The Territorial Army - What is the point ?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by greenspot, Jan 6, 2003.

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  1. Ok, first off, this is not an attempt at STAB-baiting, it is a genuine enquiry and an attempt to generate some serious debate; like the Future Army thread on the QM board.  And it may seem an odd question to ask in the week when, if the papers are to be believed, that the Government is going to call up 7,000 reserves, 1 in 6 of the TA - for Gulf War Two.  But it's not.  Because it doesn't take much working out that 7,000 likely to be specialist trades, int types and medics I suppose.  Given that GW2 is the biggest bit of conventional warfighting you can see UK Plc getting involved in this raises the obvious question of what that means for the other 5 out of every 6 TA ?  What about all those teeth arm types, the inf, arty and armour ?  If none of them are called-up in role this time, what does that say about whether they are really needed at all ? And whether the money could be better spent on some real soldiers who could conceivably be used once in a while ?  Interested in serious replies as this is about the future of a large chunk of the Army.

    And for any TA reading this, when the great call-up comes and you're not in it, apart from being secretly delighted, what are you going to do to stop yourself becoming a laughing stock infront of the family, friends and employers who, for years, you've been trying to persuade that all that time spent rushing about Salisbury Plain on a weekend was making a vital contribution to the UK's defence - when suddenly it becomes very obvious that it's all actually been a waste of time ?

    And while you're at it - how about a top ten of the most pointless-and-never-likely-to-be-mobilised TA units ?
     
  2. maninblack

    maninblack LE Book Reviewer

    One of the things about the TA is that it provides a pool of specialists at a relativlely low price. These specialists obviously get some of the "fun" aspects such as shooting,camping and cheap beer but in the current environment that is not the true point of the TA. This pool of well motivated people can provide skills that the regulars don't wish to carry on an "in case" basis.

    Obviously the TA cannot turn out an infantry battalion that will immediately rival The Green Howards or similar but at the same time the regulars cannot turn out two working field hospitals because the pay and conditions, over the time it takes to train medical specialists, have been so appaling that the staff all scarpered and went elsewhere.

    Let us hope that we don't end up with many people who have cause to thank the "green" NHS staff.
     
  3. Specialists aside, the traditional justification for a large pool of teeth arm TA is to support a prolonged war during which significant numbers of regulars get killed/maimed - ie act as battle casualty replacements until you can train new soldiers.  Without this pool the UK will not be able to support a war in which large numbers of soldiers get killed.  

    However, we have not had such a conflict since 1939-1945 (perhaps Korea, I'm open to persuasion) and so there is a tendency to think that as we have not used them for so long that they must not be needed.  There is another point of view that holds that we will not fight this sort of high casualty war in future (CNN factor and all that).  

    Personally I think that we've been lucky so far and that one day we'll come across some opposition that will require prolonged effort and a large butchers bill to overcome.  Or perhaps we need to be prepared to fight such a war so as to deter it (it worked for the Warsaw Pact/Soviet Union after all).  

    Possible future roles - already discussed but underfunded as yet - is homeland defence.  If (God forbid) bin Laden or his mates kill thousands of people in this country then a local, trained and easily deployable body of troops would be very useful.  

    Personally I would see the TA as an adjunct to a more civilian oriented force but that's veering off the point.  
     
  4. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    This one should start some discussion, all right ::)

    In the case of this 'conflict', it certainly won't be a case of being a laughing stock if you are not called up.  Most of the Regular Army won't be involved either, and while they may feel miffed, won't hang up their hats in protest.  The vast majority of the TA is there in case of a Large Scale/Very Large Scale bust-up, like Russia invading a NATO ally (such as a Baltic State, with a significant ethnic Russian population?  Likelihood of conflict there?)  That said, without going back to SDR, and the Mission of the TA, I am sure that, if we are needed for Iraq 2, it will mainly be because of deficiencies in the Regular Orbat - whether deliberate, or dur to undermanning.

    Apart from providing spec trades, which the Regular Army either cannot retain (many medics) or just plain does not want to keep too many of on the books during "peacetime" (such as locomotive engineers, many Medical professions, some Int Trades, etc), there are several other reasons for retaining the TA, including providing trained personnel for FTRS (which the Army relies on pretty heavily - look at Wilton for many, many examples) and of course my being able to run around and pretend I'm still a twenty-year old Section Commander at Brecon.  

    That said, the case for retaining formed Units of Inf is pretty slim, as SDR made plain.  Their role is very definitely as BCRs, and they all realise this.  As to Top Ten most pointless TA Units, I honestly don't think that there are any these days - if you exclude those for BCRs.  Even the 'real' Army is finally coming to the conclusion that Loggies are useful, and that we haven't got enough of them, and no one who has used their services will ever decry the likes of mobile shower and laundry units.

