Commission at 26+ and you show a lack of commitment

Discussion in 'Officers' started by cheesypoptart, Sep 27, 2009.

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  1. Or so says (Col.) John Wilson in the new BAR. What do you chaps think?

    Here are the relevant points quoted verbatim:

    "The age profile is not helped by late entry of most officers - average age of officers on joining their first unit is 26+. I shouldn't have to spell this out but in brief the downsides are:
    ● Not close enough in age to the youngest soldiers.
    ● By failing to commit young, the officer corps manifestly demonstrates a lower level of commitment than its soldiers.
    ● Insufficient time to gain experience for the later career stages.
    ● Knock-on effect forces the age of advanced staff training ever upwards.
    As an example, the idea of the brigade COS as a young staff trained
    major is now over. Why would you want the Bde COS to be a partially
    trained operational staff officer who has not yet commanded a sub-unit?"

    I think Wilson's second bullet point is horse diarrhoea for a variety of reasons, but I'd rather hear from others.
  2. Hello mate.

    I think you're setting up a straw man here, and one that will quickly draw lots of outraged POs who will rightly point out that they are giving up or risking far more personally, financially, and in all likely hood in their relationships than an 18 year old straight from school.

    But I think you're missing the point. It would be easier if we could link to the article itself, but the latest online issue of BAR is donkeys old. Why? Dunno, bit stupid innit.

    The gist of his article is this - he compares two books, one the autobigraphy of an ex-Legionnaire, and one a book about the history of British officers. He points out - rightly - that the ethos of the FFL is about aggression, that they pride themselves not on a passive sense of honour but a fighting one, while - in general - the tone we aspire to as officers in the British Army is generally characterised by trying to being fair, honest and essentially decent. But not fighters per se. And, queerly, we officially subscribe to rather Victorian values which further inhibit us.

    He implies that this probably makes us poorer fighting commanders, that the unspoken assumption we subscribe to is that fighting and killing is dirty and dishonourable. Furthermore, although we spend an inordinate amount of time selecting POs for their ability to lead, and train them incredibly thoroughly for their first, and perhaps only, sub unit command, graduates on average spend a small amount of time leading men, getting their hands dirty and actually learning the professionof controlled violence. In the context of a longer career, we don't actually fight much. After that its 2ic jobs, staff jobs and a good few random ones too. Before you snap at him, remember that its a common moan among subbies, echoed often in messes and on ARRSE.

    So we commit to The Army, but do not spend long at the sharp end compared to our soldiers. Because we have to be rushed on to develop the right profile to become a staff officer or senior commander. Most 2Lts are about 22 or 23... I know Ptes, Fusiliers and Tprs who will have completed 3 tours of Afghanistan by then.

    He suggests - probably rightly in my view - that we should encourage officers to join younger. At the very least we should stop the stupid scheme we have now in which non-Grads, who are likely to accrue considerable experience compared to their graduate peers, earn significantly less, at the start of their career when they have most direct responsibility and suffer most discomfort. The original purpose of the distinction was to encourage Graduates to join the Army when it was had a lingering "team sports, no books and no girls" ethos. But now almost every PO has been to university, and whatever they study it does not - in the long term - make them significantly more valuable than their non-grad counterparts. An incisive mind combined with ambition and a flair for leaderhsip will always make a geat senior officer, and the Army can and should recognise and encourage it in non-Grads. Also... remember that although a couple of grand is not much to the Army, it is a lot to an 19 year old. And it perpetuates the ethos that officers should join, get a taste, and then get on with their proper business of getting on career-wise.

    Also he also suggests that we should explicitly assess officers on their ability to fight. To be honest, there's not a huge amount of management to be done at Platoon level - every peer of mine has said that they were on a relatively tight leash from their OC and CSM - but a huge amount that they can learn and contribute as tactical commanders. Too often its learnt on one tour... than the YO becomes a 2ic and may not command again until they are an OC. As he comments, how often have you read, or written, an OJAR which remarks on whether the subject is keen, imaginative, agressive, or wily fighter? But if we want to lead, we need to be examples, not just of the moral element, but of our Arm's core business too. Even when its killing, directly or indirectly. We need to committ to that, not just a wider career, just as we expect our soldiers and NCOs to. Actually, for a long time, most have no choice.

    Young officers in previous conficts, in fact most, were significantly younger than the average YO now. I suspect that tactically they were often stronger, having fought for longer, with less to lose and less of an eye on the future. A 26 year old, by contrast, is less easy to indoctrinate ( and if you think developing a military leader isn't at least a bit about that you are seriously sentimental ), more likely to have a girlfriend and become married, be more interested in their long term future, and probably has life experience which has made it harder for him to identify with the - much younger - soldiers he is likely to be leading.

    The alternative is to commit younger, and we should encourage it, not necessarily to reverse the trend for older YOs since the mid 90s but at least to maintain a significant number of non-grads. At the moment 18 yeard old recruits and their 27 year old Platoon Commander have committed to seriously different things, and their paths won't mirror for long.

  3. Did your Plt Sgt rip you away from the keyboard for voicing a non-cleared thought?
  4. PC mongery, sorry!
  5. Some great points, C_C, although I was referring to a different article, "Sorry, but More Change Needed", in BAR 147 :).

    Sounds like the problem doesn't lie with the individuals, but with the Army's policies. I've met plenty of US Marine officers who joined in their late 20's and were full of overt fighting spirit, and who had little trouble relating to their men (although the class differences in the US are less pronounced - graduates in their 30's don't have that different interests from 18-year-olds).

