection as its main objective solely self contained with chefs and loggies. These could then be used as a sort of pioneer btn in the old school style and go and set up fobs around the area to free up regular and ta to concentrate on patroling etc.

And as a bonus you could disband the RAF regt and give the cbrn role to the ta.

March 8, 2012 10:27 pm

@DavidNiven: I agree that the current 18 year Regular Reserve commitment is a bit overdone, since the majority of those not already with the TA would be hard to trace. So, cap it at 6 years unless the Army does something like train you to fly, but make what’s there count by requiring TA service if there’s slots free. Win/win IMHO :-)

March 8, 2012 10:31 pm

I would most definately make everyone do basic training 12 weeks long with the regulars ( you could have done YTS in the forces late eighties early nineties so it is’nt anything new), coupled with furhther trade training to a basic level level ie class 3 cbt eng, driver etc.

This can be done by giving recruits who walk through recruitment office of a choice of regular or part time service, which will both come with the same minimum years service.

Hopefully this will aid in the one army concept and instill in the ta a commitment and knowledge that they will not have a choice if the letter arrives at your door. It should allow the transitioning between the two easier for both parties as a regular who finds that due to family problems can no longer commit to regular service will just transfer thus keeping a soldier who would have otherwise just left the service, and vice versa the ta regiment could just ask for a volunteer to take his place for the next three years.

I say that everyone should all do basic is that at the moment the levels of knowledge in ta trained personel is not high, eg ta infantry do not leave training knowing how to operate any other weapons than the personel weapon, which does not make for a force that can be quickly mobilised if needs be without six weeks prior notice.(same goes for CS units and the levels they are taught in their trades)

March 8, 2012 10:43 pm

Sorry a few errors there,

I mean the level of ta pers leaving training is not very high. And both the ta and the army are relying too much on pre op training to produce soldiers as oppossed to traing soldiers in theatre specific sop’s etc.

March 8, 2012 10:50 pm

: of course a former Regular can slot straight into a TA unit, unless it’s a different arm of service of course. Doing initial Phase 1 training is something I thought initial recruits without previous service experience should do. It gives Regular and TA recruits a basic experience that everyone has in common, and is a good foundation for the real learning that you rightly state occurs in units.

The “former TA reservist and Afghan veteran having to repeat basic” reference was from the Young Soldiers TV series. If the Army thinks a veteran has to do this, quite clearly “One Army” is nonsense at present :-(

March 8, 2012 11:11 pm

: this is standard for anyone joining the regulars from the TA. Like I said, One Army talk, not action. I thought it ridiculous, especially since I’m sure no one was looking at him sideways while he was out there

March 8, 2012 11:23 pm

The requirement of ta soldiers to complete reg basic is the norm regardless of tours.

This is the reason that I think they should do basic, maybe not together but to a same standard, a ta infanteer not knowing haw to use a section weapon after training i.e LMG. and for other units to be classed as trained soldiers when they cannot perform basic tasks due to qualifications is nosensical.

Everyone should be at a common standard, it does the ta or the forces in general no good to have reservests, who are by the very standards laid down not fit for the task due to a lack of shared training. without having to apply concerted efforts of training pre deployment, for pretty basic weapons or equipment. Especially if your thinking of calling up ta units to high readiness brigades as a matter of course.

This will allow for a more integrated reserve as both parties will know what their getting and to espect. It will also give both parties a feel of what makes the other tick.

I think without something like this happening the ta will remain as it is, a pool of cheep volunteers that keeps the politicians from conscripting and from the army management from having serious competition.

March 8, 2012 11:37 pm

: as I understand it, you’re serving as a specialist (medical). Doctors only have to complete a 10 week course at Sandhurst for example, as no one expects them to want to become divisional commanders or CGS. The rules are probably easier to bend here.

@DavidNiven: agreed. The TA can potentially add a lot to the Army, both as pure numbers, but also by bringing people with great ideas into the military who would never serve full time roles. However, if they can be dismissed as lightweights by the Regulars, unfit to serve in “real” units, then a lot of this good stuff will never happen :-(

March 8, 2012 11:48 pm

“I cannot agree that shitting out TA with 14 basic is going to make them better soldiers than if they did that training over months” . Agreed! But saying it’s going to take 2.5 years to train someone who is only going to serve maybe 6 is not good economics. And if we are going to achieve the mutual trust between active and reserve, I think this is a price that needs to be paid.

