12 months tours?

ouyin

War Hero
#1
Having read a rather interesting article in The Economist regarding our current doctrine I was struck by a particular contrast between the British and American length of tours. The Americans (as I am sure many here are aware) conduct 12 month tours, while the British use 6 month tours. The Economist referred to this as leading to "discontinuity and short-term thinking".

I believe there is a certain merit to the idea of longer tours however, I'm also aware of the extra strain this would place on the Armed forces, in effect I'm asking two questions;

1. Would it be feasible to have longer tours?
a) What affect would it have on equipment?
b) What affect would it have on the individual soldier? (being UOTC I could not imagine what mental strains op tours put on soldiers)
c) Would the period of recovery needed for each unit be so long as to permanently retard that unit's effectiveness?
d) Would this exacerbate or help with overstretch?

2. Would a 12 month tour be more effective?
a) In regards to local dignitaries building relations with senior officers.
b) In regards to changing tactics on the ground, and indeed both geographic and "local" (who the bad guys are) knowledge of that area.
c) In situations such as training the ANA or ANP with regards to building a relationship between the trainer and the trainee.

I hope this isn't too much of a bone question, but the this question doesn't seem to have been discussed specifically before.

Many thanks.
 
#2
I don't think that tours need to be made longer, we just need more soldiers to carryout the Governments tasks. Making tours longer than 6 months is just a cheap way of making up for years of underfunding by our incompetant and Lying Government.
 
#3
Higher ups in staff jobs can happily stay out there for 12 months plus this would add to continuity.

Those at the sharp end would I think fall apart due to the tempo.

But (New Labour/CDS head on) I think it would be an excellent oportunity to thin out the slackers with families etc like the middle management Sgts, senior Capts etc. Who neds these people any way?

There would have to be a seperate deal for the TA thus reinforcing the them and us which we are doing away with. In fact sod that we'll just tell employers that they need to hold that position open for 18 months. They will go along with that surely?

So, Regs implode, TA made up of people who can't get jobs due to the 'New Deal'.

Army on the cheap.
 
#4
The reason we do 6 month tours is because of american research into the effects of spending a prolonged period on the frontline in WWII. They found that after 6 months, the effectiveness of soldiers was significantly reduced, as they became worn out and developed an understandable aversion to risk taking.

We are already having a retention problem, with many soldiers citing the curretn tempo of operations and being away from home for so much time as reasons for leaving. Just look at the effect that 12 and 15 month tours have had on the US Army Infantry.
 
#5
Longer tours are probably not a good answer - but the current routine of rotating entire Bdes complete with HQs over a short period certainly causes discontinuity. Given that the current tasks are likely to be going on a while I'd suggest permanent HQs at Bde and above, with staff offrs trickle-posted in.
 
#6
heard_it_all_before said:
I don't think that tours need to be made longer, we just need more soldiers to carryout the Governments tasks. Making tours longer than 6 months is just a cheap way of making up for years of underfunding by our incompetant and Lying Government.
Bang on.With Iraq out of the way the units should have longer at home before thier turn comes around again.6mths is more than long enough.
 
#7
dont forget the typical minimum of around 9 months buid up training prior to deployment as much as 2 thirds of which (6 months) can be out of beds on exercises (poland/canada etc.) and firing camps and training courses before you even deploy!
 
#8
I think there’s a case for some people to do 12 months and maybe even longer. I’m currently in a job mentoring some Afghans, and it’s taken me up until the 5 month point just to build an effective working relationship with my mentee. We finally understand each others point of view, and we’re now at a stage where we can share jokes and stories, something we couldn’t do before because the cultural gap was just so large, it took a very long time to bridge.

If a soldier volunteers for, and is selected for, an OCE post (for example), it’s not beyond the whit of man for Glasgow to ask the soldier if he’s willing to stay longer than the normal six, or let him settle into the job, and then check again at the 3 month point. Ditto Staff jobs, but as rightly pointed out, not the frontline jobs.

Having seen firsthand the mentoring piece out here, I genuinely believe that if we are ever to get out of Afghanistan, we need to get the mentoring right, thus setting the conditions for those fighting hard down south to come home.

That can only be done by us staying longer and building decent working relationships with the Afghan National Police and Army. I am painfully aware that if we keep rotating every 6 months, you only effectively get about 1 months quality mentoring.



