Ok, so as we all know, the Army's goal of having 30,000 TA soldiers ready to deploy by 2015 is ludicrous and completely unrealistic by anyone's standards if the inherent organisation of the TA doesn't change fast. We all know that the current Structure of the TA, which involves two hours a week and the occasional weekend where most recruits mong because the exiting 'living rough and working hard' chat-up line they were given in the recruiting office transpires to sleeping in a cozy tent and getting a land rover everywhere because the old and plump Sergeants are afraid of exercise and don't like sleeping on the ground because 'I'm too old for that sh*t'. Just won't work as not only are our lessons routinely cut short by the two hour evenings, but also most of the troops are irregular attenders, and find it hard to attend the week-long training courses put in place to gain trades etc. because their employers just don't want to give them the time off. It really doesn't matter how many adverts the army puts out on the radio and television, or even how many recruits wander in through the loosely guarded gate of their local TA centre. The fact of the matter is that the reason we don't currently have a fully deployable attendance register is that not enough of us can get the employers support to take time off work to attend the training weekends, or sometimes even week nights/weekends. Things Must change. The two most identifiable challenges that the MOD faces if it wishes to increase the deploy-ability of the TA is firstly and most importantly: Gain Employer Support and secondly Get people trained up/Keep them interested. Gaining employer support is the most important and difficult hurdle because frankly, it will cost money. As the MOD is probably aware, SABRE is nothing more than a few nice publications that serve as bragging rights for the 'Army Barmy' new recruit that wants to boast to his boss about the fact he gets to play with guns and wear a uniform. It doesn't matter how much an employer reads that the TA will make their employee a stronger leader and more confident, it doesn't even matter if they believe it, all that matters to them is that they have an employee that won't attend as regularly and will especially in this time of recession, make less money. Why employ someone that makes less money? Because they are more confident and a better leader? Nonsense! There are hundreds more replacements that will make for better reading to the shareholders and when businesses run on money, it really and sadly is the only thing that matters. (The defence cuts serve only to re-enforce this point) Without employers financially benefiting from having TA soldiers amongst their staff it is quite easy to see that the same sad cycle of 'I need a week off in June' being replied to with 'We need to talk about you commitment to our family' (I hate those conversations) will perpetually repeat. Keeping people interested is fairly simple but getting them trained up isn't. I am beginning to feel an air of optimism about the new training schedules being read out on parade of an evening, however while my unit as an example has been able to offer more interesting and more frequent training courses (presumably thanks to the new budget) the question 'who wants to come along' is almost unanimously met with 'I can't get the time off work staff'. So it doesn't really matter how much money is punched at the training schedule of the first of the hurdles has been addressed. In order for TA soldiers to be deployed effectively in their roles alongside regular soldiers we really do require more training than two hours a week. Courses are run on weekends, and learned skills soon forgotten once your test papers have been 'altered' to show you passed. It is all too common that a TA soldier sent to Afghanistan is shoved into QMS stores as fast as the regs can get them there because they just haven't qualified enough to get out and perform their trade. We need more training, but we can't get the time off. As a loyal and dedicated (as much as work allows) TA soldier, I constantly put a lot of worried thought into this predicament, and I am routinely depressed by the perceived ignorance of the MOD to address employer support. It seems to me, and I could be wrong that they are cowering behind SABRE, their guise of commitment and hoping that the problem will simply dissolve. Having parents that have worked in the MOD most of their lives I am sadly reminded just how common this attitude is. I would like to hear peoples opinions, and any potential methods to gain employer support and increase the capability of the TA, but first I shall share mine: I thankfully have a job in a small business that means I am on quite good talking terms with my boss. As he is ex-TA we can see the issue from both sides of the fence but his opinions are still congruent with the bosses of any of my previous jobs and a trend emerges immediately. All of them would like interesting staff, they genuinely want us to have lives so that conversations by the water cooler might be a little less than awkwardly boring. But above all they want us to be committed to the business and to make them money. I'm happy to keep trundling along 'around' work, in the evenings and the occasional weekend and annual camp but I know full well that it will be years before I have fully traded and can be deployed to Afghanistan in anything more than stores or radio stag roles. When most recruits realise this they vanish, its not worth their time. A huge part of me thinks: "I'd love to do this as a full-time job" and this thought resonates amongst the young, fit, hard working and Tour chasing soldiers in my unit. But we can't for various reasons, I for one would have to take a huge pay cut and wouldn't be able to support my family. But why not make a new TA? an 'Active Reserve'? Keep the TA as it is, don't change it. But why don't those same TA centres run an 'Active Reserve' where soldiers must attend at least one full day a week. e.g. the same day as drill night. The day would start at 8:30-9am and run right through into the evening when the normal TA turned up. Lessons would be given by the PSI's and/or any other TA NCO's/Officers on the Active Reserve Programme. This way we would recieve a full day's worth of training in which we could run courses such as phase two courses, but broken down into weekends and week-days. Soldiers could leave the 'Active Reserve' with the same ease as leaving the TA but would be charged for unexpected non-attendance of a reserve day without an officers written permission. How would employers benefit? Well it is going to cost the MOD money and rightly so as money is the only language the world of business understands. Upon joining the 'Active Reserve' the MOD would receive your income status from the inland revenue and pay your employer your daily work wage so that they break-even, but then pay them your MOD wage on top as a concession for allowing you to train with the Active reserve. You as a reservist would receive your daily rate of pay from the Army, and also your pay from work. Your work is in essence, whoring you out to the army and is guaranteed to make money for it, They would also benefit from your promotions as your pay would increase and therefore they would be making an even larger profit on letting you train. I can hear the critics: "If the MOD is trying to cut expenditure why do this?" well quite simply, not ALL employers would want this, some would value your time more than your money. But to the MOD's benefit this situations are far more likely to arise with a higher paid business sector workers and therefore inadvertently filter out a lot of the expensive reservists. But if the average private earned £75 a day as a civvie, and the mod therefore ended up paying out £115 for a weeks training, this is still far less than the £354 a week that the MOD would have to pay if said private left their job and joined the regular army. The Active Reserve role would not be as populated as the traditional TA, but would be far more likely to produce trained and keen soldiers that would be kept interested by frequent and effective training and would serve as a valuable, and frankly needed method of reaching 30,000 deployable personnel. Any thoguhts? Oh one last thing, to all those who wanna make wise-cracks about the TA: bla bla bla, heard it all before, do your best.