A new model TA

A guest post from Phil

In this article I aim to put across some of my ideas for how a new model TA might manage to bridge the risks inherent in its new role of providing even more of an even smaller regular army. It is an article to stimulate debate and I do not pretend that it is the whole answer or even if the model is a good one but  I think it provides opportunities to tackle the two main problems with the current TA: lack of confidence in it by regulars and relatively poor senior leadership.

In a nutshell what I propose is a multi-tiered Army Reserve with an emphasis on good Officer and Senior NCO leadership with resources focused not only in those two areas but in technical training also. How might it work? Well the model is one based on the Danish recruitment system which I wrote about some time ago now here on TD. What happens in the Danish model is that a large number of conscripts receive a basic training period of 4 months but at the end of these 4 months they can opt to sign onto a reserve contract which will see them undergo 8-9 months more training in their role and then be eligible for deployment. The advantage of this model is that it exposes a large number of people to the military who may not have realised they like it – in other words it broadens the recruitment base and attracts more souls.

Now I do not propose conscription into the Army Reserve but what I do propose is a tiered model whereby there are two levels of commitment – the bottom tier is essentially normal jogging and represents almost exactly what is done now with the exception that there would be a legal minimum training period of a 2 weeks a year in camp event and 4 weekends a year. Training could continue as now in 2 week modular courses and the commitment would be entirely open ended with no minimum terms. What I would envisage is that these flexible and open commitments would attract people of all ages (especially mature personnel) and ensure a wide recruitment pool for a higher commitment tier of the Army Reserve. It would essentially act as a hook but also provide soldiers that, as now, could be brought up to operational standards for an enduring operation – units need critical mass and warm bodies are very useful in themselves as they enhance retention and provide for better training events.

Now this basic recruitment and training model would be supplement by a higher commitment Army Reserve and act as one gateway to it. What I would envisage is a tier with higher level of compulsory training periods like the US National Guard and with a firm commitment in the same vein as a company might require a certain number of years of service after putting you through an MBA for example. This tier would be on an individual basis so a unit might have both lower and higher tier soldiers in it.

So in this higher tier soldiers would be eligible to do regular courses in exchange for a certain number of years’ service afterwards at the higher commitment level. The number of years’ service would depend on the type of course – I propose there could be 4 levels of courses: basic military courses (phase one and two training); advanced military courses (phase three training courses, promotional courses); long military courses (your long phase three military courses like Ammo Technician and so forth) and finally long trade courses (courses that have a direct civilian equivalent or use, such as artificer, environmental health etc). Now recruits might decide to join direct to the higher tier and do the basic military courses and thus give 3 years commitment; or after 18 months’ probation and training in the lower tier they might choose to do an advanced military course for 3-4 years commitment, or at some point in their career a long trade course for 7 years commitment (the longer time reflecting the more useful nature of the course and the extra expense involved in putting a reserve soldier through it).

What we would then have is a reserve with a large pool of flexible, casual soldiers able to be brought up to speed for an enduring operation buttressed by numbers of higher commitment soldiers who have stepped up or entered directly, requiring little more training than their regular counterparts for operations, having done exactly the same courses.

To accomplish this would require a change of primary legislation and the terms and conditions of the higher tier reservists. It would become necessary to offer them better pay (higher bounty, the full X-Factor, their trade pay etc), enhanced pension rights and also open up almost the full range of military benefits like access to med centres, dentists, rail cards, even married quarters perhaps but at a less subsidised rent – proper AT courses for example could also be offered. However it is done, there needs to be a real and palpable enhanced set of terms and conditions for the higher tier – there needs to be differentiation.

Stiffening this would be a better reserve Officer and Senior leadership cadre. For Officer entry I would propose removing the Reserve entry option as it stands and making either the 12 months RMAS commissioning course a requirement and / or a new OTC model based loosely on the US ROTC model where a good chunk of the RMAS syllabus is delivered part time over the 3 years of University followed by the final term of RMAS full time: thereafter all Officers must do the regular Army courses and give several years commitment. For Senior NCOs I would propose that they have to conduct the regular Army promotional course for their Corps (an advanced military course) and thereafter give a minimum 3-4 year commitment at the higher level of commitment. This would mean that all Officers and Senior NCOs conduct identical training and are selected in an identical manner – the leadership core would thus become more professional. JNCOs in the lower tier could do a TA 2 week course as now, or they could opt to do the Regular course and move onto the higher tier.

Enhancing this further would be a far more permeable barrier between Reserve and Regular forces. Officers and ORs at the higher or lower commitments would be allowed to sign onto FTRS type contracts to serve with the Regular Army subject, at more Senior levels, to having completed the appropriate courses. Furthermore, Regular Senior NCOs and Officers, and certain Corporals would be allowed to take “sabbaticals” in the Reserves thus spreading Regular experience throughout the reserves by a mechanism other than the Permanent Staff. These things happen now but the objective would be to institutionalise this and promote it and normalise it so an Officer who takes three years out in the Reserves for example, to study, isn’t penalised. The objective is to have a very fluid movement between Regular and Reserve forces to spread experience, to spread leadership, to give reservist SNCOs and Officers command opportunities in the Regulars and to try and raise familiarity and trust.

