One in five soldiers cannot be deployed


More than one in five of Britain's 67,400 frontline soldiers is either injured, medically unfit or filling a vital administrative or training role which excludes them from taking part in operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Ministry of Defence figures obtained by The Herald.

The 20.7% shortfall increases pressure on the 53,400 who are deployable on a rolling tempo of six-month combat tours which dictates that 7100 will be in Helmand and 4100 in Basra until further notice.

It also places further strain on the Territorial Army, itself 9000 soldiers short of full strength, which has sent 14,000 of its available 21,069 fully trained part-timers to plug gaps since 2003.

For every man or woman serving on the frontline, another has just returned and is recuperating and retraining while a third is preparing to go. The cycle means the basic requirement is for more than 33,000 fit soldiers at any given time, not counting the 1200 men in two reserve battalions on standby for emergencies in the Balkans and elsewhere.

As revealed by The Herald last week, more than 10% of the British infantry supposed to go to Iraq on the last deployment to Basra were unfit and could not be sent.

The four infantry battalions of the mechanised brigade based at Basra's airport complex, including the Royal Scots Borderers and the Scots Guards, had 250 of the 2200 soldiers they did have declared unfit to deploy, forcing the Army to fill gaps in their ranks from other regiments and reservists.
‘Our troops are needing more rest, more training and more time off’

The new figures are even worse than those presented earlier this month by Patrick Mercer, Tory MP and former infantry commander, who claimed up to 7000 front-line troops - one in 14 of the Army's overall numbers - were unavailable because of sickness or injury exacerbated by overstretch.

Colonel Bob Stewart, who commanded a battalion in Bosnia, said: "Our troops need more rest, more training and more time off between operational deployments. The bottom line is that there are just not enough of them for what they are being asked to do."

British forces have suffered more than 4000 casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the equivalent of one in 24 of all trained soldiers, since the start of the "war on terror" in 2001.

The MoD said: "Non-deployable personnel will include those who are medically unfit and those filling key roles in support of families of those service personnel who are not deployed.

"Additionally, there are elements of the Army that are deemed as being in non-deployable posts employed in essential roles often directly supporting operations within the training organisations, staff headquarters and the regional forces command structure."

Meanwhile, dozens of US troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice-President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog said.

A report said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhoea and other illnesses after using discoloured, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry.

The Pentagon's inspector general found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc, and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations. It said KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests".

KBR said its water treatment "has met or exceeded all applicable military and contract standards. KBR's commitment to the safety of all of its employees remains unwavering".

KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton Co, the oil services conglomerate that Cheney once led.


also in the Herald:
THE toll on Britain's soldiers fighting two simultaneous counter-insurgency wars on an increasingly threadbare peacetime budget has manifested itself yet again in the news that more than one in five of those deemed deployable for frontline service is unfit, injured or tied down by vital administrative duties. The tempo of operations in Afghanistan and then Iraq since 2001 has been relentless and the cracks are beginning to show. About 13,000 UK military personnel are involved in operations overseas at any given time, with the army bearing the overwhelming brunt of commitments. Upwards of 11,200 soldiers are in the war zones alone, with others helping keep the peace in Kosovo or engaged in training roles elsewhere. The 20.7% shortfall in trained troops available for operations is almost twice the attrition rate of a decade ago.

At the height of the Cold War, with an army almost twice the size of the current 100,000-strong force, a 5% injury and sickness level was the norm. Although the Ministry of Defence has consistently denied it, the armed forces are overstretched and becoming dangerously so. The swelling exodus of experienced men and women is another indicator that all is far from well. The MoD has recruited 180 foreign officers to plug gaps in middle-management ranks, but seems to be more interested in spin and toeing the political line than in admitting there is a problem. Underlying the physical attrition is the fact that only 67,000 soldiers are theoretically deployable in the first place - about two-thirds of those in uniform. When that pool is reduced to just over 53,000, the equation becomes part of the law of diminishing returns. For every soldier carrying a rifle in Helmand or on the perimeter of Basra airfield, another has just returned home and a third is preparing to go. The 13,000 troops on operations are thus the tip of a manning pyramid 39,000 soldiers deep. The more they are deployed, and the less time off they have between tours, the more likely they are to sustain injuries or fall sick. Worse, the more likely they are to succumb to family pressure brought on by repeated absences and opt to quit early.

The Territorial Army has provided a sticking-plaster solution. But with 14,000 of its part-time soldiers out of the operational calculus because they have already been mobilised for six-month stints in hot and sandy places and therefore cannot be called to the colours again for at least three years, that well is about to run dry. The fundamental problem is that there are too few soldiers to carry out the tasks demanded by a government that lacks any personal experience of war and is notoriously reluctant to fund defence properly or to admit its interventionist policies have placed the armed forces on a shoestring war-footing. UK forces have sustained 4000 casualties since 2001, including more than 250 dead and at least 630 wounded on the battlefield. Although the army is not yet broken by over-use and under-resourcing, the day when it will be is coming fast. The young men and women who have already shed their blood, and those facing back-to-back tours, deserve better.


Dog-faced-soldier said:
Slow news day?
For some reason The Herald seem to run a manning story once a month & usually about this time.
They seem to have good contacts at Kentigern House, perhaps one of the reporters drinks in a pub frequented by the staff :roll:
oldbaldy said:
They seem to have good contacts at Kentigern House, perhaps one of the reporters drinks in a pub frequented by the staff :roll:
The use of the phrase 'hot and sandy' might be telling... ;-)
Purple_Flash said:
oldbaldy said:
They seem to have good contacts at Kentigern House, perhaps one of the reporters drinks in a pub frequented by the staff :roll:
The use of the phrase 'hot and sandy' might be telling... ;-)
Yes, I thought so. They'll be using, 'Mong' and, 'Terry', next.
Makes you wish Old Jako had not given away those 4 Infantry Battalions until his reforms where implemented.
Mind you it would have upset Gerry and Martin.

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