All Change for the Army Reserve

The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, recently gave a widely reported lecture at Chatham House. Many outlets concentrated on the 77th  Brigade aspects but I think one aspect that was under reported was his comments on the Army Reserve.

The full transcript and recording is here, but an extract on the Army Reserve, below;

I think the other thing we need to think hard about is reconstitution and regeneration. That seems to me entirely sensible, given the nature of the uncertain world in which we’re operating. I think it also plays to the importance of a word that I have not used for a long time: productivity. Given the nation’s circumstances, it’s important that we do deliver a productive outcome.

That’s why the Army Reserve is important to us.

We should be clear though about what it is there for. What we’ve done is to pair it with our regular force structure. We’ve done that because our regular force structure is slimmed down in certain parts of the Army and it will draw its resilience from the pairing relationship it has with the Army Reserve.

The point about the Army Reserve though is that the obligation if you join it is only for training, less some specialists. We are not going to use it regularly and routinely, as perhaps was suggested a couple of years ago. [emphasis added] Rather, it is there in the event of a national emergency. That means it’s much more straightforward, I think, for an individual to be a member of the Army Reserve. If you’re a reservist, what you have to do is to try and balance an equilateral triangle between the employer, your family and your own thoughts on life. If that becomes an isosceles, you won’t retain or recruit the reservist. So it’s important to keep that in balance, and that means that it is sensible to talk about the obligation being for training only, unless you can afford the time as an individual to deploy with your regular counterparts.

So it’s there for a national emergency.

The effect of us explaining it like that is beginning to have an impact out there in the countryside. The figures that were announced last week were positive in terms of the direction of travel.

But we do need to attend to the officer corps, and it is a fact that over the course of the last 15 years of campaigning, we’ve used the Army Reserve as a collection of individuals to back fill our regular gaps.

That has not been positive for the officer corps. A lot of work is going on at the moment to see how we can encourage reservist officers and how we can develop a career structure that is meaningful for them.

We have, importantly, reinvigorated the Army’s regular reserve. Many former soldiers in the audience will remember that they have a statutory liability when they leave regular service, for up to 10 years, to be available in the event of a national emergency. Of course again, coming back to the point about productivity, we put around 7,000 people back into society every year.

There’s a lot of skills in there which are important to keep a handle on.

I would encourage you to read the above again and then compare and contrast with the original Army 2020 publications, Future Reserves white paper from 2013 and SDSR 2010, then form your own opinion.

Despite General Carter saying as perhaps was suggested a couple of years ago, there was no ‘perhaps’ and it wasn’t a ‘suggestion’.

The Future Reserve paper was pretty clear in where the reserves would sit;

The Reserves will complement the Regulars, working together within an integrated force, providing military capability in a different way from the past to deliver the range and scale of military forces and skills required. We need the Reserves’ contribution to national security to expand. By 2020 they will provide a greater proportion of the overall Defence effort relative to Regular Forces and we will use them differently.

We will use our Reserve Forces to provide military capability as a matter of routine, mobilising them when appropriate. The wide range of possible activities may include enduring campaigns (such as Afghanistan), resilience operations in the UK, contributions to capacity-building overseas and to support activity at home. In some cases a level of specialist capabilities will be held only in the Reserve Forces.

It is as different as Mr Chalk and Mr Cheese.

The challenge for regulars is to recognise and value the contribution of their reservist colleagues

Clearly a change of policy, heart and direction is being signposted here, although a speech does not a policy make!

The Army Reserve is now (according to this speech and save for a few specialists) national emergencies only

The old Regular Reserve seems to be back in fashion, although in what form this will take is not clear.

One cannot move for seeing an Army Reserve recruitment campaign, the Army is using pretty much every media channel to advertise the benefits of the Army Reserve to potential recruits but this About Turn seems to have slipped the attention of many.

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Ben Newby
Ben Newby
February 25, 2015 9:22 pm

If he had said that 2 years ago I might not have left as the direction of travel at that time was ever greater commitment and I could not balance that with work and young family.

Phil
February 25, 2015 9:22 pm

That’s one hell of a change.

Whats the point of pairing regular and reserve units now? What the hell was the point in re-organising it at all if the intention is to turn it back into a Territorial Force but a Territorial Force organised to augment a regular force?

Doesn’t make any sense. Unless its just bollocks to get recruits in the door. Or his definition of “national emergency” is somewhat elastic and novel…

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
February 25, 2015 9:23 pm

Hopefully this is an acknowledgement that employers would be easier to persuade if they knew that the time off for training was reasonably planned and that they would only lose their employee in an emergency.

The Other Chris
February 25, 2015 9:26 pm

Is Army Reserve recruiting working? Maybe it’s just not in our collective psyche and those who want to serve prefer to do so professionally rather than part time?

So… are we going to see the SDSR 2010 cuts to the Army halted at the 2015 target of 95,000?

Phil
February 25, 2015 9:27 pm

Guess it depends on what an “emergency” is.

You can stretch the CCA2004 definition of an emergency to include Afghanistan. Even Iraq since the key word is “threatens”.

dave haine
dave haine
February 25, 2015 9:38 pm

Have to say, as soon as the tales of difficulties recruiting reservists, I could see this happening…

After all, It’s one thing to give up the odd weekend and a couple of weeks a year, albeit with the possibility that one day you might be needed. But the whole, 6 months here, 12months there thing… Must be a bit of a career dampener, let alone the affect on family life and relationships…

Maybe this is just a sensible reaction to a impending problem.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
February 25, 2015 9:54 pm

@ Dave H,

That’s the real issue. In the original A2020 plan they were talking about calling up reserves for service every three or four years, in most cases just to go and do all the defence engagement stuff with the adaptable force. To an employer that comes off as a bit of a piss take.

Randomer
Randomer
February 25, 2015 11:55 pm

New Commitment Model well and truly dead then?

What happens to all the infantry battalions that are meant to lose a platoon in every company to be backfilled by reservists? (Although I admit this hasn’t quite happened)

A senior officer admitting that the idea of radically increasing the size of the reserve with no increase in terms and conditions (or more importantly legal changes for job protection or against recruitment discrimination) will not work.

What a huge surprise…

Challenger
Challenger
February 26, 2015 1:44 am

All well and good but as TOC said does this mean the Army will keep a regular force closer to 90-95,000 now that it’s not getting quite the same integrated Reserve Force it was promised?

Jeneral28
Jeneral28
February 26, 2015 4:05 am

So take the Regular Light Infantry Battalion paired with a reservist unit of 3 rifle companies. If the AR unit is only for national emergencies, we get a regular rifle company deploying at home or overseas with 2 rifle platoons and 1 MG platoon.

Discuss?

Obsvr
Obsvr
February 26, 2015 7:24 am

Perhaps the target the Treasury and the Govt. You can’t get an army capable of a sustained brigade sized operation on the cheap by mobilising reservists to bring the 4th & 5th rotations up to strength.

Hohum
Hohum
February 26, 2015 12:16 pm

In short:

As expected the reserve system has failed completely and offers no useful military capability unless it involves sending cannon fodder to lay in front of Russian tanks pouring over the Polish border or bayonet charging Russian Naval Infantry landing on East Coast beaches. Instead it sits there absorbing precious resources that could otherwise be used to genuinely useful military capability in the regular units.

I am sorry but the Army has completely lost direction, the reserves idea was and remains ridiculous, the obsession with maintaining an incredibly broad collection of capabilities is resulting in penny-packets of barely useful capability and all this whilst both the Navy and Air Force are stretched beyond their limits.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 12:45 pm

‘As expected the reserve system has failed completely’

Only because the new model of reserves was never going to work the way the brass had dreamed it up. Treating reserves as regulars was never going to work, who actually came up with the idea of deploying them every 3-5 years?

The reserves have shown that they have a place when it comes to sustained operations, the medical services would have buckled without the reserves during our last two operations and without the use of reserves neither of the last two operations could have been sustained.