Underpinning all this would be a selection process completely identical to the Regular forces with potential recruits held to the same mental and physical standards as regular recruits and undergoing the same selection process at Litchfield. Furthermore, all personnel will have the same scale of clothing and equipment and will (with few exceptions) be required to maintain the same levels of basic soldiering proficiency as regulars including basic fitness levels and marksmanship. In addition, partnering Reserve units with their Regular counterparts and encouraging cross posting using the new permeable boundaries will help operational effectiveness by allowing units to get to know one another better and to know strengths and weaknesses – the mere attendance of Squadron or Company personalities and OCs at a Regular Battalions CO Prayers cannot be underestimated, nor can running simple weekend joint MCCP type affairs where regular and reservist soldiers have their deployment documentation and vaccinations done together.

The main challenge to this would be creating an environment where regular counterparts trusted their reservist comrades to do their job at short notice to the same level as regulars are perceived to be able to do it. The system of higher commitment and doing regular courses and being able and encouraged to partake in FTRS contracts is designed to mitigate this risk and breed confidence. The other barrier is of course the money to pay for these extra courses and the higher number of MTDs needed at the higher commitment level and the enhanced conditions packages. And finally there would need to be legislative changes to give the higher commitment legal status and put the requisite reservists and Officers under military law 24/7 unlike their lower tier brethren. However, none of these are insurmountable obstacles. By embracing reserve units into their day to day lives regular units will become more familiar and if the senior leadership is better their impressions are more likely to tend toward ‘decent blokes’ rather than ‘cretins’.

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wf
wf
April 29, 2013 9:51 am

Great post . Must do some work (day job) before commenting :-)

x
x
April 29, 2013 10:54 am

The problem isn’t the structure, even though it does need wholesale reform as Phil rightly points out, but more a question of why don’t Britons want to do something to defend their country? I look at places like Norway and Denmark and their reserves. If we had the same take up as a percentage of the population as the Norwegians have into their home guard the TA/Army Reserve would be heavily over subscribed. During the 1930s when the RAF was struggling for recruits they raised the recruitment bar and volunteer numbers rose so I think what Phil has outlined would work if like he says their is legislation in place to protect volunteers in the work place. My own experience of the TA is that for everyone that takes it seriously the are a few more who treat it like the ACF for grown ups. And I know it varies depending on which “branch” we are talking about. For example the medics at our local field hospital detachment seem wholly professional while our local infantry detachment seem, um, less professional. I appreciate that it easier for medics who mostly work in the NHS to bring that sense of professional with them into the TA/Army Reserve and that infantry skills are less transferable. (I hate that term.) With that mind I see the TA/Army Reserve continuing to work as it does now irrespective of structure. The parts that parallel civilian professional and technical worlds will do well. The combat parts less well and that is where the new structure will fail; I don’t but the adverts I hear on independent radio sorry. I have commented several times now that I think the Army’s new overall structure is no good. I often speak of concentrating armour in one (or two) formations and the fact that armour is a once in decade need. Now if the TA/Army Reserve, the combat arms, were concentrated on supporting that once in a decade requirement then the TA “structure” would be more stable. And if it is stable it is predictable and that is what employers want. That would leave rest of Army to concentrate on this new contingency model. The type of person that the MoD wants to attract is the same type of person that drives business and that person will often either live for work or have a very full social life. It has to be some sell to get those individuals in the numbers needed. And probably those who want to try the TA as a non-work activity are already in the TA. And so the MoD is chasing a very small number. Further how much of the TA/Army reserve strength really is up to par? It isn’t just a question of adding onto a strong base I suspect that base isn’t that strong. Looking at it that way there is even a steeper hill to climb.

There are other broader issues too. For example I don’t think it should be illegal for British citizen to own his country’s service rifle. And there are matters of “civil defence” in that the UK depends on charities to provide large chunks of that capability from the RNLI to St John’s to many mountain/cave rescue teams.

a
a
April 29, 2013 11:27 am

“What happens in the Danish model is that a large number of conscripts receive a basic training period of 4 months but at the end of these 4 months they can opt to sign onto a reserve contract which will see them undergo 8-9 months more training in their role and then be eligible for deployment.”

This sounds quite similar to the US model, which (as I think I mentioned before) involves everyone doing exactly the same phase 1 and 2 training, alongside each other, and then going into the regulars or the national guard. So you rock up and say “I’d like to join the NG” and they send you to three months of regular basic training, alongside all the guys who are aiming to join the regulars, plus (say) two months of trade training, again alongside your regular counterparts, and then they release you back into the civilian world, and you do your one weekend a month from then on.
Effectively you’re a soldier first – chronologically, at least.

The advantages are obvious – the disadvantage is that it constrains your recruiting. The NG officer I was talking to admitted that they can really only recruit from:
people who have just left school
people at university (who can do the training in the summer holiday, or in two successive summer holidays)
the unemployed

and, presumably, ex-regulars, though he didn’t mention that.

“Furthermore, Regular Senior NCOs and Officers, and certain Corporals would be allowed to take “sabbaticals” in the Reserves thus spreading Regular experience throughout the reserves by a mechanism other than the Permanent Staff. ”

This sounds like a terrific idea. And it would probably be great for morale in the regulars as well – gets them out of Catterick or Salisbury Plain for a year or two somewhere a bit nicer. Trouble is, what do they do for a civi job? You can’t live on just your TA pay. Maybe couple this up with more education – the US armed forces are very good at getting their guys to do civilian masters degrees and so on. Just say the Army will pay for you to go off and get your degree for a year or two, as long as you do your TA service…

But I don’t think that compelling TA soldiers to do the regular courses is a very bright idea. The most limited resource, even for the most dedicated TA soldiers, is _weekdays_. You can get your lads to come in for seven weekends in a row and they’ll do it, but they will only have limited holiday time – so you can send them on some regular two-week course, but that means that they won’t train properly with the rest of the unit on OTX that year, because two weeks is all the time they have.

