Sign of the Times

Discussion in 'Army Reserve' started by Wingletang, Feb 14, 2006.

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  1. Having mused over the content of the TA Competitions Thread and glanced through the banter/competition regarding who were the first TA unit mobilised since Suez etc etc, I find myself drifting off into thoughts of how it used to be....Courage Trophy where TA units across London competed for fun and glory but in an atmostphere of half serious endeavour - if you won that was great but the point was to take part. TA units varied so much in training and ability (dependent on Corps, size and role) that the winners only ever came from a small group and the rest made up the numbers. These were happy days - turn up, meet some mates, compete with vigour and in good spirit, safe in the knowledge that unless you were in the Paras - who did this stuff for fun (?!) - then it was just a good and challenging weekend.

    Fond memories but ones that now seem improbable - yet it happened.

    MATT, DETAPOs, OAR, CMS, Officers Training proposals, increasing mobilisation, and rebalancing tendrils everywhere etc - we're becoming sanitised numbers - units of resource, trained across the board to a single standard with the Regulars in control.

    Is it a sign of the times....?
  2. The other word for it is professionalism.
  3. 307

    307 War Hero

    Roger, the TA isn't cadets for grown ups with beer and automatic weapons. It is now a serious and regularly called on reserve force and it's members must accept this. Simple.
  4. msr

    msr LE


    Wingletang has a point. The key element of fun seems to slowly slipping below the waves.

    The TA is becoming a conveyor belt, it has nothing to do with professionalism nor being the cadets for grownups, and all to do with just throwing blokes into the gaping maw of the regular army, while they in turn, turn the TA into regular army lite.

  5. 307

    307 War Hero

    I only have experience of the 'modern' TA but this fact was explained to me very clearly, that we are the reserve of choice for the army, expect to be sent on ops. There were no walls put up, I was told this very plainly and simply.
  6. msr

    msr LE

    And once you have committed your reserve? Then what?

    That's why it is becoming a conveyor belt, in order to sustain the rate of mobilisation.

  7. i agree with what is being said that the TA is now regularly called up and has to be 'combat ready' to a certain degree and the older members of my unit agree that the emphasis has changed but that doesnt need to mean that the social side of things has to be lost.

    My unit recently had a great night with meal, disco and we had an almost full compliment turn out for it - all willing to dig into their own pockets to help with the cost. I feel that as long as you are willing to put a bit of work in then you can have both sides of the coin.
  8. OK, my original post was a little tongue in cheek.

    The modern TA has to be a compromise.

    On the one hand it must be able to, and probably will operate with the regular army. Therefore drills and skills must be good enough that the regulars accept them and casulaties are contained. Like it or loathe it, the army generally has a reason for doing things the way it does.

    On the other, the system cannot forget that the TA are both volunteers and can and will leave once their motivation to serve has expired.

    Anyone who hasn't seen it should read HarrySmith's advice for a new PSI especially points 1 and 2.
  9. I suppose that is my point PassingBells.

    MSR summed it up nicely - things have changed and 307's response is interesting in that the new TA is all that he has known.

    This is perhaps, albeit not overtly obvious, an area for Abacus. Maybe it's time to have a complete re-think about the reasons why people now join the TA and consequently, why they would stay. I believe that the incentives and drivers now are quite different to what they were 10 or even 5 years ago. It is no longer an alternative to the golf club - it is a much more serious business where going on "operations" is an inclusive element of being a member. Inevitably, this has an impact on the type and quantity of individuals who will be attracted to the organisation and by definition, weed out those that cannot commit. In time, the whole 'tone' of the TA will irrevocably alter and being in just for fun or doing something different won't be part of the deal. Retention, if focused on the real reasons for joining, might be more succesful - maybe more mobilisation not less for example?

    Yes, of course you can have a booze-up every now and then but it's for a more narrow group of people - gone are the days of the "broad church of the TA"
  10. msr

    msr LE

    Perhaps it is time to look at a Territorial Army - the 'Reserve of First Choice' and a Volunteer Reserve, which would include ex-regulars and be the 'reserve of final choice', with a lower commitment and able to pick up those who for whatever reason (work, family etc) have to put in fewer days.

    I would suggest a 1 week camp and 6 weekends throughout the year.

  11. I must admit to a great deal of unease about the way things are going. Statements about greater professionalism, reserve of choice and so on are fine but ignore the reality that the TA isn't our main job. Demanding identical standards to the regs working weekends only isn't realistic. Now we can easily train up to those standards if the OPTAG package is up to scratch, and get up to speed in certain specialised areas so we can slot right in - but general generic equivalence in all areas without some form of beat-up training isn't going to happen. Or more accurately, isn't going to happen if you have a family and job that demand your time as well. And those that can spare the time tend to go regular anyway. And if they don't they'll regret it when they realise they get all the dangers of regular tours with no pension.

    Bluntly, if you want an organisation to undertake regular peacetime op tours it's called the Regular Army. The TA is viable only for use as, well, a reserve when things start getting sporty. That's not to say that the TA shouldn't be able to volunteer as and when if they can, but that planning should not rely on them as we do now.

    The other alternative is to turn the TA into a proper career - with benefits, pensions, proper employment protection and so on. But then it's not so cheap any more and good luck trying to find an employer to take you on in a civvy job.