The idea that we can suddenly have a National Guard on the cheap was ludicrous from the start. We as a nation are not familiar with the concept and the hangover from the TA viewed as ‘weekend warriors’ and ‘just a drinking club’ was going to take time to dispel.

A common sense approach of increasing the capability of the current reserve in terms of training and equipment with the ambition of increasing the numbers would have sufficed. All the reserves needed was more opportunity to train with the same equipment as the regulars to the same standards and whenever possible with them and this would have over time changed the opinion of both the regulars and general population alike, was this not what was happening anyway?

So now the reserves will be consigned to being a dads army again and solely due to the fact that an absurd target was sought. If neither of the regular services can recruit and sustain 100% of their manpower requirements why was it suddenly capable of recruiting a vast amount of reserves?

Chris
Chris
February 26, 2015 12:47 pm

I do tend to agree – the TA as the Weekend Warrior force it once was (an enthusiastic quite well trained back-up should an urgent increase in numbers be required) was rational and I believe supported by businesses. Once the TA personnel became a regular part of deployments to the sandpit, businesses will have changed their opinion – no longer a benign and laudable exercise in preparedness but a second employer with a priority call on the individual.

So the Regular Army should be exactly the size it needs to perform its duties; the Territorial Army (not an adjunct regularly deployed nor a reserve to be called upon to make up numbers in planned duties) should be trained in the ways of the Army ready for emergency call up when the muck hits the fan.

In my opinion.

DN – again my opinion, you can’t look at this solely from the Army position, the system has to work for both Army and the TA/Reservist’s employer’s point of view. If the MOD expects too much from the employer then there will be pressure from the employer not to join/stay in the reserves.

The Other Chris
February 26, 2015 1:12 pm

@TD

A difference of 500 is too small a sample unit size to really declare an upturn, definitely some spin unless there are significant figures of “rejections” also occurring to drive that approximate 1,500 successful(?) quarterly recruitment figure.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 1:27 pm

Chris

I don’t think I have argued for a National Guard system. I said it will take time for the general population and the regulars as a whole to change their opinions of the reserves. And this is not a dig in any way, but the constant use of the term ‘TA’ by yourself is in some way proof.

If members of the reserve can manage to get time of from their employer for a tour then that is fine it benefits the regulars and reserve alike. But to state that the reserve will be called upon regular is ridiculous. The status quo is neither an option either, the reserve need to be trained to a higher level and equipped similar to the regulars. It benefits no one when individual members are called upon that there is such a gap in knowledge between themselves and their regular counterparts. The opportunities to allow individuals/groups to train with the regulars on exercises if they can get the time away should be encouraged.

The bottom line is give the reserves the opportunities to be better trained and integrated whilst not treating the reserves as regular unit in all but name. And hopefully if they are called upon for the national emergency they can integrate and operate at a level that both the regulars and reserves are confident with.

Chris
Chris
February 26, 2015 1:42 pm

DN – the use of the term TA was fully intentional, to communicate the older concept of additional soldiers (use in emergency) rather than the new concept (pool of add-in Regulars). I would hope whichever model was used that the training and equipping of the non-Regulars would be as close as possible to that of the professional soldiers.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 1:51 pm

Chris

‘I would hope whichever model was used that the training and equipping of the non-Regulars would be as close as possible to that of the professional soldiers.’

When your reserve is seen as something that will never be used, then I can assure it is not. The Israeli’s constantly call on their reserves but still take slices of the their budget (and equipment) to use on their regulars.

If we really want a TA in the old sense of the term then just introduce conscription in times of crises.

Monty
February 26, 2015 3:42 pm

The Army knew from the start that this wouldn’t work. It wasn’t what they wanted; it was what Liam Fox forced them to accept. (That’s the same guy who switched from F-35B to F-35C and back again; who cancelled Nimrod MRA4 without buying anything else; and who endorsed the absurd plan of buying two ships for £7 billion, when we could have had four 30,00 tonne invincible-type LHDs for £4 billion.) Army 2020 was never about developing a balanced force to cope with a variety of current and future threat scenarios. It was simply a deficit driven exercise aimed solely at cutting £7.5 billion from the defence budget.

The Army said privately at the time that it would never work and now this pigeon has come home to roost. Given the volatile and uncertain times we now live in, I don’t expect any further defence cuts to be made. I just hope I’m not wrong.

David Niven makes a very good point about reservists being ideal pool of reinforcements for long-term deployments. They did a Stirling job in Afghanistan. What doesn’t make sense is to have regular infantry battalions minus a platoon in each rifle company.

I said in 2010 that no UK peacetime standing army could function with less than 100,000 men. I think this has now become apparent. The work load of duties on a reduced regular army has become so onerous that experienced officers and NCOs are leaving in droves. The Army urgently needs a better quality of professional life to make it a career worth following. Morale among senior commanders is at a very low ebb.

Behind the General’s talk, which is definitely worth reading over at the Chatham House website, he is making the point about properly constituted divisions being the critical minimum unit of military currency. While the USA has 7 or 8, we have just 1 now when we used to have 3.

Ultimately, if the Army Reserve is a force to be used primarily in emergencies, it has to be structured so that it can expand very quickly. But if ad hoc reservists who may be unfit and less well trained than their regular counterparts are suddenly thrust into infantry battalions, they might quickly provide to be a liability.

Peter Elliott
February 26, 2015 4:01 pm

Monty

While I accept your thrust about SDSR 10 you miss the target on QEC.

It was the previous government that contractually committed us to two ships of the size we are getting. If they’d been cancelled at huge cost there would have been no money for LHDs instead. And why would we have bought them with the Albions and Ocean still in midlife. And if by some miracle we had ended up with 4 Canberra type LHDs in service what on earth would we have done with them without proper layered fleet air defence to carry them safely up to a hostile coast?

In terms of gapping Nimrod it was arguably the right thing to do. The programme was fukt. The threat was low and is only just now increasing. seedcorn has been a success. We have a number of procurement options now to fill the gap that weren’t available then.

The Other Chris
February 26, 2015 4:03 pm

Although (assuming we regenerate MPA capability) I hope we don’t have to resort to a Seedcorn style program for any reason again in future!

Chris
Chris
February 26, 2015 4:09 pm

Reference Nimrod programme – apparently there is an official acronym within IBM for Failed Under Continuous Test…

Topman
Topman
February 26, 2015 4:23 pm

I might be wrong but I find it hard to understand that a smaller regular army can’t work. I’m pretty sure that in most armies in the West there is a higher % of reservists. Is it a good plan badly implemented or the whole idea wrong, is there something unique to the UK that means it can’t work?

El Sid
El Sid
February 26, 2015 4:38 pm

@Topman
By my reckoning, if you include contracted Regular Reserve then the Army is about 37% reserves, compared to eg 39% for the US Army. Seems about right for a maritime nation’s “kick down the door” army with a low risk of invasion of the homeland, rather than a continental army that needs a lot of “garrison” troops.

Also worth noting that the British Army’s formal strength was only around the 100k mark for most of the 19th century.

Topman
Topman
February 26, 2015 4:45 pm

@ El Sid

I only vaguely remember it from some sort report looking into the reserves. Perhaps it was the % of reservists on ops. Although I think it meant reserves as those that are part time. No biggie, I wonder how the army can make something out of this mess.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 4:56 pm

El Sid

The trouble with factoring in the regular reserve is that after a couple of years in civvie street most of them drop off the radar. How many regular reservists do you think the MOD know the contact details for who left the forces 5 years ago? I’m pretty sure it would be small if you asked.

The volunteer reserves are just that volunteers and as such are probably more likely to be able to mobilise than some ex jaded squaddie who feels they’ve done their bit.

Topman

‘I might be wrong but I find it hard to understand that a smaller regular army can’t work’

I agree, I could quite happily have a 65000 ish regular army if it was fully equipped and mechanised the reserves also to a lesser degree.