And, let’s face it, a two-week regular army skills course (with some honourable exceptions, such as Brecon) is _not_ two solid weeks of training at the kind of pace that TA units manage on a typical weekend. It’s two weeks at an easy pace, starting at 8 and knocking off around 4.30, an hour for lunch, regular brew breaks, half day for sports on Wednesday and early finish on Friday, weekends off of course… Your two weeks of regular army training probably actually involves only about 50 hours of actual, solid training time. A good TA unit, with motivated soldiers and smart instructors, could probably compress that into three weekends and a handful of evenings and produce exactly the same end result.

x
x
April 29, 2013 11:53 am

What is the glue that holds a TA unit together? I know the regimental system has many detractors. I know when the crap hits the fan men fight for their mates not HMQ and country. And the “glue” that holds the unit together is a rich mix of those elements. It may be different for those from the supporting corps. But what of the TA? I think many are more patriotic than they care to admit. But what drives the TA soldier? And yes I know the new system is all about augmentation not whole units deploying. But that means the individual will have to be even more motivated or gregarious or probably both?

@ a

Yes I know about the conscription, the load of bi-annual continuation training, and the gender inequality re conscription. And the Norwegian move to “task forces” of specialists is somewhat similar to our own current system. But there is a difference between day to day dripping and reality of doing something for the common good. If the Home Guard was really truly resented by the Norwegians then it would no longer be extant. in a political active country like Norway (especially one that is leans more to the Left each year) it would be to low a hanging fruit not to have been picked. What I am saying is that Home Guard is more accepted as a part of national life in Norway than the TA is here in the UK. As I said above there more to this than how often you get to play soldiers and some laws to protect your job.

Martin Ryder
April 29, 2013 12:09 pm

The two tier idea seems good to me; not everyone can make the same commitment as everyone else. Let those that can do more do more. I would also suggest that people should be able to move between the tiers as their circumstances change. You may be able to do things when you are in your twenties that you cannot do in your thirties.

I would like to go beyond the training aspects of the TA to the structural aspects. One of the oft repeated complaints made by regulars about reservists is that the latter cannot really be trusted to perform as well as their regular comrades. This is probably both true and false in that some will be able to conform to regular standards and some won’t be able to.

The way to deal with this might be to merge regular battalions and regiments, of all arms and services, with the reserve battalions and regiments. Each regular battalion and regiment should consist of three or four regular companies, squadrons or batteries and one or two reserve companies, etc. The reserve sub-units may have to be hundreds of miles from their regular counterparts but that should not stop a good CO and his staff from maintaining a close interest in the reserve sub-units’ personnel, training, recruitment, etc.

Regular officers and soldiers should be able to move between regular and reserve sub-units as they do now between the regular sub-units of their battalion or regiment. If the regulars are responsible for training the reservists and have worked closely with them then they should be able to trust them when they are deployed together.

Grim901
Grim901
April 29, 2013 12:48 pm

I’m sorry Phil but I have to heavily disagree with some of what you’ve put forward. You propose to strengthen the officer corps at reserve level, a large proportion of which comes through OTC’s. Attempting to increase the syllabus for members of the OTC will require increased training time, leading to much lower recruitment levels (the reason many leave these units is that current levels of time required already often leads to lower university grades or difficulties meeting commitments). What your proposal will do is ensure that fewer people leaving the OTC are inclined to join by forcing them to commit several years at a time when they are leaving university and require flexibility to move around the country for their regular jobs. Making legally binding training commitments also makes it harder to work around regular life, I know many people who struggle to find the time for the 2 week annual camp necessary for bounty, simply because for most of us that training would become a large proportion of our annual holiday from regular jobs.

Whilst some of this could be altered by altering the protection and benefits reserve members receive and can force employers to change. But there is a limit, for example demanding that all reserve officers face the full 12 month Sandhurst course mean recruits having to delay their entire civilian life for a year (which by joining the reserves they obviously do not want to do) and delaying them being able to seek civilian employment straight out of university, and again making it look much less attractive to students in the OTC, who currently can go and take the 3 week course during university breaks without too much hassle.

Whilst you may point to the ROTCs (which I know little about) I would assume that the numbers in ROTCs are made up solely of the most dedicated to military service from the outset, which directly contradicts your idea of exposing more people to the military as in the current OTC style. Remember over 40% of 18-21 year olds are now students in this country and the OTC is the only exposure they could realistically gain to the military. If anything your plan needs adapting to a tiered OTC model as well in order to allow exposure for many, and enhanced training for the dedicated (there are always noticeable differences even amongst early recruits).

Jed
Jed
April 29, 2013 12:56 pm

Great read – but due to time differences I am at work and will digest and comment fully later.

One quick comment – don’t we ostensibly have a two tier system already, we have “normal” TA units (Infantry, Engineers, etc) and “Specialist” units (Psyops, CIMIC, Media Ops, Information Assurance) ???

George
George
April 29, 2013 1:46 pm

Just a question about reserves in general. Do you think there should be a blanket upper limit or should there be flexibility for someone who has useful skills but may not be a spring chicken (subject to fitness etc of course).

