col. collins

I was listening to my local radio station t'other day and i heard old Paddy Collins of gulf war 2 fame. He made a few hardcore comments about the govt. He also mentioned the TA and the role that they play. It goes a little something like this. (not word for word i might add)

He said that the traditional role of the TA was to defend the homelands during time of need/ emergency. The TA are not meant to be deployed to areas of conflict to fill the gaps left by personel shortages in the regulars. He went on to critisise the government for using the TA to fill the afore mentioned gaps in Iraq/Afghanistan etc....
He was not in anyway out to give the TA a slagging, but he felt the way the govt. use the TA is wrong.

Comments please
Fair points.

I'd prefer calling up the TA only if there are skills the Regs just haven't got, rather than to beef up undermanned units.


He's right that that was the traditional role of the TA, but the role changed and nobody who has either opted to stay in the TA, or joined since the change began, should have any illusions that they are there to be deployed in support of regular forces if necessary.

Personally, I think it's a good thing: the TA has become a more streamlined and useful organisation and it's hard for anyone to argue that money spent on the TA is money wasted. Having said that, more investment does need to be made in the TA, and we need to have better incentives for recruitment and retention if the TA is going to continue to be used in this way. The US National Guard is a good model for this.
This is true , all we can offer recruits is a recruit training package with no real shape or form and the promise of being paid sometime in the future, and whilst the regs will call me a **** I still don't understand why bounty is capped at a maximum of £1460 , apart from the obvious enjoyment I get from playng at soldiers where is the incentive ? We do feel like second class soldiers sometimes who are just used to gap fill at the seams
I am no longer in the TA but always accepted that I could be mobilised when I served for 9 years.
Tim Collins points are very valid. I have not read of anybody on this forum b*tching about being deployed (yes there have been comments about admin etc), this shows that the system works. The worry must be long term continual deployment of the TA. For instance are employers going to get p*ssed off when an employee is off on his 3rd or 4th deployment in as many years. This is likely to happen with the number of conflicts that HM Government want to involve this country in. When / if this happens will the TA still be able to recruit the numbers required and will retention become a bigger problem?
I know several friends who are already coming under pressure from their employers to quit the TA due to the amount of time away they have already spent and with further deployments on the horizon. I am unsure what the solution is.
The problem with regular use of the TA in peacetime under the current legislation is that it is incompatible with a civilian career. Employers attitudes are hardening against the use of the TA and will get rapidly worse as more and more troops go off for a second tour. Employers get nowhere near the real costs for their employee's absence and so a reservist who is absent regularly is a very real liability, particularly for smaller firms. Even working for a defence company is no defence, as my own experience with the biggest testifies.

There is currently protection for your current job. In theory. In practice an unscrupulous employer can get round this or simply decline to promote you because you're a reservist (as happened to a friend of mine). This is perfectly legal.

It is also entirely legal to decline to employ someone because they are in the TA. It is entirely legal to sack someone because they didn't tell you they were in the TA upon joining when they were asked. And they will find out under employers notification. It is also entirely legal to refuse to agree to support you should you wish to join after getting a job - employers notification again.

We currently have the worst of two worlds. The TA are and will be used heavily as the regulars are hopelessly undermanned for their current tasking. However, unless and until employers are both compensated for their actual losses and faced with prosecution by HMG (and not the unemployed reservist) if they misbehave the TA will continue to shrink.

Under FAS my unit is actually supposed to be increasing in size - yet we can't currently find enough bodies to keep to our existing establishment. I fear that the rubber band will snap and soldiers will die as a result. Either we go back to using the TA involuntarily for national crises only or we spend the money to go along the American route with free medical cover, pensions, real employment protection and the like.


One_of_the_strange said:
I fear that the rubber band will snap and soldiers will die as a result. Either we go back to using the TA involuntarily for national crises only or we spend the money to go along the American route with free medical cover, pensions, real employment protection and the like.
I couldn't agree more.
chickenpunk said:
One_of_the_strange said:
I fear that the rubber band will snap and soldiers will die as a result. Either we go back to using the TA involuntarily for national crises only or we spend the money to go along the American route with free medical cover, pensions, real employment protection and the like.
I couldn't agree more.
I agree absolutely with the sentiment but:

The septics seem to be having the same problems we are now (and for very similar reasons it seems)


abacus said:
chickenpunk said:
One_of_the_strange said:
I fear that the rubber band will snap and soldiers will die as a result. Either we go back to using the TA involuntarily for national crises only or we spend the money to go along the American route with free medical cover, pensions, real employment protection and the like.
I couldn't agree more.
I agree absolutely with the sentiment but:

The septics seem to be having the same problems we are now (and for very similar reasons it seems)
But at least they're doing something about it. The Septics are very pro-active about recruiting - I was in the US a couple of weeks back andthere were recruiters everywhere: shopping malls; railway stations etc etc. Plus every couple of ad breaks on the TV there were NG and Army recruiting ads. I nearly signed up myself... :D
There is not enough public awareness of the armed forces in general, they (our delightful British public) will have a cardiac arrest at the thought of the dear old NHS lacking funds or schools in inner cities having to save a bit of cash for the next big project, but the Forces just dont count. We are not important enough because we are to good at what we do, the machine which never breaks down.