This also applies against your “only justified if the unit you go to might be whisked away on operations” comment. If a TA unit isn’t at least minimally ready for this, it’s hardly going to promote mutual respect, is it?

March 8, 2012 11:49 pm

Agreed. I hope with this new love in with the resreves a sea change in training and attitudes comes with it and not just lip service as in the past.

The hunger for training and higher standards is already beginning amongst can already be seen amongst the younger mambers of the ta who have done a tour and don’t class themselves in the same bracket as the old school cold war warriors, I hope for their sake the army can integrate them properly recognise their value.

March 9, 2012 12:02 am

Don’t agree. As soon as the reserves rock up to pre deployment training with their regular counterpart and they have to go and learn how to use a common piece of equipment then the barriers are there.
It takes a lot of work to break them down and it’s a pressure that should not be placed on the resrvists to begin with.

Your average infantryman of 18-19 is not going to understand the compexities of modern life outside the army and will show the reservist the respect or lack of as he sees fit, not to mention said resrvists also holds a a rank.

For the sake of a mutual standard of training this can be avoided.

March 9, 2012 12:07 am


Agreed, the time has come for cold war warriors to get with the programme or leave, same for ex regs who can’t adapt.

March 9, 2012 12:09 am

: I have mentioned this before, but you are assuming we will never need to deploy without years of warning. I don’t think this can be assumed.

“Your time distinctions aren’t really fair since the soldier won’t have done 2.5 years worth of training or been paid for it.” They will have been on ration strength, and presumably been paid recruit wages, surely? Even if, as I believe both you and I agree, that trainees should not be held on unit establishment. Cue more stories about how “only x percent of the TA could ever deploy” You and I know they are exaggerated, but all organisations have to justify their existence in the public sphere, and reserves who can walk away whenever they want, after an extended period of training, don’t sound like a good deal

March 9, 2012 12:17 am


I think it depends on the regular unit also.

But this is happening and happened on herrick 15. But like I said it took just a little while for the regulars to see that the lads were’nt mongs, but as I stated earlier for the sake of mutual training it would never happen to begin with.

March 9, 2012 8:55 am


But Telic 1 is exactly why training should be standardised, as this is the model the MOD want from the reserves is it not.

Cut the army and increase the reserves so as to draw from them in times of surge operations.

And Telic 1 shows as that you will not always get time to build the reserves before commiting them to the fight. (I know this was due to purely political reasons but it still holds).

When a regular leaves basic training he/she is ready for deployment they are capable of general war fighting, the mission specific stuff comes after the first deployment and we can get a feel to what we are dealing with. Know one on Telic 1 had training from the how to invade Iraq doctrine before being commited, they were just profficient in gneral war fighting.

This is why I am a strong believer in a minimum standard for the resrves which is comparable to the regulars.

March 9, 2012 10:22 am

How about making the fourth Squadron, Company, Battery of every regular unit T.A.? With the regular unit providing the core officers, SNCOs. Knowing they would have to fight with them, would make their training a matter of concern for the unit CO. It would also boost the TA unit knowing they could be part of the first forces into the theater of war, not just there to make up the numbers afterwards. Of course they would have to have all the latest equipment, but if the US Army can sent fully equipped reserve brigades into combat, we should be able to manage a few companys, squadrons etc.

March 9, 2012 10:27 am

Everyone gets additional training before deploying on a tour, like I said its theatre specific.

But when things like Telic rear their head you go with the training you’ve had and thats general war fighting. I have know doubt there were toms straight out of cic in some of those sections doing the invasion and they would have relied on the section they were with and the training they had recieved at cic.

I think whe’re getting bogged down into the nitty gritty of what we each percieve as trained soldiers, but I see no sense in calling someone a trained soldier for whichever cap badge they wear without the basic knowledge of the trade they will be required to perform in, from using a jimpy in the infantry or driving a drops in the loggies.

The nonsensical approach we have at the moment of basically half trained(half trained in the sense that the training required for their trade in the ta is such a narrow focus and sometimes on modules that are wrong for the ability to be useful when called to support the army) soldiers being classed as deployable.