I’ve also noted how the RAF reserves seem to congregate on the Eastern side of the country which must limit recruits.

Sorry about being a little off topic…

a
a
April 29, 2013 4:51 pm

What I am saying is that Home Guard is more accepted as a part of national life in Norway than the TA is here in the UK.

Kind of a virtuous circle, isn’t it. If most people know someone in the TA, it’ll be more accepted as a part of national life; which means it’ll have an easier time recruiting; which means that more people will be likely to know someone in the TA…

mike
mike
April 29, 2013 5:23 pm

George

I would say that depends on the branch and what is expected… for infantry its obvious, but medical and more logistics, then things can slide a little.

As with RAF reserves, you’ll find that RAF Honnington/Regiment reserves make for that congregation.

x
x
April 29, 2013 6:52 pm

@ a

Yes but that is a bit simplistic. Trouble is being white, non-metropolitan, right wing, male, and of a certain vintage I have always known of the TA. My dad was in the TA. Family and friends have been TA. Friends have been PSI. My old cadet unit (not ACF) was situated within the grounds of a TA unit. Thinking about most adults, especially the men (for it is a manly thing is it not? ) I know would know of the TA. Thinking about it more broadly I think whoever the MoD hope to recruit into the newly resurgent TA would already broadly know the organisation whether through similar circumstances to my own, ACF, CCF, or university. But the relationship between the TA and the general community is based on volunteering. There is no formal relationship. No state imposed, hopefully to be interpreted as broad consensus if the state is taken as a synonym for the people and not for government, service. On a previous occasion when this was discussed here I asked whether we should be looking at for what purpose the TA should be maintained. I foolishly used the phrase “territorial defence” and some chippy kumquat came back and said they hadn’t been about home defence for a long while. But my point was simply this if we expect volunteers to rally the colours then it had better be for some clear cut unequivocal reason. And you can’t get more unequivocal than immediate defence of the home islands. Come and join the TA practise your skills while getting shot at, perhaps killed, horribly maimed, and putting loved ones through the wringer for 6 months for murky indeterminate obtuse reasons and geopoltical shenanigans not much of a sales pitch. And that is the problem the TA faces. 99.9% of those it will recruit or want to recruit won’t have a degree in IR or Security Studies. That isn’t to say that amongst the 99.9% there aren’t free thinkers who could see through the murk. But I bet even then 99.9% of free thinkers would probably think adventures like Afghanistan and Iraq not worth a limb, death, or career suicide (irrespective of what legislation is brought in.)

Mike W
April 29, 2013 8:52 pm

Excellent article, Phil. Stimulating, full of original ideas and obviously the result of a good deal of thought on the subject. I particularly liked the ideas on making the leadership core more professional (essential that, I would have thought) and on creating greater fluidity of movement between the Regulars and the Reserves to help build familiarity and trust.

What has to be worked hard on is the elimination of the kind of attitude shown by my nephew who was a Regular (infantryman) for a good number of years. When I asked him (I think it was way back in the Nineties) what he thought about the idea of being reinforced by personnel from the TA, he was dismissive, contemptuous, in fact, of their ability. I thought it was highly unfair at the time, knowing that there are many fine units in the TA, some outstanding. However, I think it would also be fair to say that many others have a long way to go.

What I would also like to ask you is whether you think the idea of attaining 30,000 trained personnel in the TA is achievable. I think you were quite sanguine about the likelihood of such a goal being met a short while ago. Have you changed your mind at all in the interval? The latest figure quoted by those who seem to know about these things is that we have about 19,000 trained people in the Reserve at the moment.

Also I think, from exchanging views with you some time ago now, that you have reservations about discussing what kit etc. formations should be issued with, until, that is, their roles have been more closely defined. Do you think, though, that instead of creating large numbers of regiments all equipped with the same kit (e.g. Logistic regiments all with MAN trucks and Land Rovers), the planners of the new Army Reserve should be more adventurous, allowing The Reserve to use more “exciting” kit, just as the TA Artillery unit in the North East does with its GMLRS systems? Might such a policy actually benefit recruitment and retention?

wf
wf
April 29, 2013 9:20 pm

: all good stuff, barring the mixing of higher and lower tier personnel in the same unit. This forces deployments to be an individual thing, making your unit not much more than a holding pen and making all these now properly trained officers and SNCO’s largely redundant.

Why not maintain units of at least company strength in the higher tier, co-located with “HSF” companies to borrow a term?

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 29, 2013 9:57 pm

Good article with lots to ponder.

Snap! I have to bite, I simply have to – and then I will go back on topic. @ x cites armour as a once in a decade capability. Not quite sure where this comes from, we’ve been using armour continually since 2003…

On to the TA!

You will never replicate precisely a regular capability with a part time capability. What you need to do is quantify how much risk you are prepared to take in the differences between the two capabilities. The risk is generally expressed in terms of the time it takes to get the Reserve capability to the same standard as a regular capability.

There is an important differentiation in motivation between a Reservist and a Regular. For the Reservist the military commitment is a part-time commitment and not main effort, for the Regular the reverse is true. One therefor has to balance the commitment in terms of time with the commitment in terms of motivation and the commitment in terms of employer support. All the primary legislation in the old will not make Reservists more employable if the commitment is too high. The US have experienced this with their Reserves (National Guard & Army Reserve) (US joke – what is the difference between the Reserve & Active Components? The Active Component have a job between deployments…), the UK sees it in the marked reluctance to employ women in small/mid-sized companies in key roles when they are of child-bearing age (apocryphal from local employers & employees). So the commitment has to be realistic for the military, the individual and the employer.