    So, when THE great call-up comes, it will be for "Russia resurgent", not "kick a third-world dictator out".  This isn't the great call-up, but a pretty teensy one.
    Still, I'm hopeful of getting a few months away from the desk ;D
     
  5. Is your top ten an attempt at STAB-baiting or an ingenious device for stimulating further discussion?  ;)
     
  6. Not baiting - aiming for discussion.  I have some of my own views (largely to do with readiness states and how they map against real world requirements) - but I'll keep them to myself for the moment.  Just curious as to whether anyone else had similar views.

    Old Snowy - I agree, let's not re-run the SDR, and in an open forum let's not go too far down the road of The Scenarios.  But, there is an important wider point here beyond the specific TA one - though it has an effect on the TA - of Army structure and whether it realistically reflects the 'wars' we are likely to fight.

    It is easy to pull the old "they all underestimated Hitler" card out again - but this debate goes beyond whether it is likely that we are ever going to get into a meat grinder mass casualty war again (answer - definitely not, because we're just not structured to fight that way any more, and would be mad to be so...the TA BCRs come to...what ?  A day on the Somme ?) - and veers towards question about the sahpe of the Army of the future and whether - beyond some sad gendarmerie that gets called out at floods - and a very few real specialists - there is any place for a TA in the shiny digitised (two tier ?) Army that is likely to arise over the next decade.  Given the current levels of resources and training, is it realistic still to expect TA units to make the grade in an increasingly complex profession ?  (My suspicion, by the way, is that a fair few people at Wilton have already decided that the answer is "No" for a number of TA units, and that this will have had an effect on their package shaping.)

    Just some things to chew on.

    But if anyone wants to get the top ten ball rolling with some inter-unit bashing and banter....feel free !    8)
     
  7. On Greenspot's original posting. You could axe large amounts of the TA that have no specilaist role and spend that money on Regulars.  The cost of maintaining a Regular soldier is that much greater than that of a TA one.  This means that the same amount of money will pay for far fewer regular soldiers.  This doesn't take into account levels of training and skills which (specialisms aside) will be higher for regulars.

    Which is better,  a larger number of less trained soldiers, or fewer soldiers with more training?
     
  8. IN GW1 THERE WAS A PLATOONS WORTH OF TA SOLDIERS DEPLOYED WITH THE FUSILIER BATTLEGROUP, AND I KNOW FROM EXPERIANCE THAT SINCE THEN QUITE A NUMBER FROM MY TAC HAVE DEPLOYED ON OPS. I AGREE THAT THE OFFICERS AND SNCOS ARE NOT UPTO THE STANDARD OF THE REGULARS (SOME EXCEPTIONS) THE STANDARD OF THE PTE/JNCO DIFFERS LITTLE.
    ASK THE REG UNIYS THAT ARE UNDERMANNED AND DEPLOYING ON OPS IF THEY WOULD WANT THE TA TO FILL IN OR WOULD THEY RATHER THEY JUMP OUT THE BACK OF A WARRIOR WITH ONLY THREE MEN.
     
  9. Greenspot - interesting post. I'd like to respond re a few of your points.

    'And for any TA reading this, when the great call-up comes and you're not in it, apart from being secretly delighted'

    Come on GS, you're not a mind reader.  :)  You've no idea how people will feel - some want to go, so don't, some aren't all that bothered (civy job & family life not too good, but not terrible). People who couldn't afford to do FTRS might see this as a good opportunity.

    'what are you going to do to stop yourself becoming a laughing stock infront of the family, friends and employers who, for years, you've been trying to persuade that all that time spent rushing about Salisbury Plain on a weekend was making a vital contribution to the UK's defence - when suddenly it becomes very obvious that it's all actually been a waste of time ?'

    If somebody has been making making pompous, self important statements like that, they probably deserve to be laughed at. But most STABs I know don't go on like that.  Most work colleagues aren't that interested in TA stories, so most of us talk about different topics. BTW, if your thread isn't an attempt at STAB baiting, the above para could have been phrased quite differently, w/out losing the point. But you already know that, don't you?

    'And while you're at it - how about a top ten of the most pointless-and-never-likely-to-be-mobilised TA units ?'

    Glad to see that no one has responded to this.

    'Not baiting - aiming for discussion.  I have some of my own views (largely to do with readiness states and how they map against real world requirements) - but I'll keep them to myself for the moment.  Just curious as to whether anyone else had similar views.'