Edited to add: I would happily stay, because I am sad, and I know a few of you are too... :wink:
 
#9
With regards to the original Economist article, it flagged an important issue - with each 6 month tour came a new commander, who would often radically change the battlegroup's tactics. While on the one hand this may have introduced new and more effective tactics, it also means a lack of continuity. I remember in particular the article was critical of the way 12 Mechanised Brigade operated on Herrick VI, sweeping through areas again and again without holding ground. If we get an effective commander on the ground, I think it would be better if he stayed for more then 6 months; however, for the troops, it seems unneccesary.


Eddited to add: except in roles like mentoring - I see your point there, and I think stuff like that should be made an exception as and when neccesary.
 
#10
The trouble with ideas for change is not so much the change in actual policy and whether an alternative might be better or more efficient in some way, rather it is the wider consequences that are borne out of the assumptions that were inherent in the original system. For example, investment (and risk) has been assumed in areas such as DSCOM (DE&S) regarding the pull on, eg, the strat airbridge; which is under considerable pressure in any case. Think of the range of assumptions and risks that have been made (either intended or otherwise) across the breadth of Defence that might be affected by any change in such a fundamental deployment policy as is the 6 month tour 'ideal'.

Optimal performance must be considered at all levels, making changes in pusuit of optimisation at, say, the operational level, might achieve a localised inprovement in performance but will almost certainly lead to inefficiency in others. In the case of defence finance, for example, this illustrates what is entirely what is wrong with Defence's stovepiped budgetary system; budget holders are forced to make 'efficiencies' without consultation with other related stakeholders. You know what they say about things that arent broke...? That's right; don't fix them.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#11
Already happening. It's no secret, there already a number of Soldiers (And RMs) on a 12 month tours in Afgh. Not a lot of them, it's probably a bit of a trial, but it's been properly thought through, and are J1 procedures are in place already - how many R&Rs, how many telephone minutes, LSSA, etc.

I'm only here for 7 or so months - quite long enough. 12 months is a LONG time, even if you are not in a FOB. As one Yank said to me, the difference between 9 and 12 months doesn't seem much - until you get to the 8th month......

Oh, and those on it are all well up for it, rest assured :)
 
#12
TheCheerfulSubbie said:
I think there’s a case for some people to do 12 months and maybe even longer. I’m currently in a job mentoring some Afghans, and it’s taken me up until the 5 month point just to build an effective working relationship with my mentee. We finally understand each others point of view, and we’re now at a stage where we can share jokes and stories, something we couldn’t do before because the cultural gap was just so large, it took a very long time to bridge.

If a soldier volunteers for, and is selected for, an OCE post (for example), it’s not beyond the whit of man for Glasgow to ask the soldier if he’s willing to stay longer than the normal six,

Edited to add: I would happily stay, because I am sad, and I know a few of you are too... :wink:
My bold, there would be considerable problems with this in that some soldiers may feel coerced into being 'willing', whether thay actually are or not (or are or not being coerced). As in the feeling that one's career would suffer if one decided not be willing.

There's certainly a lot of at least anecdotal evidence from the US that long 12 and 15mth tours dramatically increase psychological problems on the soldier's return.

That said I can see the merit in Bde HQ and staff postings being longer, just not for anyone who does the actual soldiering, OMLT included.
 
#13
OldSnowy said:
Already happening. It's no secret, there already a number of Soldiers (And RMs) on a 12 month tours in Afgh. Not a lot of them, it's probably a bit of a trial, but it's been properly thought through, and are J1 procedures are in place already - how many R&Rs, how many telephone minutes, LSSA, etc.

I'm only here for 7 or so months - quite long enough. 12 months is a LONG time, even if you are not in a FOB. As one Yank said to me, the difference between 9 and 12 months doesn't seem much - until you get to the 8th month......

Oh, and those on it are all well up for it, rest assured :)
I have to say, as against 12 month tours becoming standard as I am, I would jump at the chance to do it myself :? .
 
#14
Personally, I would welcome shorter more frequent tours. I've been back c.9 months and am bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored....



bored.
 