Hohum
Hohum
February 26, 2015 4:56 pm

The 100,000 in c.19 is in no way useful. That was from a much smaller population, went to war against countries with much smaller populations and misses the mass of colonial forces of one form or another that existed as well as the UK based militia units.

Monty misses the mark pretty widely on some of his points but he wasn’t the only one who was told the reserves plan would never work. I would dispute that it was all Fox’s idea though- it wasn’t. There was a substantial faction who supported it and convinced Fox: Ministers rarely id ever have their own ideas- they are usually convinced by the Brass in one form or another. It should never have happened, the Army should just have been made smaller and should have prepared to give up some capability areas rather than adding them (CBRN recce for instance).

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 5:03 pm

‘CBRN recce for instance’

Why would the army relinquish CBRN recce? if any thing the RAF Regt should have lost it as they are not a maneuver formation.

Hohum
Hohum
February 26, 2015 5:23 pm

DN,

Nobody had CBRN recce, Fuchs was in storage. In SDSR10, despite cutting the size of the Army it was decided to regenerate that capability- in a form that is of dubious utility- without cutting any other capability. This was done to death previously and I have no intention of raking it over. Suffice to say its a great example of the Army trying to be everything to all people.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 5:31 pm

Hohum

I don’t understand your point. Why would a smaller army not require CBRN recce? you either do or you don’t regardless of your size. If you are of the opinion that CBRN recce is not required then surely you should be arguing to cut both the services that supplied the capability.

Hohum
Hohum
February 26, 2015 5:46 pm

DN,

Its a simple point. There was no CBRN recce in 2010, it was added in 2010- for no particular reason as Fuchs offers little capability. It is an example of the Army trying to maintain more capabilities; often of questionable quality due to the limited resources available whilst shrinking the force.

Peter
Peter
February 26, 2015 5:56 pm

We need to have a larger reserve, but ultimately it’s not going to happen by having an “army reserve” given that *everybody* knows full well that it’s going to be habitually deployed as an “on the cheap” option so the politicians can support their foreign adventures without troubling themselves to pay for the troops it would otherwise require.

If they want a large reserve then we have the legislation on statue for it in the Home Guard act 1951 which provides for a body of people who can defend the country but whom cannot be deployed abroad and cannot be used to suppress industrial disputes etc.

Guarantees about usage need to be in statue, as with the Home Guard act referenced above, not based on a somebodies word or their intention at the time they make a comment.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 6:01 pm

Hohum

Of course there was CBRN recce in 2010 the Joint CBRN Regiment was and is still in existence from being created in 1998.

Phil
February 26, 2015 6:12 pm

Makes perfect sense to keep certain capabilities at low strength. It takes far longer to re-start a capability from scratch rather than expanding it.

The bigger picture requires a balance between a structure which has utility now, and a structure which has utility for the future. Regeneration as it was once known.

As for the Reserve plan being unworkable by default. I think that’s just bollocks. All the world wars began with battles between reservists. Reservists have been used extensively since. Routine deployments (which are still going on, I have several friends who have just landed in Sierra Leone) were and are probably a bridge too far for most employers but there will always be a pool of people willing to do them.

As I’ve argued, the Reserves need a varied commitment model. Use the blokes who are happy to shag the door of the TA centre, and keep the ones who fancy themselves as the cavalry for a “national emergency”.

Hohum
Hohum
February 26, 2015 6:15 pm

DN,

Apologies for the confusion. Joint CBRN was disbanded in 2011 and Fuchs (along with CBRN recce capability) went into storage leaving just RAF regiment component. Fuchs is now being regenerated for 1RTR to provide a manoeuvre CBRN capability.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
February 26, 2015 6:18 pm

Was ever thus.

“We trained very hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing–it can be a wonderful method of creating the illusion of progress while creating confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.”

Attributed to Gaius Petronius, 1st Centuary AD

TD was right to hold Gen Carter to task on his U-Turn.

Al Murray in his FUKP manifesto says “National Service for those who want to don’t want to do it. ”

Changing that to those who do want to do it would be a way to raise a reserve that would be employable. Common basic and specialist training but a short period of full time service then refresher periods of training and service.

Not a cheap option nor a fortnight’s camp at the end of harvest, with a few training weekends for Remembrance day practices, a range weekend and admin before camp which is still what appears to be on offer.

“Depending on the unit you join, your minimum training commitment could be 19 or 27 days a year.”
http://www.army.mod.uk/join/The-Army-Reserve.aspx Accessed this evening.

So for a non specialist role say Infantry or Combat Engineer 15 day camp + 6 X 2 day weekends.

1 Range Day other tests Weekend.
2 Remembrance Day Rehearsal weekend or is that two
3 Remembrance Day parade
4 Pre camp Admin Packing the boxes.
5 Post Camp Admin Unpacking the boxes.
6 One weekend military training BUT only if there is only one rehearsal.

Regular Soldier with 6 weeks leave 46 Week Year
Reservist Soldier 2.3 Week Year

El Sid
El Sid
February 26, 2015 6:18 pm

@DavidNiven
I wasn’t talking about every last random ex-squaddie who’s been out of touch for years. I explicitly said the contracted Regular Reserve, which is only about a quarter of the total RR.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 26, 2015 6:41 pm

El Sid

Were are talking about the same people? Unless you are talking about an FTRS (full time volunter reserve service) and then you get into a whole new kettle of fish such as wether they can be deployed outside the UK etc.

The regular reserve is made up of the members of the regular forces who have left and have a reserve liabilty these are the ones that get lost. How many bother to inform the MOD that they have moved etc? after 3 years in civvie street how many do you think the MOD can contact?

monkey
monkey
February 26, 2015 7:05 pm

@DN
You would have thought easily , unless they have left the UK or become destitute , there is them paying income tax, National insurance , renewing documentation ,passports , driving licence, voters roll , council tax , car registration , firearms certificate , fishing licence , Linkedin FFS !, the government have a right to ask banks to search for individuals by name and date of birth but yes the MoD probably can’t find them.
If the government can’t find their own ex-servicemen God help GCHQ , MI5/6 or Regt 77 :-(

Topman
Topman
February 26, 2015 7:20 pm

After 3 years out, how many do they want to actually contact?

Jed
Jed
February 27, 2015 12:36 am

What is the roulememt for the Adapatable Force infantry battalions 1 in 3 or 1 in 5 ?

I think it was supposed to be 1 in 5 – so 1 six month period deployed to every 4 x six month periods not deployed (six months away, 2 years at home) So if a Reserve battalion aligned to a regular battalion has to generate 1 full strength rifle Company for each deployment, out of 3 such Coy. then that would be an overall cycle of 1 in 15 – so six months deployed and then 7 years before the next regular scheduled deployment. I don’t think most employers would have a problem with that frequency !

Now if I am dreaming and its a 1 in 3 rotation, then it’s 1 in 9 total so a six month deployment and 4 years until the next one, so maybe not so good…..

So pairing regular and reserve infantry battalions is NOT good if it’s a way of using reservists to keep the infantry numbers looking good and the budget down. However if it’s one six month deployment every 7 years on forward engagement tasks or a large multinational exercise that seems to be more worthy than “just” a existential war of survival general call up type use case.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 27, 2015 2:20 am

@Monkey

‘You would have thought easily’

Do you honestly think that manning and records put that much effort into looking for regular reservists? If people really believe that there is a massive pool regular reserve that is easily mobilised then I think you are all mistaken.

@Topman

In military knowledge sense what really changes within a ten year period? If you left would you still be capable of doing your job in 5 years time considering the OSD of aircraft? 90% of the equipment would most definitely still be the same if the last 20 years is to go by, the only problem you would have is fitness levels and maybe health problems, but is that not the same for any reservist (even some regular service personnel) or recruit?

