Foreign Office need a longer break after Ops

Saw this in the Daily Telegraph. I know the DFiD and FO guys work hard and I really cannot begrudge all their leave and high pay - after all they have earned it :x

"Civil servants in Iraq and Afghanistan given more time to recover than troops" Civil servants posted to Iraq and Afghanistan are granted more time to recover from the ordeal of working in a warzone than frontline troops, it has been claimed.

Soldiers are given an average of just 24 hours to adjust between combat and leave after completing their six month tour of duty. But Foreign Office staff are ordered to take "decompression breaks outside of the operational theatre after every six to seven weeks" in order to safeguard their "health and welfare". These breaks can last for up to two weeks.

Decompression is the term used by the Ministry of Defence for bringing personnel out of the battlefield and placing them in a monitored environment to allow them to "wind down" before they go on leave. At British bases in Cyprus, or at Al-Udeid in Qatar, military doctors are given the chance to identify and treat traumatised troops who might suffer post-operational stress disorder. In Parliamentary answers, Government ministers said giving troops one day of decompression "struck the right balance" and allowed troops to be reunited with their families quickly.

But Liam Fox, defence spokesman for the Conservatives, demanded a review of the policy. "At a time when our armed forces already feel under siege this will only reinforce the view that they are being treated as second-class citizens," he told the Daily Mail.

A Foreign Office spokesman was unable to comment last night.

Daily Telegraph Article
Reform the Civil service rifles
But Foreign Office staff are ordered to take "decompression breaks outside of the operational theatre after every six to seven weeks" in order to safeguard their "health and welfare". These breaks can last for up to two weeks.

That roughly about the amount of sick leave they would take over here in the same working period.
Well it's out of order iff penpushers a treated better tha the squads, Mind you nothing will ever surprise me with Cyclops gang of dyks
We should feel proud that by definition our soldiers are simply a cut above the men on the street.
If the FO don't allow them these "breaks", then they don't get the volunteers to do the jobs - simple.
yeah but no but yeah but...

the whole decompression thing has to be handled carefully, and probably needs more thought..

The last thing you need at the end of a busy tour is to be told - right, EVERYBODY is going to spend 3 "Extra" days in Cyprus playing handball and being stared at by the shrinks before going home. As is usual these days, decompression is being managed on a shoestring and is often seen as a bit cr@p (even if it isn't..)

The emphasis is on the "extra" bit.. The way decompression seems to have been handled in the past is that it has been tagged on as an afterthought and therefore seen as embu&&eration. Perhaps if decompression was properly built in as part of the RIP then it would be easier.

.. lets face it, in days gone by folk would have had a nice slow cruise back to Southampton from the canal zone to "decompress". In many ways the C17/Tristar is a bit of a double edged sword in that it dumps you from "lunacy" back to "normality" almost instantly...

... my own experience is that I managed to avoid decompression as an individual reinforcement on my last couple of deployments, and that it was probably not that clever. In retrospect I went back to work a bit too quickly and should have taken more time to wind down..

In earlier times, I was on an NI Op tour when No 1 son appeared. I was "allowed" to take my R & R early to come back and see him and my wife, but there were no other concessions as it was considered in those days to be a "self inflicted injury"! As a result I really did not get a break when I actually needed it. I was then sent off on a course almost immediately I came back (and was then posted). I really did not get back to normality for months and months later..

On reflection, I am quite surprised that both my head and my marriage survived this choice bit of man management...

So, this is quite a subtle problem! I know that trying to slow a soldier down getting home at the end of tour is a bit like getting between a Rottweiler and his food bowl, but sometimes the sensible thing would be to take it a bit steadier from the outset. Is a soldier coming out of the line in a fit state to make these judgement calls, and are we presenting the solution in the right way...?

Any views on this from people that have been through the pipeline?
Please consider this sentence my purchase of a ticket for the bus :evil:

Interestingly, we were discussing decompression recently and a colleague mentioned the experience of the RAF in the Balkans. Apparently, pilots were flying operational missions from their home bases in Germany and this was causing significant issues. They were having breakfast with their families, reporting for duty, dropping bombs on anything other than the target (in best traditions of the service), and back in time for dinner.

It was the dichotomy between the normal pad existence and the operational job that was the issue - apparently the DS solution was going to be moving everybody to an American airbase in Italy.
Decompression? As its every 6 to 7 weeks it sounds more like a very sneaky way of getting extra R&R in to me. Cynical Moi?
WhenI was in Bally Kelly it was like that we shared a hanger with the FAA 824 sqn and on a friday i could be flying over Derry at lunchtime and in my Mums pub by 5.30 due to the fact the Jollys ran a Seaking back to Hms Heron most weekends and it just about passed over my house. it was realy strange no body iat home could understand
in_the_cheapseats said:
If the FO don't allow them these "breaks", then they don't get the volunteers to do the jobs - simple.
Then make going on these jobs a part of their contract - even simpler! :twisted:

Don't like it? Then they can be shown the door; I wish them the best of luck finding another job in the current climate. :twisted:
I spent some time with the FCO last year and saw first hand their deployment issues. As usual with DT reporting, its not quite as clear cut as made out.

Yes the FCO tend to come home every 6-8 weeks for 2 weeks leave. Of this leave, a lot of it is spent in the office in London playing catch up, attending meetings and ensuring that their normal business is done. This is a rule imposed by FCO HR who are concerned about the retention rates of getting people to volunteer for operations.