#15
Dragstrip said:
You know what they say about things that arent broke...?
And therein lies the rub, Dragstrip old chap,

From my point of view, the mentoring and leadership piece IS broken, and although only a small percentage of our forces in Afghanistan are doing this role, it’s probably the one we desperately need to get right, so we leave with our heads held high and a stable, self running Afghanistan, rather than our tail between out legs and Afghanistan no better than when we arrived.

The examples of the changing tactics of Brigade Commanders and the constant rotation of mentors to the ANA and ANP sadly cause people to narrow their views and efforts to their six month tour. That’s human nature. Again, I’m not advocating extending the tours of the guys at the sharp end (indeed, having witnessed the tempo down south, I’d shorten it, or at least make sure they actually get a whole 14 days R and R…. but that’s a whole other thread!) but those of us in relatively civilized conditions in Staff Jobs and Mentoring roles could easily stay longer.

Younger, single, keen lads (and sad people, like me) could easily volunteer to have their names kept on a nominal roll at MCM Division, marked “Yes, I don’t mind staying for longer because I’m too keen/sad/broke”, thus taking pressure off the family men.

We probably need a few old school “Lawrence of Arabia” types in these jobs, happy to stay, eat the food, drink the chai and make the difference with the locals.

Anything else is just lip service
 
#16
TheCheerfulSubbie said:
Dragstrip said:
You know what they say about things that arent broke...?
And therein lies the rub, Dragstrip old chap,

From my point of view, the mentoring and leadership piece IS broken, and although only a small percentage of our forces in Afghanistan are doing this role, it’s probably the one we desperately need to get right, so we leave with our heads held high and a stable, self running Afghanistan, rather than our tail between out legs and Afghanistan no better than when we arrived.

The examples of the changing tactics of Brigade Commanders and the constant rotation of mentors to the ANA and ANP sadly cause people to narrow their views and efforts to their six month tour. That’s human nature. Again, I’m not advocating extending the tours of the guys at the sharp end (indeed, having witnessed the tempo down south, I’d shorten it, or at least make sure they actually get a whole 14 days R and R…. but that’s a whole other thread!) but those of us in relatively civilized conditions in Staff Jobs and Mentoring roles could easily stay longer.

Younger, single, keen lads (and sad people, like me) could easily volunteer to have their names kept on a nominal roll at MCM Division, marked “Yes, I don’t mind staying for longer because I’m too keen/sad/broke”, thus taking pressure off the family men.

We probably need a few old school “Lawrence of Arabia” types in these jobs, happy to stay, eat the food, drink the chai and make the difference with the locals.

Anything else is just lip service
Yes. It is certainly true that there are lots of quality people who are willing to deploy more frequently but are precluded from doing so by policy, which may be misguided, and career management, which is based on an out-dated one-size-fits-all-but-the-odd-exception system of progression.
 
#17
Dragstrip said:
Yes. It is certainly true that there are lots of quality people who are willing to deploy more frequently but are precluded from doing so by policy, which may be misguided, and career management, which is based on an out-dated one-size-fits-all-but-the-odd-exception system of progression.
Oh, dear chap, have you not yet realised that the MCM Div way is the only way?! :x

Thinking like that is the reason we risk getting our arses handed to us when we leave Afghanistan....

If they let me stay, I would, but apparently my next job as SO3 Complete Tonk & Rubbish is much more vital than helping the Afghan Army.... :roll:
 
#18
Personally, I haven't been to Afghan yet but I've an axe to grind so thought I'd pop it to swing it around a bit. :wink:

This seems to me symptomatic of a much wider issue - we talk about Afghan being a problem we must, and can, solve and that it will take a long long time. Everyone from CDS to a Jock in Helmand can see that.

But we don't seem to be planning accordingly.

Organisationally the Army we have now is alarmingly similar to that we had before 2003. i.e. orientated towards "go in hard and early, and get out fast." This clearly hasn't happened and isn't possible. The structure and rotation we have is similar to NI and the Balkans - orientated towards deploying soldiers not that far away, not in an extremely intensive fight ( 70s NI excepted ) and in the context of a host culture which isn't a million miles away from ours. The situation we face now, and say that we expect to face for some time to come doesn't fit the standard "6 months in with 2 weeks of leave" for all involved package, nor the usual "post xxxx in to tick off the usual posts for his standard career profile".