We suffer from, I believe, weak and inept leadership at the highest levels. Our most senior officers refuse to accept that they must fight their corner, against the Treasury onslaught, to protect the welfare of the men under their command.

Rather perversly this is good for the TA. Many, many years ago I joined the TA whilst at college (before going into the RN and rejoining the TA again in 1991). It was hugeand well run. Training, although lacking some scope, was thourough and it was dificult to get into and stay in. If you didn't make the standard you were out. Service in the Reserve Forces was a real challenge.

However its role was major re-enforcement of the Regular Army in the event of Soviet attack and this led many to see the TA as a bit of a joke, sort of Dads Army. My uncle once asked why I wasn't in the "proper army" to which the only reply I could think of was that it was more fun in the "Improper Army".

Todays TA is different, we have a proper role allbeit an ill defined one. Most TA soldiers have done at least one tour and/or FTRS. Our entry standards are lower, training is physically less demanding and we are smaller yet we have a "proper" job and the public (if they do think of us at all) at least regard us as "proper soldiers". Ironic isn't it?

Sadly the reason why we cant recruit is that too many barriers, real or imagined, have been placed in our way. We cannot approach Cadets as a future pool of recruits, we can't advertise in colleges for people with the right technical skills. Young people with minor convictions are prevented from joining, when some service might be just the thing needed to put them back on the straight and narow. Can those of you who, like myself, didn't get conviction when they were young honestly say it wasn't more luck than judgemnet?

Yet recruiting and retention issues aside for the first time in many years the TA is at least considered a proper form of soldiering, so for my part I hope we continue to do tours and FTRS. I just wish our most senior officers would remember they are supposed to be servicemen not policicians so we can get the force numbers up, the kit we need, better living conditions and (my own wish here) PENSIONS FOR RESERVISTS, just like every other Volunteer Reserve Force in the world.

Q. Why are Polticians called Right Honourable when they are seldom right and never honourable?

The National Guard comparison is interesting. One problem they have is that alot of people join the National Guard because of the benefits that come with it like health care etc. These benefits could not be afforded outside the military. This can have an adverse effect on the standard of people wishing to join.
A National Guardsman that I know was called up at the age of 58 and spent a year in Baghdad. He is an ex regular soldier who saw service in Vietnam. He was motivated to join NG when he left the army as he missed the comradeship. When he was deployed to the Gulf he was not told how long he would be there. While he was away he lost alot financially but has never shown an ounce of bitterness. This is the professional side of the National Guard. He did however tell me there were large numbers who were called up who really resented it. In his words they were trailer trash who joined for what they could get out of the service rather than what they could put into it.
Before any Americans jump on me I have to say that these are the opinions of 1 US National Guardsmen that I know. I would be interested to know if others have similar views.
From the British perspective I think we need to think hard before we go down the National Guard route. For one the treasury would never sanction the costs. It might be that you get the benefits (pensions etc) but are deployed 3 times as often as the army is cut back further to pay for it. Be carefull what you wish for.
I joined the TA to hold back the soviet hordes and get a ringside seat at Armageddon, not to be buggered about by pols.

I decided that I would not volunteer for Gulf War 2 on the basis that if Blair wants to throw his weight around he should be prepared to pay for a regular army that is big enough to do the job, and I wasn't going to help him cover up his inadequacies. If you will the end, you must will the means.
I agree with the general feeling about doing the things the Septic way. We really should bring in the equivalent of the GI Bill, which applies to both Regulars and Reservists.

The effects it would have on recruitment and retention would be enormous. The bill covers everything from University Tuition fees, whether on or off active duty, Life insurance and hospital fees to preferential mortgages.

Needless to say, it will probably NEVER fly over here, as the start up and continuing maintenance costs, to government, would be pretty steep. But, this could be offset by a contribution by the serviceperson, deducted from pay at source, as is done by the spams.