Making the TA highly attractive may have a detrimental impact on regular recruiting and retention…

Course parity between Regulars and Reserves is a must.

Extended training periods are more efficient. Too much of a training weekend is lost to the overheads of transport and admin.

A tiered TA is a step in the right direction.

Why don’t we use our Regular Reserves more?

x
x
April 29, 2013 10:25 pm

@ Calum Lane

Yes the Army has been chasing Terry Taliban up hill and down Afghani dale in BAOR style armoured manoeuvres. Chally 2 pouring 120mm HESH into those mud compound walls. AS90 dropping barrages here then and everywhere. Whole battalions of armoured infantry arriving on object after it has been shot to pieces by RARDEN and 7.62 chain. Yes I must have missed all that. Especially since 2010. or as it known the turn of the decade? Or do you think soldiers riding around in Mastiff is armoured warfare?

wf
wf
April 29, 2013 11:28 pm

@x: there were 2 Warrior battalions in Iraq for most of 2003-2008, plus attached CR2 and AS90. There’s been a Warrior company in Afghan since 2009. Describing Mastiff as “armour” is actually perfectly accurate, although it’s a highly specialised sort. It’s not *that* much of a stretch…

@Calum Lane: I don’t understand why the Regular Reserve are ignored this way either.

Gewyne
Gewyne
April 30, 2013 8:59 am

The one thing the TA needs is experienced soldiers. I would suggest offering those leaving the army qtr pay (+TA rates) for a year to continue their profession part in the TA. It could help bridge the gap from army to civilian and they may come to like the “part time” soldier and continue with the TA. This would bolster and give a lot of experience to the TA.

The article seems to over complicate many things – simply give recruits the options to take cadres and train in what they would like, and things that would benefit their company/bat.

Probably the biggest thing is that the TA is seen as a joke – how can you shift this, who want’s to join a joke looked down upon by regulars and laughed at by the public ? Well if as mentioned all soldiers leaving the army were in it for a year – then it’s a little harder to see it as a joke/look down on it…. as that’s your colleagues, yourself in the future. Changing the name – why can the TA not become part of the Army Reserve – drop the TA and the negative connoctations and past.

a
a
April 30, 2013 11:30 am

You will never replicate precisely a regular capability with a part time capability. What you need to do is quantify how much risk you are prepared to take in the differences between the two capabilities. The risk is generally expressed in terms of the time it takes to get the Reserve capability to the same standard as a regular capability.

Very true. But I can’t help noticing, though, that it seems to take exactly the same amount of PDT to get a regular unit ready for Herrick as it does to get their TA augmentees ready…

x
x
April 30, 2013 11:36 am

@ wf

Everything is armoured then. Viking is armoured. Foxhound is armoured. Companies will sell the MoD tankers and loggie vehicles with armoured cabs. There is a difference between protected mobility and armoured warfare. State on state massed armoured warfare is a once in a decade activity. The “war” part of the Iraq intervention lasted from March 19th to May 1st 2003. That is when we needed the armour. Do you think Warrior would have been in theatre post May 1st if MRAPs had been available? The MoD deployed what it had. Remember Snatch? Let’s not forget all the hand wringing about MICV looking like tanks either and about being seen as being friendly to the local populous. Big difference bewteen being to drive and fight Warrior in limited or specific conditions. And taking to Salisbury Plain in battalion or brigade sized formations. Imagine the cost of the latter.

x
x
April 30, 2013 3:54 pm

@ Gewyne

Exactly. The question perhaps should be, if the TA was taken “seriously” by all would the current system need tweaking? A family friend was a PSI (WO1) and then worked for the local RFCA. His opinion is that the current composition of the TA is a bit of curate’s egg. He says he can’t see where they will find enough quality volunteers to reach current establishment levels that will make it work as they want to work let alone an expanded force. Too much dead wood.

Jed
Jed
April 30, 2013 5:49 pm

x – but there is no such mythical beast as “the TA” – there are in effect many different Territorial Armies; the normal or standard TA unit has different terms and conditions than a “specialist” TA unit, which for example will only accept you if your ex-Regular forces and have a particular skill set which is in demand e.g. ex-regulars who are now top notch IT geeks as part of Land Information Assurance. Of course it’s a curate’s egg – my specialist unit had guys who had done 3 years reg, not made it above Lance-jack and could barely pass the personal fitness / CFT. We also had guys who left regular service as experienced Sgt’s in the Engineers, REME, Signals. A very broad range……….. however we were also a joint service unit which was 75% TA / RAFR when I joined and more like 50/50 regular / reservist when I left, so not really representative of the “whole”.

This is obviously very different from 20 year old Civvy joining his local infantry unit.

Reform is definitely required, and as Phil’s piece suggests, it is going to be a highly nuanced approach that is required. There is no “one size fits all” approach to building up the Army Reserve.

Phil – from your previous article, I can see where you have been influenced by the Danish model which you admire:

“once a conscript has completed his four month training he is either discharged into the conscript reserve or he can elect to conduct 8 more months of training and become a Response-Force Contract soldier (or HRU in Danish). The 8 month training package is a special to arm package that brings the conscript up to a more conventional level of soldiering ability and gives them training in their arm or service role. Once trained the HRU soldier can and is nearly always deployed overseas for a six month tour.”