Financially, we're not funded accordingly. But anyone on ARRSE who believes that we could get vast new amounts of cash as the country ( & world ) enters a widespread and long-lasting Depression, and thinks that the Conservatives would find it, is smoking crack.

Materially, we also need to recognise that we can't have both purely high intensity cool stuff and the vast array of kit our blokes clearly need to fight the war we have on our hands right now. They need to be incorporated into standard defence spending - involvement in Afg is going to be normal for decades to come, remember?

I'm assuming that HMG really want to win this war, really are in it for the long haul, and that the MoD really want to also.

The trouble with ideas for change is not so much the change in actual policy and whether an alternative might be better or more efficient in some way, rather it is the wider consequences that are borne out of the assumptions that were inherent in the original system.
True, finding an alternative structure isn't going to be easy, and it will undoubtedly affect our ability to mount LSDI with schwerpunkts and roving tank armies and other cool stuff, but we've already made the decision. We clearly don't have enough to do both, so lets set the brainy staff officers get on with reconfiguring how the army trains and deploys.

Incidentally the Yanks have already done this. I'd be suprised if they didn't gaze across at our approach - especially with our collective lack of will in Basra in mind and wonder if we really are committed.

Still more pertinently - if you chat to ANA officers in HQs or on courses in the UK you get a good idea of their perspective. In their time they have seen the Soviets come and go, the Mujhadeen come and go, and the ( Old ) Taliban come and go. Locally where they live they have seen militias come and go also. Each change leaves behind more death, more poverty, and reinforces the feeling that any sane man - for his own career & safety and that of his family - must not wholly committ to one party.

We need to persuade them that we are in it for the long haul. Right now I haven't met one who believes that.

I know you want me to get to the point.

12 months for soldiers fighting in environments such as Helmand?
No way. The intensity is too high. Reading this article ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/magazine/24afghanistan-t.html ) about US troops in the Korengal Valley has been enough to convince me for a start.

Sandifer was questioning why they were sticking it out in the Korengal when the people so clearly hated them. He was haunted by Mendoza’s voice calling to him: “I’m bleeding out. I’m dying.” He worried that the Korengal was going to push them off the deep end. In his imagination it had already happened. One day an Afghan visited their fire base, Sandifer told me. “I was staring at him, on the verge of picking up my weapon to shoot him,” he said. “I know right from wrong, but even if I did shoot him everyone at the fire base would have been O.K. We’re all to the point of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ ” And they still had 10 months to go in the Korengal.
Admittedly its an extreme example - and you'll have to read the full article to understand the context - but its true. I don't see many areas getting less violent in theatre and with us and the US throwing more troops in this year I forsee an almighty ruck as the madrassas throw in their waves of New Taleban too.

9 month tours for supporting troops
Or at least those who largely based in safe camps? Perhaps, although we'd have to tailor the terms of it - including more leave for a start. And before we restart the old "CS and CSS troops get shot at too" - I fully agree, but longer tours should be restricted to those who do.

12 month tours for Bde Staff & above.

the current routine of rotating entire Bdes complete with HQs over a short period certainly causes discontinuity. Given that the current tasks are likely to be going on a while I'd suggest permanent HQs at Bde and above, with staff offrs trickle-posted in.
Yeah, great idea, and we should look at how the FCO handle things. I have met FCO and top-people who - I believe - do "2 months on, 1 month off" for protracted periods for the very reasons mentioned i.e. continuity, developing cultural awareness etc.

There are very good personal reasons for all of us to not go to Afghanistan, indeed there are no incentives at all beyond wafty moral ones. We need to address this.

A friend of mine - like TheCheerfulSubbie - commanded an OMLT and by all accounts was good at it. He wants to do more of the same, and is prepared for the personal sacrifice. However his career ladder takes him elsewhere - there is no reasonable guarantee that his hard won knowlege will be directly drawn upon again. His position is probably given no more credence than any similar non-ANA-related post, despite the fact developing the ANA is our ME in theatre. Why?

We train linguists over 15 months to learn Dari and Pashto. After one tour ( just enough to get up to speed linguistically and culturally ) the regulars go back to their home units. Their time spent learning is basically viewed as a non career orientated jolly. After all, they could be in a Brit job in their core trade. After 2 tours, the TA & Reservist linguists return to their civvy jobs, or join civvy PMCs. The only alternative is two more back-to-back tours on FTRS. Equally they are earned no recognition, as they are away from the role of their parent capbadge and have no alternative. Why?