Topman
Topman
February 27, 2015 6:57 am

I suppose it depends on what each person did in the forces, what they do know and how long they’ve been out. In some cases it might change quite a bit and then of course there is skill fade. My point being that there is little demand to start bringing people back into the forces by the MoD, hence like you say there is little effort put into tracking people after they have left.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
February 27, 2015 9:12 am

Regular Reservists used to get a bounty contingent on attending an admin/updating weekend, did that get binned?

The term used is skills fade. And the rate of change is much greater than when the system was set up by the Cardwell reforms in 1870.

Jason Lynch
Jason Lynch
February 27, 2015 11:15 am

The Regular Reserve basically doesn’t exist and has been discreetly allowed to die. During TELIC, the TA (as was) delivered something like seven or eight troops to RTMC for every ten brown envelopes sent out (employer appeals and medicals being the main causes for non-attendance) while the Regular Reserve delivered less than one per ten callups.

As a result, the Regular Reserve weren’t transferred to or maintained on JPA, nor is any effort or incentive made to track, train or retain them.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
February 27, 2015 1:11 pm

Jason

Thank you.

I wonder if the regular reservists invited to volunteer before being called uo. My understanding was that TA were trawled for volunteers before being called up or was that only for HERRICK.

Brian Black
Brian Black
February 28, 2015 3:58 pm

Wasn’t this always likely? Department budgets are still under pressure. And if the military has to be squeezed somewhere, isn’t this the least worse option?

Dropping from the 112k integrated fantasy force structure, to an 82k strong regular army -plus a 30k reserve- might not be that appealing, but it’s surely something we could live with. And if looking for positives, the reserves had withered somewhat and arguably needed a reset. The end result could be a smaller but healthier force.

We should rethink our military ambitions, choose our priorities, and stop expecting to play a leading role in every kind of operation.

Neither the UK’s territorial defence, nor the responsibilities in our corner of the NATO area, requires a large land army. The military aspect of British territorial defence primarily requires air and naval forces. Our European NATO partners design their forces according to their place on the continent. Poland has decided it needs large land forces and a strong armoured component; Germany too keeps a large land army; in our zone, we have Russian ships, submarines, and bombers – an army is the least effective arm to deal with that.

We often compare our forces against French forces, and think that we need to match the French across all capabilities; but our needs are different. The UK is on an air/sea frontier of NATO, in the same way that Poland is on a land frontier; France sits behind everyone else, their force structure is not necessarily relevant to us. The French are pretty much committed to keeping a couple of brigades worth of troops across Africa. We’re not doing that; their army need not be a model for ours.

Trying to be Billy Big-boots in all fields of expertise, across all arms, just makes things more difficult for us; it makes our budget more inefficient, and it makes us more dependent on partners, whatever we’re trying to do. I wouldn’t be too concerned even if the Army fell below 82k, so long as the savings were used to boost other arms.

Obsvr
Obsvr
March 1, 2015 2:33 am

The role of the regular army reserve is to bring regular units from Peace Estb to War Estb (including first replacements (for casualties)). As long as military units are manned at the PE then there is a need for regular reservists. However, its really only needed for general mobilisation, short of that the usual practice has been a mixture of posting in extra soldiers straight out of basic training and temporary loans from other units.

@ BB
Have you heard of an organisation called the ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’? The members are committed to support each other, an attack on one is an attack on all. This means members sending forces to where they are needed. It is not just about each member defending their own patch. Do try and keep up.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 1, 2015 7:38 am

The regular army reserve exists in name only (read Jason Lynch’s comment), the reserves are now/were the place to go to bring units up to war estb, that is why the name was changed from TA and Aux to Army/Royal Navy/RAF reserve to reflect this aspect after constant use in our last two operations and currently with Ebola and probably small numbers of reserves working where ever the armed forces are.

They were an integral part of of the 2020 plan, which after General Sir Nicholas Carter’s remarks about their use begs the question on the validity of plan.

Obsvr
Obsvr
March 2, 2015 9:13 am

The T&AVR was created in the 1960s, when the old TA ‘died’ (ie the last NS was discharged in 1962, hence their TA obligation ran out in 1966 and by 1967 the TA was in a total crisis and effectively non-existent.

Legally ex-regular soldiers are mostly transferred to the Reserve, this is still the case (see JSP 830). As I recall these reservists were never required to attend for training and there were no training arrangements for them. They were there to be recalled if the brown stuff really hit the fan (ie 3rd Shock, 20 Tank Army, etc started to move). The lowish intensity of operations since 1952 has not really necessitated bringing assigned units to WE, and the unengaged units have always been available to boost numbers if required. Nevertheless the regular reservists still exist, and if it got serious, which is currently most unlikely, they would be recalled, and no doubt PC plod all over the place would be on the case.

Phil
March 2, 2015 10:31 am

There’d be a good number of Regular Reservists on JPA by now – in fact 99% of the potentially most useful will be on there (ie those who left in the last 3-5 years).

As Obsvr says the Regular Reserve has a particular niche for operations of a particular character. At the moment the RR is a useful pool of potential nostalgic / unemployed volunteers for operations. To regenerate it as a WE pool would be a simple, almost paper exercise.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
March 2, 2015 12:24 pm

1 Field Martial Carver wanted to name what came out of the old TA/VR/AER as “The Army Volunteer Reserve” to bring it into line with RNVR and RAFVR but was over ruled nand TA&VR it became, took 50 years for the RNR/RAFR/AR to align.

2 There was a Volunteer Reserve with different call out liability to TA prior to 67. Before my time but I believe intended for individual reinforcements not formed units. Hence TA&VR.

3.At some point (in the 80’s I think)t here was an annual bounty (£100 ?) paid to Regular Reservists who attended a weekend where they were issued with a set of combats and boots. My step-brother used them for gardening.

4 Gen Carter definitely referred to reinvigorating the Regular Reserve, sounds more like the raising of Lazarus. Suspect £100 too little for get out of bed money nowadays.

5 I think Gen Carter is being realistic. Unless he is prepared to have reservists on extended training periods.

I can not see any regular CO accepting volunteer reservist, based on a three week recruit training course and 27 days of training a year, as equivalent to his regular soldiers in a formed reserve company or squadron (As shown on the 2020 schematics).

If it is a platoon per company (as Jeneral28 above) then maybe by spreading the reservists across the three platoons, the lack of experience could be diluted. But there might be difficulties finding three Platoon HQs.

7. So smaller regular army, without realistic reserve reinforcement except for long term deployment or general war.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 1:03 pm

The regular reserve do have a use, but they are a bit like the ‘A’ team

‘If you can find them, maybe you can hire …….. dadadadaaa’

Upon leaving the forces you have a liability to inform the MOD of your whereabouts and if your ability to be mobilised changes ie Illness, disability etc. In reality how much does this happen? and how can it be enforced?

There is absolutely zero incentive for an ex member of the forces to do this, no retention pay or other small incentives such as a rail card, use of local reserve center gym etc.

If you want to keep the use of ex regulars for the experience they can bring then IMO we need to actively encourage/coerce leaving members with a reserve liability to join the reserves. The reserves are at the moment the only reliably mobilised reserve we have, maybe we should amalgamate them?

Phil
March 2, 2015 1:50 pm

The Regular Reserve has always seemed a bit of a problem because there’s no real incentive to get blokes who don’t want to participate in it, to participate – whatever the law technically says about reserve obligations.

That said, in a general conflict warm bodies with some previous military experience matter more, or are often just as useful in many roles than warm, fit, up-to-date bodies. Continental armies have accepted and understood this instinctively. Thus the Regular Reserve has a role to play in that scenario and should be thought of as a pool of reservists in the continental style.

Otherwise it’s just easier and makes more sense to get other units and Army Reserve IAs to fill the gaps for units going on operations.

Personally in theory I’d like to see an obligation to train for 12 months after leaving the colours but in practical terms how easy would that be enforce?

