Done to death?

Discussion in 'Officers' started by Glad_its_all_over, Feb 10, 2005.

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  1. Cards on the table first from this callsign - 22 years' Reg service, 14 years in the Mess, having joined at age 22, two Corps, some occasional whiffs of cordite, three stabs at RCB, all deferred. Right decision by the Board, in retrospect. Had a great time, don't regret a thing, would have been an appalling subaltern.

    Now. During that time, met a number of very good Brit officers and a huge number of less good. Also had the chance to work closely with US Army, BW, Danish, French and Norwegians.

    Interesting series of contrasts in the respective officer corps. US Army most humourless - generally - but best prepared technically. Danish Army most humane, but also quite "civilian" in many respects. German officers sh*t-hot, a pleasure to work with and for.

    Questions - we spend less time than just about anyone else training officers at the basic level and then give them far too little exposure to soldiers. We probably underuse Warrant Officers and LEs.

    Should we look to have fewer, better-trained officers (3-year basic course?) and fill out pl/tp comd slots with WOs/SNCOs? Should a lot of Grade 3 Staff jobs be WO? Does a coy/sqn/bty comd really need to be a Major?

    Question - is it still a good idea to take people straight off the street and hoik them into the Camberley Amusement Complex? Should we look at a similar system to the Danes or the Germans, with time spent in the ranks and as an NCO a prequal for officer training? This implies 25-28-year old 2Lts... a problem?

    I'd be really interested to hear some informed views. And no, I'm not a feckin' journalist.
  2. Have by no means a closed mind, but will reply with my most succint reasoning to your questions.

    A 3-yr course before getting my hands on soldiers, (fnar fnar), would have had me looking in other directions than the green machine. 18 months on niff naff and trivia was quite long enough for me, thanks, and I suspect the same would be true of many others. The Army will lose out on potential Offrs going to management consultancies blah blah blah, where they can get cracking on the job they're paid to do straight away. You can't learn the same lessons in a trg environment that you do on the shop floor, anyway.

    Okaaay, but would they take the same ballsy decisions taken by subbies and captains when the chips are down? In my experience, no. It might also be a bit below a WO2 and above. Totally support opening up comd appts apart from Families Offr and MTO to LEs though, by the way.

    Wouldn't say so - to take it down to the very basic level, and yes I am generalising, but the 'pacific for specific' affliction of many Sarn't-Majors might make staff work a bit of a nause. Also, credibility issue when working with other nations - would people be up on their dignity liaising with an opposite number who isn't commissioned?

    Does he b*llocks - fresh blood needed, I think. But the culture shock would, unfortunately, be intense.

    Again, recruitment issues - you're not going to get the best and brightest if instead of 3 years learning to trade bonds in New York, you give them 3 yrs stagging on the gate before they can even start Offr trg - we need our Mike Jacksons of the future. 25-8 pippers? Will they wear out earlier?
    Anyway, the main argument for such a move is that it gives the prospective subbie a few from the other side of the fence - but that implies that 2Lts and Lts live in some kind of ivory tower and don't know how much their blokes get messed about etc etc - I disagree - as a Pl/Tp Comd on ex/ops, you'll only have 30 odd guys under your command if you're in a decent arm, and it they get fcuked about, invariably, you do to. You live in the same mud, basically.

    No offence meant, to anyone except the RLC - all just points for debate.
  3. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    All of those comments have valid points and where the armies that use them are now voluntary they are hang ons from conscription. I have a friend, Israeli Army Officer who only went for promotion as 1. He got a better wage, theirs is trully appaling, and 2 he was bored, so 1year Infantry private, nco cadre 2 years jnco then staff sgt whilst attending officer selection. Tell me they arenmt motivated. If he failed he could revert and finnish his service as per normal. Or something like that!
  4. I posted this eralier on another thread

    I quite agree we don't use people properly and I think we're too rank fixated. Officers in the German army are generally higher grade than their rank suggests: NCOs command platoons and an OberLt will be the company commander. Bn commanders are majors and sometimes even captains (awaiting promotion, of course). Contrast this to the British Army - a major commanding a company is such a waste, while the range of experience amongst captains (2 years in and still much to learn, to post JDSC, SO3, CATAC etc) devalues the rank.