Younger, single, keen lads (and sad people, like me) could easily volunteer to have their names kept on a nominal roll at MCM Division, marked “Yes, I don’t mind staying for longer because I’m too keen/sad/broke”, thus taking pressure off the family men.

We probably need a few old school “Lawrence of Arabia” types in these jobs, happy to stay, eat the food, drink the chai and make the difference with the locals.
These people probably fit this description. We need these people - and quite a few 20-somethings will fit it - in theatre to get better and better, and contribute more and more.

But as well as the sad and the warrior monks we also need a whole swathe more people too. They'll be harder to push into the roles, and also harder to retain.

To do this we need to:

Allow people who want to committ to HERRICK to do so.
Far better that they can choose one mindset - COIN Ops - and persist in UK & operational roles related to it if they want to, than be flicked by MCM from exercises in Scotland, to a post in Cyprus, to a training environment, to a UK HQ before returning to Afghanistan.

If they let me stay, I would, but apparently my next job as SO3 Complete Tonk & Rubbish is much more vital than helping the Afghan Army....
Exactly.

Cater tour lengths and terms for roles.
Could related mentors, diplomats and key staff officers do two months on, one off? Could their families be in safe areas of Pakistan, for example, as NGOs do?

Financially reward them.
The recent article in BAR re: pay was interesting. Given that we will get no more money from the government why not pay those in the UK less ( with job security & heavily subsidised housing ) to give more to those serving on ops, and still more to those at the point end?

Offer them a career, or progression within their own, in return.Develop an "Afghan specialist stream" where these people's experience and committment are actually recognised, and rewarded by career progress which is currently based around generic Army skills. Lets have these people out there, bring them back, get them to train the remainder in TTPs, mentoring skills, cultural skills, languages and CIMIC and for a rest in green leafy UK, and then send them back for more.

I realise I've gone on a rant. But the tour interval is one facet of a bigger issue. If Afghanistan really is a significant part of our future, then we need to orientate a significant part of our G1 stance towards it.

If we do then 4 key groups get an important message:

a. The Americans, who'll realise we're as serious as them about it
b. The Afghans - military, governmental and civilian - who might increasingly build on their scant-remaining hope that we won't cut & run when it suits - and really start to back us.
c. Serving soldiers - who might feel that they're building progress rather than simply doing a 6 month stint
d. The general public, who'll perhaps begin to put Afghanistan along with NI as "long and hard but winnable" rather than with Iraq as "pointless, and bound to end soon enough"

All the above is rough & ready, and I'm not a thrusting main building guru, but I find it strange that I hear so much from junior & mid ranking officers about how we need to committ to make progress, yet - 7 years on from entering Afghanistan - nothing from the policy wonks and generals in the papers or BAR about how we're actually going to carry out this 30 campaign?

Nearly all the articles in the papers, and threads on ARRSE, that I read are about more ( usually heavier ) bits of kit and vehicles to keep our soldiers safe at all costs. Noone I know who's returned from Herrick think those are more than a tiny part of the answer to our seriously difficult involvment in Afghanistan.

Strangely enough, sustainably and consistently developing the goodwill, determination in adversity, and fighting & policing ability of the Afghans themselves always is.

Treat soldiers - Afghan & British alike - with a short term mentality, and that is exactly what you will get in return.

Charlie
 
#19
Charlie, cheers for that response; very comprehensive.

So do you think we'll have to wait 10 years or so for the lessons on the ground to trickle upwards or can you see any major re-structuring in the near future as a response to lessons in Afghan and Iraq? I hear we are finally developing a new COIN manual, so could that hail the beginning of a restructured Army?
 
#20
can you see any major re-structuring in the near future as a response to lessons in Afghan and Iraq?
Erm... nah. Haven't even heard the slightest rumble along those lines. I might be wrong, I usually am.

To be honest - as I said - I'm very much at the bottom end of things, about to go out for two tours as a linguist, so I'm as reliant on BAR, the papers and random rumour as you.

Perhaps the big wigs have big plans ( some of them hang round ARRSE so one might drop in to slap me down ) or maybe - as usual - I'm simply shouting in the darkness. :D

Charlie
 

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