You’d be far better off creating a category of Regular Reserve where people make a commitment similar to an AR specialist unit: but with big bounties for former Officers and SNCOs to reflect their enormous utility both to get posted to a front line unit and to allow regulars to get released from non-front line duties. In fact you could just make specialist trades and pinch-point trades eligible to join alongside SNCOs and Officers of any regiment and Corps.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
March 2, 2015 2:07 pm

DN

In my niche in the Specialist RE TA, what I found was that some regular soldiers left the Regular Army before they were “spent” as soldiers and transferred readily to the TA.

This especially applied to Junior Ranks and SNCO’s, but also some officers as well, who left for family stability or in the case of Clerks of Works were not picked up for a GE Commission after their 22 years. On the other hand this did not apply to all, if they were looking to continue service as a “job” they found TA service uncongenial and did not generally last more than a couple of camps.

About 10-15% of my OR strength was ex regular at any one time.

Any one else able to share.

Co-coercion won’t work, incentives are provided for joining Army Reserve units, I believe from the adverts. Whether they are good enough… ?

My view is that local Regular Reserve notional all arms units should be formed with a social/admin/training role and that transfer to the Volunteer Reserve units should be open for longer with keeping of Rank & Trade etc. to allow the discharged soldier to get his or her feet on the ground as a civilian.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 2:28 pm

Phil and Deja Vu,

‘Personally in theory I’d like to see an obligation to train for 12 months after leaving the colours but in practical terms how easy would that be enforce?’

The problems I see with that is we don’t know the personal reasons for the individual leaving to begin with. One member of the forces I know who have left did not want anything to do with the army once they were out of uniform despite being very effective soldiers during their service. Would you want to force somebody who literally does not want to be there. there are a myriad of reasons for members to leave the forces and I cannot see a one size fits all policy working.

Also the 12 months liability after immediately leaving would probably p*ss people off as well.

‘About 10-15% of my OR strength was ex regular at any one time.’

I’d be happy with that if it was represented throughout the reserve especially now with the numbers of the volunteer reserve who have been on ops in the last decade. I think we should just leave well alone and let those who are going to drift back into the fold do so, and if they do come back within a specified time then some financial incentives and seniority etc for a thank you could be in order.

At the end of the day if the brown and smelly really has hit the fan I’m sure most ex regulars (75% ish) would be ringing and visiting the careers to volunteer their services, and the ones who don’t you’ll catch with conscription ;-)

Topman
Topman
March 2, 2015 2:28 pm

‘that transfer to the Volunteer Reserve units should be open for longer with keeping of Rank & Trade ‘

How long is it currently in the army? I think for our lot it’s 3 years.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 2:41 pm

Phil & Deja Vu,

Do volunteer reservists have a mobilisation liability after they have left?

Is that something we should consider if not?

Phil
March 2, 2015 2:45 pm

I don’t know off the top of my head. I did understand that you were liable during your original term of service even if you stopped attending. But I’m not sure.

Even if not, we’re a rushed Bill through Parliament away from being made liable for recall or moved to the RR or equivalent.

And DN I agree. It would be pointless trying to get people to conform to it unless you radically changed the law and changed the nature of UK society. In theory it’s a good idea but you’ll get plenty of people sticking their fingers up at it. Or would rock up and engage in a tantamount refusal to soldier.

Not really worth the effort at the moment but it’s something I’d have considered more seriously in the 1980s and would have enacted (with hindsight) from about 1935.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 2:56 pm

Topman,

I think they extended it recently to 5 years but I’m not 100% on that and it may be something like 4.

Edit: Should have just said I don’t know :-)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 3:04 pm

Phil,

I thought the reserves and the army were going to benefit (especially in terms of technical trades) from the decisions made regarding 2020 but as time went on and the quota’s were not getting met (although I think the figure should have been an aspiration and not set in stone) it just seems to be returning back to pre invasion days for the reserve after the comments from The Chief of the General Staff.

Should have just left alone and invested money in better training and equipment and hopefully the numbers would have risen after the word got about that it was an integral part of the forces.

Too much too soon and now back pedal.

Phil
March 2, 2015 3:37 pm

@DN

I think the fundamental premise is completely correct. The reserves should be integrated into the regular force with an increased reserve element the lower down the readiness scale you go. This is something that has been an institutional practice in war and battle winning armies for about 150 years. There is nothing wrong with it and was long overdue in the UK.

The problem is a simple one to define: it is the problem of when to embody the reserve element of your units.

In a world of uncertainty, upstream engagement and associated diffuse risks to interests, the underlying hazard is the risk of their being no political will to embody reserve elements. If there is always the will to embody, you run a low risk. This is easy when the threat is 3rd Shock Army. It is far harder if the threat is deemed to be Boko Haram or some such. You can end up in the situation where you have a large reserve element but there is no appetite to embody it, but you’re going in anyway.

At the usual risk of sounding like an apologist, you can see the Army trying to manage this risk by having little to no reservists in the Reaction Force and those that are there are on a varied HRR commitment. I think we need to go one step further and reduce the risk of no or partial embodiment further by diversifying the reserves by designing varied commitment models, varied training models and varied reward models. Lots of people join or stay in the reserves for many different reasons and if you can accommodate as many of those as possible then you have a wider recruiting base.

So give the blokes the option to bite off as much or as little as they chose or their employer will tolerate. Provide a reinvigorated Regular Reserve with a new category of thrusters ready to take up arms again at a moments notice but keep it only to pinch-point trades and SNCOs and Officers. And try and be as clear as possible about when reservists are likely to be embodied. And finally ensure you have a structure that does not rely on reservists for your high readiness force. All those things together manage your risk. You don’t need to mobilise to get going, you have Regular Reservists able to act as keen IAs to take up slack, you have formed units ready to mobilise in the medium term with time to train and you segment your recruiting market so you’ve got robust structures and pools of manpower.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
March 2, 2015 3:42 pm

I left during Options TA about 15 years ago

TA Soldiers once discharged no liability.

TA Officers went onto
RARO 1 with ability to return to colours if wanted or
RARO 2 Emergency call up only
Then after 55 years old onto RARO 4

From looking at the Army Web page this will have changed.

Phil
March 2, 2015 3:46 pm

Grr lost my comment edit.

Basically I added a point that I think this speech is a statement to the effect that AR will be used in the extraordinary times and not as a matter of routine or as a means of easily adding some IAs to go show African soldiers how to apply not too much, and not too little cam cream. With the concept of a national emergency deliberately being left opaque and nebulous.

Essentially, there’ll be a breaking strain for reserve embodiment. We’ll have to be “really quite cross” rather than “slightly worried” to send a Reservist off to whatever.

Hohum
Hohum
March 2, 2015 3:55 pm

Phil,

Conceptually I agree with you. Now I am going to struggle to explain the problem.

Reserve forces worked well when combat operations (in particular equipment) were relatively simple- to be blunt they made a good foundation for cannon fodder in a general European war. Where they are much less useful in in the considerably more complicated combat style we have now. Using a Lee Enfield on a few days training a year is one thing- using an integrated soldier system or driving a foxhound is quite another. Secondly, the reserves don’t have much appeal, you spend a few weekends a year being shouted at in Wales whilst running around in the mud and the rain- now with little prospect of deployment- and dubious support from your employer….why bother?

The final element is what is really missing at the moment- the British Army’s doesn’t seem to know what it is or what it wants to be. It is thus trying to be all things to all people (a COIN force, a rapid response conventional force, a heavy force, a humanitarian assistance agency etc, etc) without a particular direction or strategy. It is much easier to integrate reserves into a fixed strategy/threat scenario.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 3:59 pm


‘With the concept of a national emergency deliberately being left opaque and nebulous.’

I think that is what is bringing me to question the validity of 2020. Would we class a roulement through Iraq after the initial invasion as a national emergency or Afghan? would backbenchers allow the mobilisation of reserves for such operations and if not what happens to the regular units who will be a platoon or troop short? Like I said the regular reserve cannot be relied on and still require an act of parliament to be mobilised themselves.