And I just think that a shared syllabus will only integrate the army better. It’s nothing to do with skills fade but a knowledge in the army that everyone has met a specific level before being deployable to stop the reputation the ta has at the moment of being the easy option (don’t know if I should use that term but I think you know what I mean for want of a better word).

I also don’t understand why you basically want a more thorough training regime for the officers and snco’s and are quite happy with the status quo for the new entries, surely these new entries will some day be the snco’s of the future so why not ensure the training is improved across the board. If the toms are trained to a good standard they will also be leading the charge from the rear for better training, like I said there’s keen and hungry reservist’s out there already why not add to the numbers. But at the moment they generally do a tour first and then come back and highlight where there training could have been improved.

March 9, 2012 12:19 pm

Not clear what problem all this is trying to solve – alternative to what? There’s no identified need for TA infantry bns (although there might be depending on how regular bns are reduced, and no prospect of FR or fd arty regts unless deployable TA bdes are introduced.
However, the real problems are more complex (that’s why there’s a 3* general on the case).
Currently the 100k+ reg army is designed to deploy: 2 divisions totalling 6 bdes, an air asslt bde and around 1500 solders to RM. Add to this a NATO corps HQ, its main manpower use being a significant number of signals.

One of the endearing habits of the Brit Army is two establishment levels, formerly PE and WE (now DC and DE with the difference called CC (contingency component)), basically what you have in peacetime and what you need for war. As IIRC even the Cold War TA was only manned at PE. When the difference is required the CC is supposed to come from TA and reservists, in practice what has generally happened post mobilisation in 1939 is that if something approaching WE/DE is required then other regular units are cannibalised, which of course has a knock on effect if the operation is extended. This happy (to Treasury) arrangement totally stuffs the army; good plan Chancellor take a seat in the Lords.

A few numbers might help, in round figures inf bns vary between 650 and 700 at DC with an increase of 150 to 200 for DE. The small part of this is extra offrs for LO and wkpr jobs, plus extra drivers, etc. The big part is into HQ and Spt coys. The later gets extra capability in mors, FS and ATk pls, but the big ones are in HQ coy which picks up a defence pl and asslt pnr pl. First rfts (ie BCRs) would be in addition to all this and not in the above nos.

RAC units don’t seem to get many, some extra dismount sects in the recce sqns and LOs and wkprs seems to be about the size of it. The big ones are AS-90 btys which grow by about 50%, mainly their 7th and 8th guns and a significant boost to the size of all gun detachments.

The problem is how best to organise for a reg army of c. 80k and 30k TA. The current 100k army very roughly splits into 33% bde troops (including RA, RE, RLC and EME close support, and around 1500 in 3 Cdo), 33% force troops (regts RA and RE, a few AAC, RLC, Sigs, EME) and the rest the training, HQs, whatever.

To date the announced manpower cuts are serious surgery to the regional command structure and disbanding one bde (well the bde has gone and its RA regt disbanded, the inf remain), and reducing one div HQ to something of a shadow that will be reconstituted if required.

From a TA role view, obviously the medics are the front runners. My view is that there’s limited scope for TA in the bdes, in addition the existing CC contribution there might be merit in a 4th rifle company for bns able to eliminate the need to cannibalise other reg bns, and in a reversion to the Cold War, more fire support teams for RA, which is the big headache (and has been for the last 70 yrs, and criminally ignored).

Force troops offers more scope, and I think sub-units in a variety of units could become TA. Althougth not force troops, 24 Cdo Regt RE offer a model, they already have both reg and TA sqns.

Of course another option is to reduce to 4 reg bdes (excl 16 AA), increase tour lengths to 8 months (hence maintain 24 month harmony guidelines) and create 2 new TA bdes in case the 2nd division is formed for something serious.

There are other issues notably readiness cycles and CTOs, I actually think creation of a proper inspectorate general organisation would be a good thing to create quality control in unit training, long a UK weakness (or more accurately a very mixed bag, particularly when the TA is included).

I’m an unashamed cold war warrior (and a Vietnam veteran), the prospect of war tommorrow, a come as you are party no matter how remote, does tend to keep peoples’ eye on the ball (although I think the TA’s chance of comming first against a Sov OMG or air assualt was a tad remote), tactically they tended to be inept.

March 10, 2012 4:23 am

I don’t think a CSS focus will solve the basic issue of numbers.