    Ha! Come on GS, it's very bad form to keep your own views quiet, but expect others to air theirs.   :)

    'any place for a TA in the shiny digitised (two tier ?) Army that is likely to arise over the next decade.  Given the current levels of resources and training, is it realistic still to expect TA units to make the grade in an increasingly complex profession ?'

    Fair question, without a hint of TA baiting. See, you can do it if you want to!  :)  
     
    'But if anyone wants to get the top ten ball rolling with some inter-unit bashing and banter....feel free ! '

    Thanks for repeating the offer, but I hope we continue to decline.  

    One more point GS. Let's have a bit about your background ( are you a regular? don't want to take anything for granted), so we know where you're coming from. If you've had bad experiences with the TA, tell us. We can take honest criticism, and most of us are always happy to hear anything constructive, even if it is pointing out areas that need improvement.

    Cheers,

    Pork Pie
     
  10. Being employed as formed units may be unlikely, but then being trained as formed units makes sense.

    BCRs, unless I remember incorrectly, turn up in job lots - 1x2Lt, 1xSgt, 3xCpl, etc, etc..... So, how else do you generate your section commanders / section 2ics? Or all those War Establishment liaison officers / watchkeepers ?

    Seems that the TA Inf Bns earn their keep as BCR training organisations, with a secondary Home Defence role.....
     
  11. Ventress

    Ventress LE Moderator

    The TA point is - if we didn't have a TA  Army Medical Services, as pointed out, the Army can't put out 2 field hospitals, 100-200 bed size, about 4 operating tables. Which is why the hospitals exist!

    I know from GW1, several TA medics resigned prior to it just in case. It is the case now, as they are doing it as we speak! But dont lable the TA as pointless. Like the post said "You would rather jump out of a Warrior with more than 3 toms!"- you won't mind where they come from when the LZ is hot! Or what ever the yanks say!
     
  12. Pork Pie -

    Forgive me if I fail to answer some of your numerous (and well founded) points.  And if those that I do, I do in no particular order.

    Ok - fair cop.  I was being inflammatory - in an (ill judged ?) attempt to get some sort of reaction/get a proper debate going.  Perhaps I underestimate the average quality of contributors here (though judging from some of the most active threads - I wonder !)

    I've had both good and bad experiences; as I'm sure we all have.  But the bad ones were all the more shocking for showing up a system that seems unable or unwilling to weed out dead wood - dead wood that is soaking up resources that could better be used elsewhere (possibly elsewhere in the TA...)  Often it's not their fault - it is a symptom of the Army trying to do things on the cheap.  But what disturbs me is that much of what the Army is trying to do on the cheap with the TA might not need to be done at all.

    Laughing stock - maybe not.  But if you're not a vital component of the UK's defence, then why exist AT ALL ? And there is a serious point here;  I imagine that employers (and maybe families) probably don't have a very sophisticated understanding of the military.  So is any thought being given to handling the P Info side for the large portion of reservists who are not going, to deal with the inevitable questions from employers the next time they ask for time off to do training that will be along the lines of "Well....they didn't need you for the Gulf War, so you can't be very important, so - no, you can't have time off."

    My point is that the employers might have a point.  Consider the likely roles and missions of the Army.  Why are we sending who/what we're sending to the Gulf ?  Because it is just about the most we CAN send.  Even if we wanted to, we couldn't deploy at above Div level.  Our contributions to Corps are basically political in character...nobody seriously believes that we will ever deploy at Corps strength...not least because we cannot.  So why bother having, for example, reservist units that only exist to support Corps level warfighting ?  

    I am sure there are other examples...? (Hence my red rag to a bull invitation to nominate pointless units...)

    And does anyone have a view on how the TA will/could/should fit into the army of the future.

    As to my background.....a major point in favour of this board is anonymity...but my Sig should give some clues.
     
  13. msr

    msr LE

    Greenspot,

    "I may be wrong - but I suspect that some bits of the TA have been given roles for which they will never be fit.  Is that a good use of resources....resources that could be redeployed to units that do make sense...."

    I was under the impression that the the Regular Army/MOD defines the roles (and manning and training objectives etc) for the TA...

    msr
     
  14. msr  (interesting monika) -
    - yes they do. But it would be naive to assume that they have necessarily got it right, or that their decisions are necessarily based on the correct assumptions.  These are the organisations that bought Nimrod AEW, accepted CATT, chose SA80, the Poxy Fox, privatised the MQ estate, have pressed ahead so effectively on IFF, are doing so well on Bowman and found the Mull of Kintyre CH47 pilots guilty of negligence.......
     
  15. but my Sig should give some clues.

    You're a journalist? "Out dammned spot"....