    I've just finished re-reading Bugles and a Tiger, about John Masters' early years in the Gurkhas - he was expected to command a company as a 2Lt. In his time people were Lts for 12 years or more.

    Why do we need so many officers? We don't.
  5. I am sorry to say that in the 17 yaers I served the number of commisions from warrent officer was reduced from 25 per year to 5 per year and was one of the main factors in my PVR. I believe that the army is loosing the cream of the crop by letting it's Wo's go at 22 years and in most cases aged around 40ish!!!!!! They are at the peak of there knowledge and could do so much.
    DD. :evil:
  6. DD - are you seriously trying to suggest that you'd rather retain experienced salts with ops experience than have lots of 25 year old captains barely out of subaltern school who are intent on leaving before they're thirty to work in the city?

    You sir, are a heretic.

    And I agree with you.
  7. There is a body of work which is scoping the requirement and need to provide sustained employment to Warrant Officers as SO4s. The aspiration is that they will support the staff community in Fmn HQs within their areas of expertise. This is undoubtedly a good thing.

    In addition, careers will be increaed for the deserving, in line with the current system for Officers, who can apply for extensions of service from 8 - 16 years, or a 'full life' career up to age 55. This is also a good thing.

    The study is called NeCSt. Have a look and then post comments. There is still much to be done, but the stones are being slotted into place all the time. :D
  8. Where can we all find this NeCst thing then? Can you put a link on so we can all have a good look?
  9. Just a thought, and I may be talking bo**ocks but in the Police service it is practically impossible to make even Sgt before your late twenties and most will be over 33 with about 12 years service before that first promotion.

    An Inspector (who despite wearing two pips is probably nearer to a major in the scheme of things) will be in his late 30's to early 40's on promotion.

    How can a "boy" (or girl) of 22 advise their PC's/Soldiers about marrigae problems, welfare etc and do they really have the experience to make "heart sinker" decisions or are they really made for them by SNCO's?

  10. Simple. On the welfare side, lots of the lads are only going to be 18 or 19 anyway - you chat to them, chat to TSM, and then together, you address the problem.

    Those that are older - i.e. the 30 yr old full-screw who's getting divorced, will probably just end up talking it over with the TSM who he's known for donkeys, over a pint. That's OK too, as long as the TC is informed - no point getting chippy because he didn't see you first.

    On the heart-sinker decisions - balls. Of course you come to them collaboratively, but in the very rare instances you don't agree, well, that's what commanders are for. Almost as important, you don't shirk from telling the guy in question he won't get made up/get the post he wanted/go to GCC blah blah blah.

    Anyway, on the police thing - I've known friends of friends on some sort of fast track who were quite high up waaay before the time bars you mentioned below...
  11. Not saying you are completely wrong mate, but I reckon you are missing the point:

    CSMs/Sgts get away with telling the OC/Plt Comd he/she is being a bit of a kn*b because there is a mutual understanding across the Officer-SNCO divide that experience allows you that privledge. Remove that divide (or even shift it to a higher level) and you remove that safety valve.

    The Subbie 2 years out of Sandbags with his eye on the City will make decisions that the (hypothetical) WO2-officer-substitute with his eye on promotion to WO1 and thoughts on his kids' BSA - will shy away from.

    Those frequent balls-ups young officers make are only memorable because they are generally more public, recent and entertaining than those made by your RSM when he was 2 years out of training.

    I personally would prefer officers to find their feet at Plt level under close supervision of SNCOs than at Coy/Bn level after hideous amounts of unrealistic, artificial and mind altering (see US Officers) training.
  12. Well said
  13. Hang on a sec - I'm being pushed into a corner I don't fit in or like being in here.

    To put it into context, I joined at 19 as a Pte (this is all TA, by the way, although my pseudonym probably suggests that), and from 21 was a platoon commander for five years and a coy 2ic as a Lt for some time. In 14 years I've spent 12 years in a rifle coy. So I know all about the mentoring role that NCOs have for new officers, and I don't want this to turn into some sort of debate about the relationship between NCOs and officers. I touched on this in another thread ( too.