March 10, 2012 12:01 pm

I don’t think the numbers problem will ever be solved completely.

But I believe any idea of having fully formed units of reserves ala NG ready to go will not be achieved and does’nt need to be.

All the ta needs to do is produce good quality basic soldiers of the various ranks that can be drawn upon when asked by their parent brigade, but with more funds allocated so as to train on current equipment and broader field’s within trades.

I do however see a larger use for formed specialist units of reserves such as field hospitals, STRE’s and communications etc.But these are small units and maybe some of their funding can from DFID as I can see a good use for them in those disaster relief operations etc.

It all comes down to training in my opinion and the reources to do it at a higher level than as of late.

The ta currently manages to supply the army with the manpower it needs for operations and did so for Telic 1 the army just needs to decide what manpower it requires from the ta and how much.

March 10, 2012 1:13 pm


I’m not advocating every ta course is a regular course and I never have.

I did say that I would like to see everyone do basic training together. But if can’t be done then I’m fine with that also.

But the training does need to be at a similar level.

And this is where I think we are getting our wires crossed. Everything thing you do pre op if it is not theatre specific is revision. If resrvist’s are classed as deployable are rocking up with no training with equipment that is standard in the regular army then it is training and by default you are not a trained soldier. The dessert is no place to be learning the use of basic equipment and adapting to the environment at the same time combined with preparing for an op.

All I’m advocating is a rise to the stage when a ta soldier is classed as deployable in their cap badge/trade. In my opinion it should be equivilant to a regular in terms of trade knowledge, to a reg after they have left phase 1 and then proceeded to which ever basic level for their trade.

Keep it is as it is modular I have know problem with that, but classing ta soldiers as deployable at the moment with the very limited trade knowledge they have (and I’m not talking about people with a couple of years under their belt) defies the reason for having them in a small army that likes to play around the world without a lot of prior notice.

As for everyone in the ta is more intelligent than regulars because they left home and bought a house is such a general statement as to be absurd, I know a few ta soldiers cutting about who own their own house and have troubling blinking and swallowing at the same time!

If a lawyer cannot dissengage brain while being taught something that he thinks is below his level and therefore irrelevent, then chin off if you don’t like it, it’s collective training not individual training.

You would not hire an electrician to rewire your house if they were not qualified. The qualification shows that they are up to the minimum standard in knowledge to do the work competently, not if they are the best around.

The minimum standard I advocate is a slight raise so as not to waste time on pre deployment training on basic stuff.

March 10, 2012 2:31 pm

“Using infantry as an example, recruits are not exposed to the majority of weapon systems they would be expected to operate in Battalion during CIC”

I’m sorry phil but that statement is wrong, all regular recriuts leave CIC with the knowledge to operate all section weapons from pistol to jimpy coupled with LAW or whatever it’s called this week. Thats what the further 12 weeks training after phase 1 is all sbout, coupled with fire and manouvre up to platoon and company level. support weapons are classed as further training.

And this is my point a ta soldier in the infantry should be required to operate most weapons to section level which I would say being the LMG and UGL at the minimum.

And then the equivilant standard for your trade.

“I think you’re asking for something that can’t happen. You simply cannot keep a soldier current on everything a regular unit can on 27 days a year”

Tactics change more frequently not equipment. An individual who left the services ten years ago would still recognise 90% of the equipment used on a daily basis outside of operations. And for operations thats what theatre specific traing is for.

“Anyone who thinks TA are suitable for low notice operations outside of a very select few units (individuals more like) is talking shite”

But thats what happened on Telic 1. And I don’t advocate it either, as I mentioned on an earlier post I see know reason for the reserves to have fully equiped formed units like the NG, but to reinforce the regulars with trained personnel of various ranks when required, but trained on current basic equipment.

“You miss the point. The point is it is a waste of time, money and effort to teach people stuff like that when they have no need for it. It is not about thinking things are below you, its about targeting scarce resources where they can do the most good”

You miss my point I’m not advocating more training on polishing boots etc but on equipment and procedures that will be required at a basic level to fit into whichever unit you’ve joined.

Using pre deployment training to teach, not revise basic equipment is a farce no matter which way you try to justify it.

Why train a section of the manpower to a higher standard when they are the least deployable individuals within that organisation ie officers.