I can see the reserves falling back into the old TA if they are not used as the regular forces will siphon off the money and keep a token reserve to comply with a quota that will not reflect the true capability of our reserve forces.

@Hohum

‘Reserve forces worked well when combat operations (in particular equipment) were relatively simple- to be blunt they made a good foundation for cannon fodder in a general European war’

And yet they proved their utility in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 4:06 pm

Should have added a full stop

‘if they are not used. As the regular forces’

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
March 2, 2015 4:07 pm

@Hohum

Bang on the money.

Hohum
Hohum
March 2, 2015 4:25 pm

DN,

I never said they had no utility. Some TA personnel performed wonderfully, but they are hardly the flexible force some make them out to be. They either took extensive training period prior to deployment or lacked qualifications on arrival. That’s not to criticize the TA guys at all, but when you are only doing a few weekends a year it takes considerably longer to train for particular roles/levels/qualifications.

Phil
March 2, 2015 4:43 pm

Hohum

I don’t particularly disagree with what you are saying. I think we are in broad agreement. As I say the diffuse international threat context leaves a lot of uncertainty around employing force and what level of force to use and what is reasonable to prepare ready for the future. So with varied threats and uncertain political appetites there needs to be some diversification in the reserves: some people don’t want to deploy regularly whereas people like me left because it was unlikely Id go anywhere again. So in such an uncertain world you need to have a structure that manages that risk by having people on varied commitments across varied levels of readiness. You’re hedging against your own Government essentially.

Phil
March 2, 2015 4:49 pm

but when you are only doing a few weekends a year it takes considerably longer to train for particular roles/levels/qualifications.

It does but once the chain starts delivering a consistent stream its a manageable issue.

Also, you can manage it further by up-skilling the regulars and leaving crow PIDs vacant in some units / sub units.

Also I think the reserves have plenty of appeal. But like any market you need to segment it and make your offer accordingly.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 4:57 pm

‘They either took extensive training period prior to deployment’

But that’s why they are reservists, they should not by definition be in the vanguard of any operation.

‘but when you are only doing a few weekends a year it takes considerably longer to train for particular roles/levels/qualifications’

Thats pretty obvious and one of the reasons that reservists fall foul of regular forces confidence is that the classes/levels of trade are not on a par.

I get the feeling we are all in agreement here on the basics of the reserves, and the tweeking of the system is probably where are views differ.

I am 100% against the numbers game when it comes to reserves in the sense that we should have ‘X’ amount. A minimum and max figure should be used and as long as we are in between them then that will do.

Hohum
Hohum
March 2, 2015 5:10 pm

Phil,

I agree, we broadly agree. I think the competency issue is essentially manageable- it just needs carefully defined roles, preferably within a carefully defined strategic posture. Rapid reaction/strategic raiding/bombing terrorists with Typhoons does not look like an ideal candidate.

The real problem is the marketing, and I only see that getting harder. One of the great appeals of the TA in the last few years has been the prospect of deployment- with that taken away there is not much left. And this should be appealing to people whose spare time might otherwise be spent with their, often young, families. If you are trying to attract professional people you often find them working very long hours in their day jobs too. Against those factors you need a pretty strong offer and camping in the rain in Wales without prospect of deployment doesn’t seem to be it.

To draw it out; it comes back to the Army needing a purpose. Future Force 2020 for the Army looks like a force structure seeking a role rather than a force structure designed to a role.

DN,

Great if you don’t want them in the “vanguard” of an operation. But if you are not planning on undertaking an operation in which the reserves can be utilised then whats the point? We seem to be saying that the reserves are great if we are about to embark on an enduring commitment (ie Afghan) or about to be engage in total war- both at this point being highly improbable.

Phil
March 2, 2015 5:24 pm

I thought the same Hohum, yet when you were practically guaranteed multiple tours in a complex, kinetic operation recruitment seems to have dropped through the floor, only picking up as the Army promises (pwomise, honest) not to beast you on tours. Those wishing to go away often seem to be in the minority.

As for purpose – I think this is a real hazard. There can be no real, battened down, crystal clear purpose in the current climate. This is possibly a good sign for Planet Earth in general, but it makes defence planning very hard indeed and leaves you at the risk of the violently pendulous swings in political appetite for force. That being said even in the Cold War there was still a wide difference in opinion for what the Army was for. Was it a speed bump in the transition to nuclear war; should it focus on MHD because BAOR was going to glow in the dark; or should it focus entirely on BAOR; or even more on OOA (contrary to popular belief Cabinet minutes show that the 1981 review was meant to strengthen the Army’s OOA capability) again because BAOR was either unlikely to be needed or wouldn’t last long enough to bother with it? Differences of opinion on focus affect even the most benign organisations and I think you simply have to take that into account in your planning as much as who the external enemy is.

The realistic ideal is some broad mix of capabilities that have utility now but could also be relatively easily shaped and regenerated in the future. As it is, I think the Army at least has shown itself to be very flexible when focus does emerge (such as HERRICK).

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 5:26 pm

@Hohum
‘then whats the point?’

The point is the same one we keep the deterrent, just in case.

‘We seem to be saying that the reserves are great if we are about to embark on an enduring commitment (ie Afghan) or about to be engage in total war- both at this point being highly improbable.’

Is that not always the case with reserves? even in the height of the cold war what percentage of reserves were in BAOR? has it not been the case throughout history of armies trying to destroy another before they have a chance to fully mobilise?

Phil
March 2, 2015 5:29 pm

what percentage of reserves were in BAOR?

By the 1980s the vast majority reserve units and almost all the likely useable regular reservists were slated to head to West Germany to be irradiated as formed units (including the vast majority if TA infantry battalions), or WE reinforcements and BCRs.

Hohum
Hohum
March 2, 2015 5:36 pm

DN,

The ability to destroy all the major cities of a large country is a deterrent. The ability to deploy a few thousand extra soldiers after several months of pre-deployment training is not.

Phil,

On this I will have to respectively disagree with you. Deployment to Afghan was a major driver for a lot of TA recruitment up to a couple of years ago. The deterrent effect of certain Army discipline techniques and styles on potential reserve recruits is a whole other discussion. TD’s comment about blowing shit up is actually rather poignant- there has to be a reason for people wanting to join- self-evidently at the moment there isn’t.

As regard purpose. The 1981 review for the Army was fiddling around the edges, the core purpose remained as did BOAR. Today there is nothing even close to a clear direction. Providing options to politicians seems to have been taken literally and thus the smallest British Army in living memory looks like a tasting menu at a pompous west-end restaurant.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 5:39 pm

I know Phil, I meant how many were there physically in Germany as part of a roulement. They were to be mobilised hopefully before the event started TBH either way didn’t really matter.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 5:41 pm

Hohum

I didn’t say the reserve was a deterrent I said we keep them just in case. You know as in if we need them.

Hohum
Hohum
March 2, 2015 5:53 pm

DN,

That was my point. If we really need them they are probably going to be too few in number to make any real difference.

Phil
March 2, 2015 5:57 pm

Hohum

I don’t disagree it was not a major driver. As I say, I left because I felt with no further prospects of a proper deployment it all felt a bit like playing Army. That said it also attracted a lot of people who wanted one tour and then out. But the numbers speak for themselves, down to 15,000 or so reservists by 2012. Half the expected force if I remember correctly. And recruitment has since increased now that HERRICK is over. The market is segmented.

As for purpose, I can’t see what else there is to do other than imagining a threat and posturing to meet it.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 2, 2015 6:03 pm

Hohum

If we really need them the entire UK forces are probably too few in number to be enough.