    Calypso was kind enough to PM some details of the review yesterday and I have to say that what I read about proposals to retain and utilise post 22 year engagement WOs was heartening, and may well end the wasteful practices we have at present. In particular the SO4 role can only be for the good.

    On the other issue (the main one being employment of experienced WOs), no-one could seriously argue that there is not a huge range of experience in the Captain rank and that it is still the case that an officer learns his regimental trade as a subaltern, because the seniority afforded to graduate officers these days often means a mere 2 years at RD before getting the third pip up. We take the pish out of the Yanks and their swift bemedalling but many nations wonder why our Captains and Majors seem so unimportant and under-employed. I know part of the answer is pay - but did the RM not until 4 years ago pay their Captains as army Majors and have them commanding companies, and their full Lts as army Captains, commanding spt wpn pls etc? Don't forget, in the US Amy a 1st Lt is a Coy 2ic and a Captain is a coy comd. I think we've devalued the rank.
  14. I've heard that argument before.

    When in the Army though, were Majors not Company commanders, and the 2ic s not Captains? Sure Captains have been Coy Cmdrs, and Lts 2i/c s but it's not the norm, and usually temporary.

    In the US Army, they may be down level a rank, but the Sgt's seem to run the show more as well.

    For making use of experienced WO's in SO positions, and creating CFRs, take a study of the Canadian Forces.
  15. Good to see a nice heartfelt debate being sparked.

    What's an officer for? Is it to provide a supply of generals, staff officers and passed-over Majors, or to lead soldiers?

    Relevant points have been made above with regard to the differing traditions of former conscript and long-service professional armies. That said, we do seem to have an awful lot of officers, all competing for a few command slots. Bearing in mind that I left five years ago and that things have changed a lot since, the impression was always that you barely saw a subaltern before he was promoted Captain and sent off on some course or other. Perhaps if we were happier to have fewer, better officers....

    The point is also made, eloquently, above, that an older subaltern would not be so gung-ho and would tend to make more conservative decisions. I wonder if that's altogether a bad thing, given the trend in operations nowadays, with extensive second-guessing and 20/20 hindsight perusal of decisions made in the heat of the moment....

    Perhaps some sort of hybrid system, with officer training spread over several years, but in chunks - say, for example, nine months at Sandhurst or equivalent, with the resultant product being an officer cadet/Corporal (a la Fahnenjunker), who would spend six months in a unit, followed by a further six months' training, succeeded by six months in a unit as an officer cadet/Sergeant (a la Faehnrich), followed by a final six months and commissioning as a 2Lt with a first job as a company/squadron 2i/c?

    Have we become too fixated on the officer career path and the need to tick the boxes on the way up and hit certain milestones at certain ages? The US Army certainly locks its Regular officers into a real conveyer belt and the result is not pretty - I offer in evidence the archetypal Leavenworth Hi-Speed Lo-Drag ring-knocker whom we all know and love. It's not unusual to meet Captains and Majors in the Bundeswehr who are having their second or third command slot at the sub-unit level, well into their forties - because they're very good indeed at doing that but would be unsuitable for battalion command. Equally, you can meet youngish Majors and promotable Captains doing a good job commanding battalions.

    Ignoring the somewhat rambling nature of this, perhaps there's a technical dimension to consider. I was a very proud member of the Sergeants' Mess for many years and was privileged to serve with some amazingly competent people. Given that I served in two Corps, rather than the infantry, cavalry or artillery (and hence can only speak from that experience directly), there was always a degree of concern at what was seen in the Mess as a lack of professionalism in the officer corps - in technical terms. There was a lack of confidence, sometimes, in the ability of, for example, a graduate in Horticulture, to grasp sometimes very technical issues.

    I do have to assure everyone, all that said, though, that I was usually perfectly happy to be around unpleasantness together with the average British officer and had a high degree of confidence that he probably wouldn't get me killed for no reason - I don't think the model is necessarily broken, but it doesn't do it any harm to review its shape now and then.

    Next installment - what about the seniors?