The second important point. Most Military and MOD go for 6 months at a time and get 2 weeks leave. The FCO will be in post for a minimum of a year, often 2 years. Do you really want to spend 2 years in Lash Kargar? Thats what the FCO is asking its people to do - spend 2 years in an operational theatre, not 6 months. I know how I felt after 6 months in theatre with 10 days leave, god knows how I'd feel after 2 years!

Also these posts are not left absent in these peoples leave. Arrangements are made to send out other FCO staff from a leave pool to provide 2 weeks cover at a time. This is useful as it gives more staff exposure to working in hazardous environments, and in an organisation that is often highly suspicious of the MOD, means we can show them that we aren't all baby killers. So there is some knock on benefit for us.

Finally, the military personnel I spoke to who knew of the FCO policy thought it very sensible as it meant that you generally had people who were much more active towards the end of their tour, when very tired military personnel had got to the point of utter fatigue. Many said they would favour a similar system for the MOD, but accepted it would never happen due to the numbers game - we have too many people that need rotating, they need only 50 or so.

I'm sure we'll get lots of people boarding the outrage bus today because an article has been written which says that a totally different government department, which has a very small (less than 50 people) number of people in theatre at any one time, has different leave arrangements to the military because its staff work on very different Terms and conditions of employment. I'm not outraged as I think this is a total non story.
Seeing what a civilian typist gets awarded for a wrist injury (no jokes please) compared to a soldier who is all broken, it is a good thing they do what they can to avoid stress injuries.


Book Reviewer
Jim30 is right on the button as usual. MOD Civil Serpents get the same leave as the Military - and there are FAR more of them on Ops than there are FCO or DfID.

Any Military or MOD CS doing a one-year tour (and there a good few nowadays, in Afghanistan) get three periods of R&R plus - wait for it - triple welfare phone minutes! (Although of course no-one has the time to spend 90 minutes a week talking to their missus - as one Colonel told me "I don't spend that long talking to her when I'm at home").

As for staffing - by the end of 2007 in Basra the FCO seemed to be running a bit short of volunteers, and that's what they're trying to avoid happening again. Talk of 'making them go' is, of course, utter balls - no-one joins the FCO, DfID or MOD to get IDF'd at irregular intervals. And you can't force people to go - that would be against the law. You know, that legal thingy that doesn't apply so much to the Military. It can't even be taken as an advantage when it comes to postings or promotion - as that would of course be discriminatory to those who cannot or do not volunteer - an Employment Tribunal would have a field day with the MOD if it promoted someone just off Ops in preference to someone who could not go - such as due to a disability, or childcare commitments.....

In the MOD it's meant to be looked at favourably to volunteer for Ops, but in practise, unless you are a young, keen fast-tracked chap, it's usually the opposite - it's hard to get a post when you have a track record of volunteering for Ops for nearly a year at a time. So, don't be too hard on the FCO - they do actually do a pretty good job - and they don't have to do it.
Given the nature of the modern world perhaps it would help if all new CS who wanted to be 'established' were made 'mobile' ie., posted anywhere for the contingencies of the service, or forfeit their jobs.
[Perhaps I've been retired too long and not au fait with modern working practices]
"Given the nature of the modern world perhaps it would help if all new CS who wanted to be 'established' were made 'mobile' ie., posted anywhere for the contingencies of the service, or forfeit their jobs."

The mobile context applies to all CS above Band D in the MOD. The exception is going to war zones - as Snowy pointed out, the majority of people who join the MOD or the wider CS didn't join to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. Can you imagine the legal nightmare that would follow if you tried to implement such a ruling? More to the point, would you seriously want a bunch of people in theatre, who had no interest in being there - think of the total hassle it would cause?

Having seen it from both sides, I would say that biggest thing the military don't get about the CS is that they exist on a very different set of terms and conditions of employment. You guys joined with the expectation of deploying, the average CS does not. To try and change that to enable the tiny (less than 200 at any one time) number of CS in the field to be drafted would be a futile and pointless battle, that would end up in the courts and cost millions.
Step 1 - DT 'story'

Step 2 - key in ignition of outrage bus

Step 3 - voice of reason from Whitehall posts again

Step 4 - bus drivers dismount and RTU

How many times is that now?
Truly, we must have the worst media east of Belarus and north of Harare.

I'm sure it has been noted on here that the DT is now the Mail on bigger newsprint (a mate works there; says it depresses him to go in now).
Jim30, nice post with experience backing it up!

As far as I am aware the other point to make is that the FCO are not soldiers, or more relevantly Armed Forces Service men and women. They are civilians, they have not been trained to fight, or endure in crap conditions. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

Furthermore is it really possible to consider that we could rotate soldiers out of theatre for two weeks every 6-9 weeks? Probably not as it is a pain in the arse doing it for 2 weeks in 6 months when your manning significantly drops.

Some would even suggest that going home for 2 weeks is more damaging than beneficial and perhaps a week at OSD is more manageable and more suitable. Clearly R&R is required to keep troops focussed on the job, but at the same time that should balanced with the impact of a soldier returning home to friends and family, coming to terms with occurrences on that phase of the tour and then returning to theatre. I think all those that have experienced it can vouch for the fact that you never really relax on R&R because before you know it you are gearing up to go back.

Decompression is utterly key and I too have experienced bad decompression and excellent decompression. It must be part of the RIP as a previous poster has stated and I would feel that the benefits are immeasurable. Locking troops down in a camp and adding beer may not be the way ahead but it has shown some benefits at least for the local constabulary!

I agree that it needs to be handled carefully and perhaps we may see a better retention rate if the decompression from theatre was better thought out and for the love of all things holy. please do not subject us to any lefty, huggy crap.

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