    But the real argument comes not from any canteen commando discussion about standards and tours, it comes from the recruitment and retention figures. And they are dire. I listened to some quality moaning from our training bods recently about the amount of duffers getting through selection weekends - I might have dismissed it as the usual "in my day we had it hard" banter had not the quantatitive success ratio taken such a leap relative to what it used to be. Mind you, we can chop them all during the training phase apparently as the statistic we're gaming is how many we attest. Then we can keep them on the books for a while - normal administrative delays honest guv (wink wink) and the figures look good. Meanwhile the turnout on sub-unit training continues to fall - although not the number of bodies on the books, funny that.

    Trouble is, cures for the ills that beset us are not deliverable at unit level, or even within the Army.
  12. Cull them, mines just done that and looking at the ORBAT its a serious kick up the ass. Yes we have a serious problem but all the officers and seniors want to work together to fix it. Most of the incoming changes aren't that bad, recruit training fixed, PT only slightly changed (except for the number of new gym queen courses) and CLM ...... not sure on that one, we have a problem with soldiers of the low standard (BS Entry Level 2 + 3), we get the problems that causes ..... how do you fix that in the TA?

    What about needing GCSE Grades A-C/NVQ Level 2 to be promoted to Sgt?
  13. Civilian qualifications a precursor to military promotion? - now there's an idea!. Sounds a lot better than the Sabre drivel of "being on operations will make Johnny a better employee (when he gets back)".

    The point is that with all of the new challenges and requirements, I would suggest that it is almost impossible to be an "effective" soldier in achieving the new standards within the 35-38 days mandated Man Training Days. The point above about if you want us on call, then make it a proper career is well made - this is the point.

    When we were part time and "on the cheap" the expectations were relatively low - on both sides. That has changed. The expectations are relatively high now on both sides - and there's no such thing as a free lunch (take note Gordon Brown) so unless the benefits change (moral and monetary), the future TA will be defined by being made up of those that can and want to and don't mind the poor employee protection and iniquitous pay - and there won't be that many (15,000?).
  14. Wingletang makes a good point here regarding expectations on both sides, previous to TELIC, standards were not questioned in the way they now have to be.

    I believe the other driver that will make the most impact, is the attitude of the great British employer. One of the "numbers" that I am sure many would like to know is just how much does mobilisation cost the employers of TA / Reservist personnel who are mobilised.

    RFA 96 has been proven to be possibly the worst kind of legislation in this respect. Ineffective and unenforceable. When RFA 96 was being "sold" to the TA, many of us attended workshops and briefings relating to the new legislation. One of the key statements made at the briefings I attended, was that the introduction of RFA 96 would also bring direct commercial advantages to organisations employing TA / Reservist personnel. It was stated that employers of reservist pers, would have the opportunity to apply for HMG contracts, which would not be available to employers who didn't employ reservists. Many of my group questioned how this could possibly work, and drove the point home, that for UK PLC to support reservists, that HMG Treasury, must offer employer tax breaks. In this way, there would be a peacetime dividend for the employer. Along with financial redress to employers, if their' staff were mobilised on operations. Looking back, these briefings and workshops were little more than a toe-dipping exercise on the part of HMG to gauge reaction to likely mobilisations.

    The UK employer is now being expected to be more tolerant than ever before to the likelihood that his employee will be mobilised on operations. Whatever our military perceptions of what's going on the world today, the fact remains that the vast majority of the general public and therefore UK employers, are fairly ignorant of just how close to the wire we currently are operationally. Of course, as long as elements of our media choose to put so much emphasis on the negative aspects of operations, it is fairly obvious that general public's view of our world is such as it is.

    So for those of us, with feet on both sides, we find ourselves quite often having to justify to our employers why we volunteered in the first place, and secondly attempting with the poorest resourcing of military reserves at any time in British history.

    The impact of an employee being mobilised to a commercial employer can in some organisations, be the difference between P & L for the organisation. But, even where the reservist's absence has not resulted in overall loss, my estimation is that in the majority of cases, UK businesses suffer financially as a result. Yes, the employer can appeal. But where does that leave the employee (soldier) who now feels that he is letting his unit down?

    Sabre doesn't like to comment on these areas, but instead cites any number of employers' who employ TA pers and "benefit" from their operational tours. It was interesting when my employer pushed the issue, as they named organisations like BAE and other indirect government employers, who said that employing reservists was “great for them”. Yes. I can see the appeal to defence contractors to employ people with military knowledge. - Most UK companies are not "underwritten" in the same way, so the commercial impact is very real. One of the other "plus" points that Sabre like to quote to employers is in respect of the "Re-training" allowance for mobilisees. Up to £2,000 - what they omit to tell you is that the employer has to write out a cheque for £55 to APC Glasgow for the paperwork to be processed. Employers love this, more admin! But, more seriously, they are astonished to pay to get an allowance.

    Given the overall questioning of the need for this war in our wider society, those of us in the military, should not be surprised that many employers now view the employment of TA / Reservist personnel with some trepidation, if at all. Of course, you can’t state to a prospective employee, that you are not going to offer them a job, because they are a member of the TA or on the Reserves list – RFA 96, protects employees from this! There again, ask anyone who works in HR, and they will tell you any number of ways to differentiate candidates.

    So, the hit taken by many employers, will impact on recruiting for years to come, as many employers, are becoming openly hostile to employee involvement with the reserves. And for those of you currently in full-time service, good luck on the transition to the other side, and good luck in those interviews, let’s hope that the interviews you aren’t successful in aren’t a result of your time in DPM.
  15. Are you sure of this, AB2006?

    I've had an argument about this on another thread, and came away believing that you had protection to help you losing your job when mobilised (on paper if nothing else) and not much else.