Concentrate on the recruits, jnoco’s and seniors. There has been no massive outcry from the armed forces that they need more officers.

March 10, 2012 5:19 pm

After your last I am now in agreement with Obsvr.

I don’t see what this is all about, as I don’t see a NG style reserve ever needed (just as you) so just moving units to regular brigades on paper is just an excersise.

What I do see is a need for a reserve that can be integrated with the regulars easier and this is done through insuring that ta soldiers are slightly better suited to their roles by upping the trade knowledge level at which they are deemed as deployable, and having the opportunities to use standard equipment with which they use.

From what I understand from your posts you think the status quo is fine for or’s but we need better oficers, why? as I said before how often are they called up compared to the or’s.

Training programmes can be drawn up by anyone with half a brain, just ask the lads/lasses back from tour what they think might be helpfull and integrate it with the MATTS requirements.

The reason I wan’t to raise the deployable level in trade training slightly is that if it’s not specified to be done it won’t be done and the ta will constantly field soldiers at the lower levels when they can do so much more.

If the status quo is ok now then bin the ta infantry btn’s and most of the CS units and when the time is needed just trawel the remaining units for volunteers to go and do a two week course in whatever is needed and do the pre deployment training with the unit, simples.

March 10, 2012 5:53 pm

In fact while I’m thinking about it just have a reserve cap badge for all non specialist units unlike STRE, Field Hosp and Movements etc.

And then when the call up comes for the brigade area your in, a PID is allocated and off you go to do trainining required with that unit.

All you need to fund the reserves for then is MATTS.

March 10, 2012 5:58 pm

Sorry meant all non specialist units unlike STRE etc.

March 10, 2012 7:11 pm

“The other point is that blokes become mature in their roles when they operate in that role, so they become best in Battalion, not after 26 weeks at Catterick or 14 weeks in Winchester or wherever” I say again I am not advocating a 14 week course (would be nice if it was possible but I am more than happy to give way on this fact) but a higher threshold when you are deemed as deployable, and whats the problem with a common syllabus ie class 3 as standard to both reg and ta in the modules required.

The better training programmes will come from the army stipulating the minimum requirements, as I said before if its not stipulated as required it will not be done.How many Mtd’s are used at the moment to provide MATTS for bounty hunters as opposed to continuation training?

And once again any bloke with half a brain can write a training programme. If you require steering in the right direction for booking training areas etc talk to the PS thats what there for.

I never disagreed on the need for better SNCO’s just on the extra resources to train the officers above the level they are at now.

March 10, 2012 7:33 pm

What is need is an institutional emphasis on good “training programmes and which are funded and useful and imaginative and well attended. Its no good individual blokes putting together training programmes when and where, there needs to be a culture of better training and less wank weekends”

Agreed but why does it need to be an officer who writes it? Yes it can be indorsed by an officer but as you said the ta is a society.

“A good Officer will make an excellent unit. I see no problems in investing in making them better. I don’t want to see more Ruperts, I want to see better reserve Ruperts who are more trusted by their regular counterparts to do their proper jobs.”

Good units come leadership coupled with well rounded soldiers and not leadership alone. The officers are the easiest problem to fix they do not require more resources in the way of training but more oppurtunites to jump from reg to ta or posting’s as your post suggests.

You do not need to be an infantry officer to be an AO at an infantry unit. You do however need to be infantry trained to a certain extent to be an infantry NCO.

March 11, 2012 12:45 am

“I don’t think the Officers should write it. But good leaders are needed. They are needed to motivate, inspire, lead and give some cut and thrust to a unit. You know, be a good Officer”

Again good leadership is required in all ranks.

The officers are a lost cause at the moment and the sea change in the resrves will come from the lower ranks demending more. Eventually the officers and senior ranks will need to adjust to the demand or be left out in the cold.

You are not going to change an institution from requiring the the turkeys to vote for christmas.

