All Change for the Army Reserve

A close up of the new respirator, which offers better visibility and with two canisters, more oxygen which enables better breathing capabilities during physical exercise.

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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