Midander
Midander
March 2, 2015 6:11 pm

Gents,
Big picture for this discussion hiding in the background.
The Russians are coming…can we professionalize this and do this properly?
That way our capability will be taken more seriously and we will be less likely to need to prove we are serious article 5 nato member.
Worth thinking about outcomes and how we need to influence behaviour and work backwards on the how.
M

Hohum
Hohum
March 2, 2015 6:16 pm

Phil,

One way or another, the reserves are currently barely growing, if the concept is to work the reason for that needs to be identified and dealt with. The logical conclusion is that being in the reserves is not an attractive proposition.

Then we should imagine a threat, thus far we don’t even seem to have got that far- which is odd given that the threats have made themselves pretty obvious.

Jed
Jed
March 2, 2015 7:38 pm

Personally I recommend be put in charge of the Army Reserve !

@Hohum said:

“Reserve forces worked well when combat operations (in particular equipment) were relatively simple- to be blunt they made a good foundation for cannon fodder in a general European war. Where they are much less useful in in the considerably more complicated combat style we have now.”

Overly simplistic and not necessarily true. Posssibly / probably true for Infantry, Artillery or combat engineers. However the opposite is true for some niche trades, including Cyber (Info Assurance) and specialist IT parts of Signals, Psyops, Media Ops etc. where the reservists are usually civvy professionals with skills that would rapidly stagnate in a military only peace time environment.

However as Phil keeps pointing out – that just brings us back to tiered, different style engagements for different “market segments”.

Same subject, different topic – what should be the role of the Army Reserve in Homeland Defence – airports, ports, refineries, nuclear power stations etc etc….

Obsvr
Obsvr
March 3, 2015 8:29 am

The regular reservists would have been a bit rusty and probably well short of super fit. However, the WE posts in units were mostly pretty straightforward, eg co-drivers and ammunition handlers in artillery, but the more specialist guys like signallers and CP operators would have quickly got back into practice, the WE roles were basically to provide extra reliefs.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 3, 2015 1:57 pm

‘that just brings us back to tiered, different style engagements for different “market segments”.’

Does it though, do we need the added complexity of tiers for our reservists? I don’t see anything wrong with

‘This is your minimum commitment which you have signed to say you are obligated to do. If you can do more (which we will encourage, but not pressure you to do) then great, but if you can commit yourself to a lot more due to your circumstances that’s even better’

It should not be too difficult accommodate as may segments as possible now TBH.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 3, 2015 4:44 pm

I think to make transitioning between the regulars and reserve easier we would need to align trade standards. From an RE perspective a Class 1 reservist is not equivalent to a class 1 regular, but is the equivalent of a class 3, this came nearly came back to bite us in the arse on one occasion when it came to a bit of dems.

Other than that small area that would need tweeking I can see no reason not to have a seamless transition between the two. I wonder how many members of the forces we could have retained if the option was available a few years ago, 3-5% maybe? And as the reserves will be more susceptible as individuals to economoic pressures, it would be great if they could walk into the office and say

“I’ve just been made redundant, can I do a 3 year stint in the regs?”

Posting regular instructors to reserve units who have still a bit of time left in the forces (so they are not dreaming about what they are going to be doing once they leave etc) might help as well, maybe open some of the positions up to CPL level. Would be a way of insuring standards and allowing future commanders of reserves to get to know strengths and weaknesses to better manage them in the future.

I’d be surprised if stuff like this was not being done with the one army concept but you don’t seem to hear about it.

Phil
March 3, 2015 6:43 pm

DN

People are attracted to different thing. As I say, often warm bodies are better than fewer, better warm bodies. We need warm bodies and so offer them the various ways of joining up that fit into their lifestyle. If you want the customers you’ve got to be prepared to open when its convenient for them. Same for recruitment into the reserves. It isn’t a full time job and some will put more into it than others. For some it will be a hobby, and they’ll be a useful warm body if the balloon goes up. For others it will be a fully fledged second career and they’ll do HRR and deploy and gain experience and they’ll be a very useful warm body indeed.

@TD

A lot of work seems to be going into transitions. I was on the piss this weekend with a lad who was accepted into 3 Para from 4 Para as is. Exceptional person but nonetheless it seems to be down to individuals and their respective units how much effort goes into transitioning. But I agree it could be much better, I wrote a long guest post on it years ago.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 3, 2015 6:55 pm

Phil

I agree but surely it does not require a further level of management to allow this? the current format seems to work well enough at the moment.

Phil
March 3, 2015 6:59 pm

I don’t think it particularly does. We already have a few tiers of commitment. And you could slice it a number of ways (ie have units at differing levels, have sub-units, have key individuals etc etc). It’s no different really from an employer having to manage flexible hours and PT / Job Share posts. Across the forces as a whole there are also a lot of different types of engagements.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 3, 2015 7:11 pm

‘It’s no different really from an employer having to manage flexible hours and PT / Job Share posts’

But is that slowly turning the reserve into a job, and all the responsibilities of minimum hours and pay that will come from that? not to mention you are managing individual expectations more in the reserve than in the regular army.

Phil
March 3, 2015 7:33 pm

No I don’t think so if you express it in terms of minimum commitment and call-up liability. Lots of reserve forces have that. Even we have it with the HRR and specialist units. But you need to do your research and understand what might attract different types of useful people and then test and adjust as you implement. I couldn’t say what the segments are. I always thought that multiple tours in a kinetic operation would see blokes forming queues at the TACs but it doesn’t seem that way. Yet it worked that way for the Regulars.

Jackstaff
Jackstaff
March 9, 2015 5:03 am

Sorry to be late to the party in this thread (and to distract however briefly from the excellent and important talking shop in this week’s Open.) The practical discussion of the Reserves — what can be done with them, how to manage terms of service, how to organise for “peacetime” and encourage actual recruits, and to what end — is an important one but from my point of view misses one crucial element. And that is, what Army 2020 is actually *for*. It goes a long way, I think, towards explaining the actual (set against the proposed) role of the Reserves in that process, and may even predict (all powers-that-be remaining equal in the near term) where things go from here.

If we look at (or at least give benefit of the doubt and *try* to look at) Army 2020 from a practical point of view, then you could end up saying “well, it’s an effort to make something innovative out of a cost-cutting exercise.” Save a hard core of units (without enough tanks but with enough Warrior for an Anglo-French consortium to see their stock valuations ride high on providing them new turrets) for any big contingencies, and spread out the rest at the Power-Pointy end of ops doing “upstream engagement” accompanied by paeans of the Queen’s Managementese from CGS about keeping the Army modern and relevant (borrowed that bon mot from an RN website recruiting slogan a year or two back) and stopping problems before they start. A lot of it’s a dog’s breakfast but there’s some effort to save heavy kit just in case, base “in the community” (anything like care in the community? Just check ’round the Right Hard ****ers’ local at closing time :) plus “retooling for new kinds of conflict” (really? there are such things?) and so on.

Then you get down in the details, and there lies the truth.

– Yes there’s the three full-cream Reaction brigades (oddly underequipped at top and bottom, but with those tasty Warrior refit contracts in the middle, lots of room for men who wrote a new manual for heavy combat around them to do marketing work in retirement…) and the remains of 16AAB. Beyond that? There’s a Cold War home force on steroids (Potemkin infantry battalions salted throughout the country at historic barracks tied into the Reserves, as before neatly undermining the traditional strongest civil-military connection in all English-speaking colonies of settlement — the Reserves themselves — that Haldane likewise established for a time in the UK, with a sharpened professional spearhead on top. Thanks again “scholar general” Lord Carver.) Now, bounteous ink has gotten spilled, much of it by CGS, about how that new setup restores a relationship with the Great British Public, and how all these undermanned outfits will go forth and teach the militaries and militias of various failing states how to do up their puttees properly and thereby prevent further outbreaks of ISIS and Ebola (note the genuinely historic heroism, no sarcasm here at all, of the distinctly non-Tiddlywinkshire Borderers detachments of specialist medics and others who actually did stop a modern plague in its tracks in Sierra Leone.)