However that is a 12 month training package in total for an HRU reservist – this would prove problematical for us would it not ?
1. Cultural change – the old Cold War TA (FAT STABS) to a professional body of part timers
2. The similarity to the National Guard model – soldier first, do a whole year training, the go find a civvy job – again cultural change, not at all like how we have done it in the past
3. Do we envisage this providing company / squadron sized “formed units” or only groups of individual augmentees ?
4. Will we ever truly have the budget to recruit and train to a high level a 30,000 reserve ?

Just one more question, with a massively expanded reservist element, why would regular officers / NCO’s have to take sabbatical’s to go work in a reserve unit ? Surely there will be many more “permanent staff” posts for regulars to be rotated through ?

x
x
April 30, 2013 6:22 pm

@ Jed

Is there? Didn’t realise that. Honestly I didn’t. Sorry. I think if you look further up the page you will note how I have mentioned how the different parts of the vary in their quality depending on what they do and the crossover from the civilian world. The problem with numbers lies in the broad areas not specialisms like medical or intelligence. Would you like to proffer an opinion on say HAC, FANY, 21/23 SAS, and other oddities that fall within the broad definition of TA? What about other problems such as the RFCA “system”?

Think Defence
Admin
April 30, 2013 8:04 pm
Reply to  Phil

all must stop, Predator, Film 4, on now

‘I ain’t got time to bleed’

x
x
April 30, 2013 8:31 pm

@ Phil

I think you are right with what you say in your article as it goes with regards to “retention”, career paths, etc. as far as I understand the specifics.

My concerns start outside the barrack’s gate, and my “questions” are more about national identity than recruiting into the force’s reserves. I just wonder why in a country of 60 million we are all pondering why we can’t get, what?, 1 person in 1000 (give or take) to join up to defend the country part time. And for the wider community which includes their employers. especially the latter, to support them.

(I will leave my ponderings on the RFCA, TA barracks, etc. etc. for another time. )

x
x
April 30, 2013 8:37 pm

@ TD

There are some good films on Film4 this week. I recorded Winchester 73, one of my favourites.

Predator’s anti-gun sub-text jars a bit with me. But as for how we aliens view you puny humans it is spot on.

Think Defence
Admin
April 30, 2013 9:09 pm
Reply to  x

Jesse Ventura and a minigun, seriously, what’s not to like

x
x
April 30, 2013 9:12 pm

@ TD

Surprisingly the hidden message of the film is that guns are useless.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 30, 2013 10:34 pm

X,

wandering off-topic, on the “guns are useless” theme…

I have an ex-colleague / now friend who is a Louisiana born US Marine Corps officer who lives now in rural Texas. Unsurprisingly, he is a great supporter of private ownership of guns, owns quite an armoury, and is a skilled huntsman. But he is also very intelligent. He does not bother with pistols or “concealed carry”, but instead has several identical 12 bore Mossbergs for “home defence”, as well as a couple of ARs for fun and range shooting.

It is his belief that 12 bore pump action shotguns are the bee’s knees for defending your home, and in each he has a variety of ammunition in escalating order of lethality. Some form of salt rounds, then a couple of non-lethal bean bags, then bird shot, finishing up with the serious stuff designed to bring down deer.

I can’t argue. It seems sensible, and also legally sane (to indicate that he’s not really trying to kill an intruder, just incapacitate him). He’s clearly thought it through, is not trying to be Rambo on the streets, he knows his guns, chooses to keep them identical, and has them in various places around the home. He even has spare shells in bedside drawers.

Would not happen in the UK, but equally, he’s not as nuts as some Americans are.

topman
topman
May 1, 2013 1:25 am

i’m going to have to ask on behalf of us non pongos, HAC and FANY ? Interesting post by the way.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
May 1, 2013 1:58 am

Phil,

simple.

HAC (the Honourable Artillery Company) = fat bankers who like to think that they just might have ever had a stay behind OP role in Cold War days, but were still fat bankers, and likely to have been dug out of their in-expertly hidden OPs by Soviet soldiers at bayonet point, and then to have cried and tried to bribe their way out of captivity.

FANY. Field Army Nursing Yeomanry. Female ambulance drivers, but probably quite proficient at the first aid bit, as their course was 29 weeks long. Socially on a par with the Gunners, which really is scraping the barrel. Even the Norland Nannies looked down on them. I was asked to go to a party once in Germany by a FANY, so I accepted and turned up quite well buffed up, suitably dressed, etc, and she took me to the Sergeants’ Mess of 2 RTR. Gordon Bennet. Turned out an old Signals Instructor from my Troop Leader’s course was then an RTR WO2, so we had a bit of a drunken reunion. What else can you do? Anyway, she was not much impressed.

Angus McLellan
Angus McLellan
May 1, 2013 1:59 am

@topman: [Edited to remove info already provided by Phil]

The ladies who served with FANY accumulated a most remarkable collection of decorations during WWII including three GCs (Violette Szabo and Noor Inyat Khan both posthumously and Odette Sansom) and a GM (Nancy Wake).