Info on the GI Bill here ----> GI Bill Website
"Benefits-based recruitment" (GI Bill, "Army of One," National Guard benefits package) are all very well but as others have pointed out do lead to "join for the benefits only" syndrome. My spam mate who served in GF1 in an armoured cav. regt. used to tell me horror stories about the "GI Bill only" soldiers in his unit who would do the bare minimum until they had enough credits to go to college.

Makes you wonder about the break-up of the tried-and-tested regimental system, doesn't it? Blair seems to think that people will volunteer to fight his ill-considered wars in perpetuity I suspect.

Conversely, of course TA soldiers should be rewarded, looked after and welfare'd properly. The challenge is to square the circle, after all asking people to put themselves in harm's way usually involves more motive than a £1500 bounty or a discount on BUPA!

* Therefore, there needs to be a tangible reservist's support service with a legal department (that aggressively defends reservists in respect of their employers) and strong welfare support capability for families.

* There need to be tax breaks for employers who show good support for reservist employees...carrot is always better than stick when it comes to business.

* The army needs to invest heavily in the pastoral side of the reservist issue, and then the rest will follow. Don't spend thousands on advertising, for god's sake, spend it on setting up a real welfare org for the TA with teeth!

I'm thinking of re-joining, am happy to go on ops etc. The thing stopping me are the stories about how TA families are effectively ignored, and how the army effectively abandons TA soldiers apres-ops. I've got kids...they are more important than any aspirations I may have to ressurect my TA career! And I don't think at the moment they would be looked after should something happen to me.


Cracking points. My penny's worth in reaction..

Legal support - agree, it is pants at the moment, but I wonder how much it will be used. How many TA soldiers will just accept it and go find a new job without the fuss of an industrial tribunal on the record...?

Tax breaks - you have it spot on - use the carrot rather than the stick. It will also help the line managers as their P&L will look better if their team member costs less to employ.

Welfare support and pastoral care - this topic has been well covered elesewhere, but this has to be a unit responsibility first and foremost. Not sure much actual investment is required, just making units aware of funds and existing structures available would be a start.
I think Collins is correct. There is a real danger that the Government feel that they can use the TA as a cheap otion and never have to commit to proper sustained regular recruiting.

As I have stated on other threads about the Inf restructuring manning shortages will continue even with less Regts because the Govt will not put the correct level of effort into recruiting.


Book Reviewer
Benefits-Based Recruitment - we already have our own version. It's called citizenship-based recruitment, and is the main reason why we have an awful lot of people (especially in the Infantry) from certain Commonwealth Countries following the Flag.

Don't knock it, though - they are often very Good Chaps indeed :)
The Territorial Army was (on establishment in 1907/8) for Home Service. At the start of WW1 regiments volunteerd for overseas service - a special badge was issued to these. At the end of 1914 the peacetime regular army had suffered severely from holding off a numerically superior enemy, and the front line had a large percentage of TA & other reserves.

The 1939 BEF was approx 50% TA. Royal Sussex had their own Brigade of 2 Regular/2 TA - one of each got back, the others went 'in the bag'.

It could be argued that the TA was used for 'home defence', as they were fighting in a national conflict in neighbouring territories.

When I joined it was accepted that the frontline for us and our neighbours would be Germany, but it would still be a national conflict. I had no problem with this, and I could always take an S type engagement if I wanted to soldier in any other conflict.

Things change and, were I still serving, I would not be very happy about the way everyone is getting shafted by a government that is perverse in its arguments and perverted in its morals. I would still serve, but I would be taking steps to ensure that the PM knew how unhappy I was.

We should have regular forces large enough to do the job, with the TA as a trained reserve to be deployed if required. Being used to drip-feed under-strength regular forces is not good.

Overall I think Collins has got it right.


Part of the overall problem is that individual members of the military as a whole - not just the TA - are too scared to make their voices heard with their MPs. Much as we deride politicos generally, they can be quite responsive to direct approaches, particularly when they are representing marginal constituencies. One reason that our US counterparts get better service benefits than we do is because they are not imbued with the notion that if they complain to their democratic representative about some aspect of service life, they are committing a career foul of some kind. There is still a lingering notion in the British Army that we are some kind of monastic order of conservative (with a small 'c') warrior knights who relinquish our democratic rights when we sign on the dotted line, and our politicians seem to think that the only way they can interface with us is through the MOD/CGS etc. Actually we are, or should be, treated as 140,000 individual voters whose chosen career exposes us to greater trials and tribulations than any other comparably sized group within British society; and we deserve to have that taken into account. But really, it's up to us to make that point: we can't rely on anyone else to do it for us. My view is that pressure from below, via MPs, is a good way of getting that message across.

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