    I just spent time at the front with a 33-year-old Marine Lieutenant who abandoned his PhD after a combined 11 years at his upper-crust alma mater, and he exemplified to me that joining late (at 29 in his case) doesn't have to have any of the drawbacks you mentioned. Met enough British fellows like that too, come to think of it.
  6. His 3rd point is surely wrong, if a Grad joins at 26 with a 3 year degree he get 3 years seniority the same as a grad who joins at 21 with a 3 year degree?

    Due to the now LTOS rather than ATOS they do the same time before they get their majority. When I was in, I commissioned in Aug 2000, my peers with degrees are now in their first SO2 jobs, therefore 9 years flash to bang (on 1st look). I only had an HND which only gave me 13 months seniority so it would have taken me 11 years to get to S02. Now I have voiced my opinion on the merits of degrees and no degrees before, so I wont get on my soap box about that (however the female who shagged her Cpl on OPs and had a fine Arts Degree and was "sacked" is now wearing her Crown!- grumble grumble pass the port you ******......)

    The system is flawed we do need to recruit earlier and not put the pressure on having a degree. Indeed when you leave having a degree wont help you getting a job. All my platoon who have left are not doing anything that their degree was in. It was being an Army Officer and being who they are, which landed the role.

  7. Cheesy - bang on the button mate.
    We should encourage more guys and girls with significant pre-factory experience through the doors. I was at an un-named HQ in 2005 when we had a subby pitch up who was 28, and a proper good egg. Life experience coming out of his ears (which I daresay he wasn't backward in passing onto his lads), not a "Factory Clone" by any manner or means, and quite an interesting bloke.

    The line of thought that "If you don't come knocking on the door at 18 / 22 then you are not committed" is basically crap, I'd suggest Col Wilson shows his out-dated attitudes if he subscribes to same. And, following this one through, if someone is coming up with the goods, who gives a toss what level of commitment they show (ie the act they put on for the Reporting Chain)? I certainly don't consider this during SJAR season, and I am 99.999% sure most of my mates / colleagues (two very different things there!!) are of the same mindset.

    I'd MUCH rather work for / with guys and girls who are effective and joined in their late 20s than the enthusiastic (and probably pretty bloody useless) idiot that I was when I commissioned in 1991. I joined as an 18yr old, v inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears non-grad and if I could go back and do one thing again it'd be three years drinking, shagging and getting to know the world whilst getting a bit of paper as a reward.............
  8. Surely the age of soldiers is starting to creep up too?
  9. Age of soldiers goes up every year. :)

    I think that while some soldiers are joining later, and with more advanced qualifications, we still see many join from school.

    But they still all look so young. Or is that just me?

    Back on the subject - its the maturity, or lack of it, in YOs that is of more concern, rather than the age.
  10. My feeling is that Wilson may believe older YOs are going to be less fit compared to "proper" 18-22 y-o YOs, and that this will come back to bite around the senior Captain level, leading to OCs being issued zimmer frames on a regular basis.
  11. To be fair to John Wilson, he normally uses his position as editor BAR to stimulate debate. He usally chucks in these 'pearls' to try and get more people to engage with BAR.
  12. Charlie your point on non grads being paid considerably less than their graduate peers despite going thru the same difficulties, ops etc... Is spot on.

    In contrast, I was a non grad, 2 tours, short service commission and out by the time I was 24 years old... Happily admit to still being a red arse tho ;)
  13. Why not adopt a two tier CC? (excluding the existing POCC)

    A "Non-grad" tier for the young, but good matierial, thrusters who can be pushed in to the Infantry and other crunchy arms. We could then have (as a bench mark) 19 year old Plt Cdrs. Throw in a supported OU style distance learning package for their educational requirements. If this was closely matched to a YOs requirements (almost NVQ stylee) it shouldn't add too much of a burden on to the lads. Besides a course similar to an OU 30 points per year doesn't require that much effort (I usually do 60 per year, but have extended to 80). A selected Captain could help the young 'uns out.

    This course could be directly tailored to the teeth arms, perhaps even merging PCBC. And could also stand to be extended slightly. An extra 6 months of Drill with the Guards could easily be added, but at no real cost to the arrival of the YO to the unit.... when compared to 3 - 4 years at Uni with a possible gap year.

    This could allow for a YO to have 2 maybe 3 tours as a commander, before scaling the greasy pole in to starrff college.

    Perhaps either the Regt 2ic could take over the mentoring and general development of these RYOs (in conjunction with the best sub-unit OC and, of course, handpicked Sgts.

    Perhaps this "non-grad" entry could even be slided in to sync with a West Point style education. 3 years of degree work, with the relevant Commissioning bits.

    A "grad" tier for those who have been commisioned. Perhaps with those joining it already detailed to the various capbadges. Maybe even with a dual start, one for fresh blood and a slightly more advanced start or an abbreiviated course for the ex-OTCers.

    Whilst it is perhaps preferable to have a young whipper snapper running around boonies with the Infantry, is this the same for the Int Corps, RAMC (non med), REME, RSignals, AAC, RLC et al.
  14. In short - I always liked the fact that the bloke in charge was old enough to know how to shave!

    The last thing you want when you're on the start line is to miss H - Hour because the boss is squeezing his spots and updating his facebook status.
  15. If he updated it to "attacking", I am sure all the young toms in his Plt would attack on time :D