DomS
DomS
May 1, 2013 8:28 am

Quick comment regarding the way in which the TA is regarded in the UK, compared with scandinavian Home Guard formations – the main difference from my perspective is that the TA is expected to augment deployable formations, and fight in overseas wars. Many people don’t understand the concept of defending our interests overseas and feel that defence should literally mean defending our shores. Hence antipathy towards the military in some sectors of society.

technoelite
May 1, 2013 9:08 am

As the head of the blog knows due to updates. I am myself a reservist in the British army and most recently my unit which has the highest amount of men deployed overseas, had a visit from the chief of defence staff, where we were consulted about this very issue. All I can say is this post isn’t far off what “might” happen. I will of course post this in my future post here. Which I am cleared to do by my my co omitting names ranks. I can keep a commentary of my training so any new good news will be passed on here

a
a
May 1, 2013 9:36 am

21/23 SAS need some big changes – 22 SAS wouldn’t piss on half of them if they were on fire. I do wonder what their point is now.

But, interestingly, the same isn’t true of SBS and SBS(R) – they have an excellent working relationship AFAIK. Maybe that means the problem’s with 22, not with 21/23 – in any case it doesn’t seem impossible to have a reserve SF unit that’s trained up to top level.

Jed
Jed
May 1, 2013 11:56 am

Phil – thanks for the considered response.

Techno elite – welcome ! Look forward to reading your stuff ;-)

Phil, a further question. I thought the “flexible force” infantry battalions were being reduced on strength, because they are to be 1 to 1 paired with Reserve battalions, which when mobilized would “provide an infantry battalion of greater deployed strength” – how would you see this working with your reforms ?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
May 1, 2013 12:23 pm

Hi Jed,

In short: these ” I thought the “flexible force” infantry battalions were being reduced on strength, because they are to be 1 to 1 paired with Reserve battalions, which when mobilized would “provide an infantry battalion of greater deployed strength”[“] would be cadre formations, whereas the regular army [ a good name, if you think about it this way… regularly used, and ready for it] would maintain (without becoming a two-tier force) enough of bn’s/ rgmnts to deal with threats that were on the radar screen at the time of cutting the budget framework

x
x
May 1, 2013 1:31 pm

The point re FANY and HAC is that they have good recruitment and retention, and though the latter may be a load “fat bankers” they aren’t exactly stupid and probably given their disposable income have lots of things they could be doing in their spare time without playing soldier.

There are three sides to the triangle,

1) Recruitment: Knowledge of TA in the wider community, why would you want to join?, how the TA is regarded by the wider public, and why does the TA exist? As I pointed out way above and has been pointed out again further down fuzzy talk of “war on terror” etc. isn’t as much as a sell as pure home island defence.

2) Retention:
2a) Training and career path.
2b) Integration with the wider Army. Funny in my readings and conversations how I have never heard a TA medic refereed to as a STAB. Wonder why?
2c) Coupled with esprit de corps, morale, social side, etc. etc. Sorry but that is important. This all may be about augmentation of line units, but where is the volunteer’s military home outside those 6 months away on deployment? 6 months out of 36 months.
2d) Pay. Of which I don’t know.

3) Cost & Sincerity: I don’t think it will be much cheaper. And if HMG don’t support the idea with big money at first to get the momentum going it will fail. The RFCAs need doing away with altogether; incompetent for the most part.

Grim901
Grim901
May 1, 2013 3:33 pm

Phil,

In response to your comment on OTC’s.

I’d have to say that whilst I agree with the sentiment, you may be missing the reality that is life for recent graduates (I should point out here that I am 22, spent time in an OTC, went back to uni for a Master’s and has done the graduate job hunt 2 years running). Whilst there are many dedicated people within the OTC, those that aren’t planning to go reg but still wish to join and serve in a reserve capacity often struggle with the toll that trying to find a normal graduate job in this economic climate takes. The only way to get a job at the moment is to be very flexible, overqualified, and lucky. By demanding higher commitments from those people who will make up the bulk of junior reserve officers you are severely hindering that, and many will simply be unable to pick the job of reserve officer over a full time career.

I know many people who have struggled to meet both demands, and your plan would only make it more difficult. I know a couple that have chosen to stay simply as reserve officers and in return struggled to get a civvy job, and I know some who did TA commissioning before moving onto the regs and are now full time officers. My point is that just because some may struggle with the choice you are asking them to make between committing to the reserves when they need to be committing elsewhere, does not make them unsuitable. I think you may be demanding so much of reserve officers that the only ones who meet your dedication criteria would end up wondering why exactly they don’t just go reg? I honestly can’t see anyone who’d sign up for the full whack at Sandhurst then go reserve.

wf
wf
May 1, 2013 7:56 pm

: just as an idea, why don’t we integrate Regular and Reserve recruitment and initial training? Anyone wanting to join either, has to spend 3-6 months attending a drill hall and undertaking a certain number (say six) training weekends before going off for a rather less basic Phase 1, with all concerned having a better idea what they are getting into and what they are getting. Plus, we’re all integrated from day 1…

Jed
Jed
May 1, 2013 8:09 pm

Thanks Phil – roger that !