March 11, 2012 6:07 am

Mark Phillips of RUSI, author of the article attached to teh agile warrior thread has more recently written another brif on the TA. Some selected chunks are below, in particular note “the general principle that the reserves should build capability packages that can be sustained at higher levels of readiness in an inactive duty status and deployed with a minimum of pre-deployment training”:

RUSI Occasional Paper
Rebalancing the UK’s armed forces

“The emphasis on the reserve will not result in immediate cost-savings: there has to be a period of significant upfront investment to increase their capability through improved training and equipment before they will provide the government with a cost effective way of meeting Future Force 2020.
Secondly, and more importantly, the future character of conflict will demand greater specialist skills. It has been difficult to develop these skills in regular structures because of the continuous demands of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade (and combat operations in Afghanistan will continue to 2015). Although the Army recognises that it has become mission-specific and bespoke as a result of these operations, it will nonetheless be expensive and take a significant lead time for the Army to develop specialist skills in areas such as cyber, culture, linguistics, police, intelligence and others. Reservists can already have skills in these areas from their civilian lives, but the Ministry of Defence and services have tended to be poor at exploiting these to date.”

“The use of individual reservists and formed reserve units – or the balance between the two – are both required but will vary between the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force and, more importantly, by task. In determining the balance between formed units and the use of individuals, it is important to bear in mind the general principle that the reserves should build capability packages that can be sustained at higher levels of readiness in an inactive duty status and deployed with a minimum of pre-deployment training. This points towards non-complex platforms and systems, specialist capabilities that draw on civilian skills and are not held within the regular component (and can be combined at unit level as necessary), and use on enduring tasks.”

“The approach the individual Services take, particularly as the Defence Reform agenda gives each Service greater control over how they spend money on manpower, equipment and training, will be telling. With greater autonomy as a result of the Defence Reform Agenda, Service Chiefs should now take a greater interest in improving the state of the reserve components than hitherto. Lessons from other countries suggest that the regular force should define what training levels the reserve should meet and oversee that training, and ensure that training is undertaken jointly between regular and reserve components. The Service Chiefs should pursue integrated regular/reserve formations and chains of command.
However, risk is not just a function of readiness. It is also a function of numbers: numbers give greater flexibility and predictability in the force generation cycle. There is already an issue with sustaining existing numbers in the reserve components, with well documented problems in relation to recruitment and retention. FR20 should go some way towards addressing these problems by being clearer about roles and improving training. Welfare is also a unique issue for reservists. Reservists suffer worse mental health compared to regulars. The reasons for this are not primarily due to traumatic experiences on deployment but a range of wider factors, including poor unit cohesion and lack of support and understanding from family, civilian and employer networks. Reservist families themselves also receive a lack of support. Innovative solutions will need to be found to address these issues.”

March 11, 2012 8:38 am

The RUSI paper seems well written (have to read it then!), but two take-aways:
“points towards non-complex platforms and systems, specialist capabilities that draw on civilian skills and are not held within the regular component (and can be combined at unit level as necessary)”
– this would not seem to point to the favourites on this blog (MBTs, SPGs,GMLRS…)?

“Service Chiefs should pursue integrated regular/reserve formations and chains of command.
However, risk is not just a function of readiness. It is also a function of numbers: numbers give greater flexibility and predictability in the force generation cycle. ”
– this would point to the 4th bn model (using infantry as an example) rather than the US/ new Ozzie model of reserve bdes?

March 11, 2012 10:05 am

Thanks for tht obsvr

“the general principle that the reserves should build capability packages that can be sustained at higher levels of readiness in an inactive duty status and deployed with a minimum of pre-deployment training”

I could’nt agree more and I think is what I’ve been trying to get at.

Peter Elliott
March 11, 2012 1:29 pm

, you speak truth.

Organisations I have been involved with in the world of business became addticted to re-organisation, when the actual problem was the calibre of the people. Each new structure failed in turn becuase the same useless space fillers got shunted automatically into the new jobs. We used to call them ‘walking cost savings’.

And as Phil rightly says the end result was that the bright sparks just upped and left. And those who didn’t jump were pushed becuase there’s nothing a non-entity boss hates more than a young thruster who shows just how much better things can be done.

In my career to date I have encoutnered a tiny handful of top bosses who do not see talent around them as a threat, and only 1 who knows his own limitations well enough to actively seek out and promote people who have the skills he lacks.

March 11, 2012 2:14 pm

: I don’t think @DavidNiven was off talking about increased readiness for reserves. They can’t be “on a pager” the way the regulars can be (well, I did know one who was, but SF have different rules!), but being on 4 weeks notice to move for a vanilla war fighting operation when on a readiness year seems entirely reasonable. The effect on recruiting would be really good too…