– And then you stare, longer and longer, at those new formations and something else comes into view. There are a huge number of one-star commands in this littler army. Take the French and Italian armies, for example, each of them shrunken by about two-thirds from their Cold War era conscription-driven strength in this latest round of cuts. The French (if they don’t renege on plans to deactivate either the 1er or 3e Brigade Mechanisee) will have sixteen “active” combatant and support one-star commands (brigades or brigade-ish formations.) The Italians, zestfully given to high-level sinecures throughout the modern Italian state, will have eighteen, a mere seventeen if the White Paper about to drop amalgamates their separate airborne and air-assault bdes. Little Britain? At least *twenty-two* one-star jobs of similar sorts and two or three other places where such a title and structure could be wedged in (as 77 Bde just was.) Plenty of jobs left for the boys even if there are only about eight or nine bdes (maybe 5 combat bdes including the four Reaction ones and three or four supporting formations) that can really “do something” in a substantial conflict.

– At that point you notice something else too. There are an awful lot of very skimpy bdes made up of nothing but thinly-spread infantry formations. And even the “big boys” of the Reaction pool don’t have *attached* CS/CSS units. There are several, very swollen, “brigades” that are essentially the tribal kraals of the CS/CSS corps of the Army: one for Sappers, one for Gunners, two for Signals (someone’s special…), and so on. Out of those 22 one-star org charts I noted, *half* of them are structured so that it is only possible for a “teeth arms” officer to rise to command. Even the Really Large Corps — the biggest personnel block within the Army itself — only has three “natural” brigade commands to which one might aspire as an officer (and two of those are seriously understrength, one of rear-area enablers and the other theoretically topped up with a lot of Reserves.) So the Infantry, who will make up roughly 22-23% of the strength of Army 2020’s Regulars, have been guaranteed roughly half the one-star positions that allow rise to the really arid heights of the service (a horseman or two will get in, sure, but they should expect to keep solidarity with the “teeth arms.”) Entire corps of the service, especially Gunners and Sappers, have their opportunity to reach higher administrative and command levels, radically truncated because they’re just not going to get to run 1st or 20th Armoured Infantry Bde, for example.

– And then we get into the infantry numbers themselves: all those understrength formations (the Regular establishment, leaving out the presumed input from Reserves, for the Light Protected bns is 487, for the Light Role bns it’s 467.) “But it’s all that nonsense about cap-badges!” You say. You’d think so. But there was some serious score-settling this time round. Two Welsh battalions that were quite good at meeting recruiting goals (looking at you, PWRR) were bodged into one. The Royal Anglians, over-subscribed from their recruiting areas for decades, were decimated after the failure to bodge them together (mere yokel line units, them…) and in the most telling case, seniority in amalgamation was ignored with the Yorkshires (along with the practical matter that melding the Havercakes with the Prince of Wales’ Own would just consolidate the existing East/West Yorkshire catchment) to eliminate the Green Howards rather than the Duke of Wellington’s bn. At a stroke, one of the two strongest old-boy mafias among Infantry flag officers for decades that’s neither Guards nor Paras (just look at who CDS is…) has been eliminated. Likewise, in the cut to three regular tank regiments (because some wag at the Carlton Club told Ozzers that tanks are outdated, looks like he gets the same expert advice as Duncan Sandys) made a natural target to stick the Fiji DGs on Jackals as a warning to the Scots. Plenty of score-settling evident, then, not just cultish reverence for capbadges.

– What’s up, then? I’ll return to a tired phrase from when I rambled on like this more often: It’s Not Capbadges, It’s Colonelcies.

– Once you see that, it all falls into place. Loads of understrength light role battalions means you retain *thirty-two colonelcies* for the Infantry, while cutting down close and rear support regiments from the RLC like sheaves of wheat so it’s harder to actually deploy. You cut the CS/CSS elements out of the “hard” brigades, attaching them to holding-pattern formations that drastically reduce the number of mere tradesmen at flag rank (less Sappers, Gunners, Linseed Lancers, Signallers, etc. But the last are au courant because of t’Internet so they take it a little less hard.) And you create circumstances that guarantee a modicum of very high-level promotion for Infantry officers, while at the same time greatly increasing their guaranteed ability to succeed to flag rank and dominate the administrative and decision-making structure of the service.

– Oh, and along the way, the other main non-Guards/Paras regimental mafia sets (along with the Scots) a new model for large-regimentation, and by absorbing what should really be a singleton Royal Wessex Regiment with a nicety of conferring the term “light infantry” on an amalgamated regiment at a late date, makes itself the biggest regiment in the Infantry alongside the Guards.

Those Reserves? The start of the whole discussion? A mere bagatelle. If Capita do their job (I can say that now, they upped my meds and I laugh much less hysterically when those words appear on the screen) then you’ve wowed the Almighty Treasury with your economies. If not, you go to HMG and say “well then we can’t cut personnel that deeply” and deprive the RAF and RN of financial oxygen for personnel costs, winning plaudits inside the service. There’s no way to lose.

As for Army 2020? It’s a masterfully engineered plan, intricate in its detail like something out of the Belle Epoque, to ensure an institutional and administrative coup within the Army on behalf of the Infantry, gerrymandered for the long term. You’d almost think that a senior member of the Black Mafia dreamed it up.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Carter_(British_Army_officer)

Oh. Right…

wf
wf
March 9, 2015 7:49 am

: dangerously perceptive :-)

As you say, too many cooks, not enough food!

Chris
Chris
March 9, 2015 9:51 am

jackstaff, wf – I am reminded by this fine explanation of promises that poured forth when the Police budget was slashed – “It won’t affect Front Line services”. Complete rot, of course. In the case of Plod, the backroom staff were targeted in force number reduction – those that typed and filed statements & reports, sorted the admin, did the seemingly unimportant jobs that made the Front Line personnel efficient at collaring miscreants. Now those tasks fall to the Front Line plod because they are still necessary even though the people that did them were told to go.

The same here, then. Lots of Front Line personnel backed by ever thinner support, as if the support existed only to fill ranks and look impressive on parade grounds. I caught one of the Great War episodes (1964 BBC series on WW1) yesterday; it disected the cut & thrust of the actions at Verdun in 1916. At one point in the timeline there was just one 50 mile narrow road remaining under French control along which the forts on the front could be resupplied. Even in rickety small 1916 petrol-powered trucks they delivered (I think they said) 21,000t of supplies each day, with on average one truck passing each way every 11 seconds around the clock. That means an average of 2.7t of stuff per truck. Imagine if the French army of the time had maintained the fighty front line but cut the support right down? How long would Verdun have held back von Falkenhayn? Petain’s promise to Joffre “Ils ne passeront pas!” would have been very short lived. You can build really fancy leading edge front line structures, but without solid reliable support underpinning them they are remarkably easy to topple, and become less and less robust the more weight they bias away from their support.

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Dave
Dave
July 13, 2015 8:07 am

“The volunteer reserves are just that volunteers and as such are probably more likely to be able to mobilise than some ex jaded squaddie who feels they’ve done their bit.”

The governments increase in reserves relied quite heavily on the idea that ex military would join at the end of their committment. This was however predicated upon an assumption that those leaving would wish to continue a military career of sorts.

I speak from experience, and discussion with many others that the day I removed my Army uniform was one of the happiest of my life and the idea of actually putting it on again is anethema to me.

The Government cut 20,000 posts, told a number of committed soldiers they were no longer required due to restructuing and then promptly invited them to join the Reserves as they were undermanned. – You couldn’t make it up.

As for the advertising campaigns, what a joke. Fly a helicopter, drive a tank, operate highly specialised equipment that most people don’t know exists. We attract people with these risible promises, and then they find it is a couple of hours a week drilling and cleaning weapons and the occasional weekend away in a muddy hole of Salisbury Plain – result they get their first bonus (taxed) and think “screw this” lifes too short for this rubbish.

The Generals either knew it wouldn’t work from the start or have lost so much touch with reality that they really need to be farmed out.