But do you see / would you like to see, a 4 company establishment being kept by the Regular battalion, with the Reserve providing a ‘fully formed” platoon to each, the Reserve providing a “fully formed” 4th maneuver Company, or the Reserve providing individuals to slot in across an under strength Regular battalion ?

wf
wf
May 1, 2013 9:49 pm

: if they won’t come back after a single weekend, I’d be surprised if they managed to pass basic. After all, regular recruits attend weekend briefings already. I’m not sure the attitude that only TA recruits can be relied upon to wash their balls without supervision necessarily helps your desire to integrate both regular and reserve :-)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
May 2, 2013 7:24 am

Phil,

RE “So a Reserve infantry battalion, tasked to provide a company sized increment might need to provide 50-70 higher tiers out of a battalion of 400 or so? The ratio’s and mobilisable increments would need to be calculated on a bespoke basis as they are anyway now.”
– I seem to remember a projected overall ratio (from the original proposals) of 1 in 12 on average to be either mobilised or in training… wonder if draw-down in A-stan will increase training days then
– that may go some way towards assessing the budget framework? As in the point below

“Will we ever truly have the budget to recruit and train to a high level a 30,000 reserve ?”
– if the turn-over is too high, then “no”
– anyone know what the specific extra £ 1.5 bn for lifting equipment levels over 5 years (we are well into those by now) is going towards?

Observer
Observer
May 2, 2013 3:47 pm

I wonder about the idea of a weekend warrior, 2 days is simply not enough time to absorb all the new technology that is coming out, you learn it on Day 1 and 2, by Day 8 and 9 you would have forgotten everything. Might get better results concentrating all the weekends into a single month, month and a half training camp, this way, you can train enough that you do get muscle memory to operate your equipment.

I’m actually pro-conscription, for all the population for a few reasons.

1) I’m actually the reincarnation of an Egyptian slave driv..*cough..*. Employers are generally not sympathetic to TA reserves training with an adversion to hiring reserve personnel, unless they themselves are in the same position. If everyone is a reservist, then it is either hire a reservist or do without, and the bosses will be more sympathetic to training call backs since they themselves would face the same thing.

2) Breaking down of social barriers. You currently have enclaves of different ethnicities living more or less seperately from each other. Total conscription forces them to mingle and accomodate each other and if you really have a bitch of a sergent, teaches them communal responsibility and cooperation even among different races and religions. Helps a lot to foster intergration.

3) Social welfare. It allows lower income earners to get at least a month of decent pay, in exchange for labour, so you get welfare, without becoming dependent on free handouts. Reduces the Gini coefficient in a way.

4) Increase in recruitment. Some people might find that the army life suits them after they have been exposed to it, which they might not have discovered if left alone.

5) I’m actually an Egyptian slave driv…never mind. :P

Lots of reasons to think about it. And one reason not to. “My poor budget!!!” :)

Jed
Jed
May 2, 2013 6:04 pm

“That is going to be something for the CO of the battalion to decide, how he wants the reservists integrated”

Really ? Interesting notion, I would have thought a standardized approach would be better – anyway, cracking conversation – ta :-)

J

jed
jed
May 3, 2013 2:34 am

Phil – understood, thanks. However if Reserve Infantry are to be such an important part of the adaptable force, do you think they could work that way ? Would it not be preferable to have say a fully formed platoon who know each other and have trained extensively together ???

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
May 7, 2013 9:33 pm

Phil

Thank you for a thought provoking and thorough post.

I would just like to put a marker down for the specialist or national TA. These are reservists with a civilian trade or skill that the army can use. There is for example the Catering Support Regiment of 800 cooks (http://tinyurl.com/bpw9tun). In some cases there are TA units that have a skill set no longer available in the regular army such as in 507 STRE (Railways) (V), which has the only permanent way engineering in the army regular or reservist.

I would like to suggest that this may be one way to stretch the budget in the future. Where there are military personnel with a career path that is parallel to the civil with an analogous skill set then maybe the Regular Army should surrender that career path and the role passed to the reserves possibly with a revolving door to permanent service. So if all the articulated lorry drivers (for example) were reservists the RSMs COs Adjutants and OCs could be full time for the duration of their appointment with possibly a rotating cadre of full timers providing such peace time artic driving as the Army requires. This would generate the higher tier soldier by default.

One benefit of this approach is that one does not need to argue a TA soldier is equivalent to a Regular as the reservist brings their professional skill to the party. The cash savings & reduced head count in the tail by such an approach could be spent on areas which are unique to the military primarily in the combat arms. I suspect a commander on operations would rather have professional (but not necessarily full time military) lorry drivers and infantry soldiers who were both professional and full time.

In the Cold War the TA was part of a smoke and mirrors effort to persuade our allies, and possibly our enemies though I doubt it, that 1 BR Corps was fully manned – when clearly it wasn’t. And as part of that endeavour, TA infantry battalions had their role to play both in Home Defence and with a BOAR role. But today do we really need TA infantry and armour or Regular Army HGV drivers, nurses, surveyors, mapmakers, post office workers, etc. etc. Could there not now be a division of labour between the regulars and the volunteers.

martin
Editor
May 22, 2013 3:56 am

@ Phil – Great post, My own personel experience of the TA was little more than a drinking club with HM Forces subsidising the tab. I did not see the point in what I was doing and the regular army treated us as a place to get spare kit. I left after a year.

Anything that can change this is welcome and essential if we are to get the reserves to the position we need. The USA seems to have the best handle on this for a professional army which can call on up to 40% of its strength on enduring ops from the reserves. Trouble is they pay for it and I don’t think either our Regular Army or Politicians are prepared to do what it takes to make the reserves work.

Jed
Jed
May 22, 2013 3:16 pm

Martin – that is kinda depressing and not my experience at all – which just goes to show there is actually no such thing as the “TA” – there are many nuances.

What kind of unit were you in ?

Phil – apologies for delay in responding now we are back up and running – but I take your point in your last response to my question. I hear what your saying and understand that approach; and certainly have no experience to disagree ! Cheers :-)