Time to ditch camp?

#1
Wingletang said:
Well, now where are we? - whinging on about numbers at a Camp for a Regiment that has been reduced to two Sabre Sns, and has to cope with trade courses, driver courses, technical challenges, mobilisation, and a plethora of other events that dilute any attempt at achieving a critical mass for an Annual Exercise. I see that 12 Group have also been dragged into the same mire - get real guys, this is the future ('a sign of the times' even). Annual Camps were for a TA that existed in an earlier life - not this life. The mistake is to still have them, not that people don't turn up in their droves.
Given that we are nmow to be jack of all trades and master of none, is it time to ditch annual camp?

msr
 
#2
How do you achieve proper unit bonding without it... it certainly won't be achieved with 12 days out of camp training. Nor will it's end bring better retention.

Think long and hard before you despatch it (at your peril) to history.
 
#3
My unit has a camp ever 3 years. In between everyone is expected to go on Special to arm courses or attachments to Regular Regts. What that means is that the Regt has no sense of identity, commanders at all levels from CO to LCpl don't get the chance to command (for more than a w/e) and it all leads to a greater sense that we are all just individual reinforcements. Other threads have looked at the damage that this is doing to the TA and the individuals it contains.

I haven't met many people who join any voluntary organisation, of which the TA is just one, who aren't looking for a 'club' or sense of common purpose. Very few are happy soldiering if it’s not with their friends and people of similar vein and it is this which is the basis of the Regimental system. By not having annual camp each year, you are limiting individuals to learning the practicalities of their role, but not giving anyone the experience to practice it in a real time manner.

Just looking at JOs; No one expects them to know really what they are doing when they come out of RMAS until they have been out doing the job, making the mistakes and listening to their NCOs advice. Annual camp (or deployment) gives them this experience. To do away with the practical aspect of soldiering will make us all less deployable and therefore less valuable to the regular army and could we see the death of the TA as we know it.

Organising an annual camp is a difficult job, if it is done well. All levels need to be employed fully and throughout the 2 weeks and should never appear to be anything less that well organised. All too often it is idle planning, poor thought and a lack of understanding that leads to a bad camp. Of course, all you need is one bad camp and then numbers start to fall for the next year and then the next. The regular element needs to understand the crucial role they play and that a posting to the TA is not 2 years off (as pointed out by msr's previous posts).

It is all too easy to train for this war (Iraq, Afghanistan) and not the next (Iran, France?). If we all go down the easier route that the RAC have, which I believe is a massive mistake, we will be found wanting.

If officers and NCOs are going to lead, they need 2 weeks a year in which to do it and not just learn how to do it on numerous courses from power point presentations.
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
#4
Lose camp at your peril.

The Bn camp this year is a battle camp, all based around field firing. Considering that the transition to field firing stages will take 3 or 4 days to achieve, how would you propose that TA soldiers progress to field firing over weekends?

So Pte Bloggs, camp this year is 4 days of static ranges followed by a week of field firing, building up to Pl attacks by day and night, with Sp Wpns. Finished off with 3 glorious days in Arnhem for the commemorations (plus parachuting and drinking). Lots of what you joined to do, plus opportunities to get on the lash with your mates.

Or,

Pte Bloggs, here is the courses book. Pick one (but as a Pte your choices are very limited) and I will bid for you. No guarantee that your bid will be successful, and you will probably spend 2 weeks of your annual leave with a load of stranges that you are unlikley to see again.

Two weeks continuous training is at the heart of the TA, and should always remain the default setting, altered only for essential courses.
 
#5
I look at camp as the one time you can put every think you have learnt over the year all into one, and spend two weeks feeling like you are part of the British army. Not to mention the urine ups with the lads and the bonding. I have been lucky the past couple of years that i have been able to do camp aswell as two week courses, but if the camp goes so do I.
 
#6
I think camp is more important now that we are "jack of all trades". It allows the CofC to test the sustainability of the unit in any given operation/scenario over a prelonger period.

Lets face it, what we can acheive in a weekend ie over 2-3 days is very different to what we can acheive in 7-10 days. I'm talking about things such as, but not limited to, lack of manpower, leading to lack of sleep etc.

This is not testable in a weekend exercise in anywhere near the same manner as is possible in a 2 week exercise.

I also agree with the 'social' aspect of it. It is very important (IMHO) to maintain links with other members of the Regt at least once a year.
 
#7
Isn't the question dependent on what your camps like? I know my last regiment my troops were desperately trying to find alternate courses, as they expected it to be dire (and they believe it was).

Two weeks field firing sounds like an excellent way to train and retain, as would two weeks in the field.

Perhaps it's dependent on your headshed?

I do wonder, especially given the size of a Battalion these days (about the same number of bayonets as a WW1 era Rifle Company) if it wouldn't be better to have Brigade Camps?
 
#10
Sapukay said:
Isn't the question dependent on what your camps like?
Not really, I prefer (in order):

Courses
2 week exercises
overseas camps
UK camp

I think that roughly goes in achievement & enjoyment order. Camps when they are just a collection of weekends don't generate much personal sense of achievement. Long exercises where you know you've/we've achieved a great deal are excellent, e.g. the det that works without orders, the section that gets its drills correct every time, the regt that is working without fault etc.

I read once where a TA officer in the local rag said, first week is where we iron out drills, the 2nd we just have fun and work as a well drilled machine. So true.
 
#11
Sapukay said:
Isn't the question dependent on what your camps like? I know my last regiment my troops were desperately trying to find alternate courses, as they expected it to be dire (and they believe it was).

Two weeks field firing sounds like an excellent way to train and retain, as would two weeks in the field.

Perhaps it's dependent on your headshed?

I do wonder, especially given the size of a Battalion these days (about the same number of bayonets as a WW1 era Rifle Company) if it wouldn't be better to have Brigade Camps?
Before wishing for Brigade camps (or Capbadge camps) for anything other than courses camps, I would suggest that the F*** factor would be exponential, with an awful lot of management wanting to play witha very small trainset.

Nip the problem in the bud and ensure Regt or Bn HQ lay on good camps. When they're not...let it be known. (In the nicest possible way of course :) )

Camps should build upon each other.... and the first things that should happen is someone pulls the PXR file from the previous year....reads and digests it.
 
#12
Mr_Bridger said:
Sapukay said:
Isn't the question dependent on what your camps like? I know my last regiment my troops were desperately trying to find alternate courses, as they expected it to be dire (and they believe it was).

Two weeks field firing sounds like an excellent way to train and retain, as would two weeks in the field.

Perhaps it's dependent on your headshed?

I do wonder, especially given the size of a Battalion these days (about the same number of bayonets as a WW1 era Rifle Company) if it wouldn't be better to have Brigade Camps?
Before wishing for Brigade camps (or Capbadge camps) for anything other than courses camps, I would suggest that the F*** factor would be exponential, with an awful lot of management wanting to play witha very small trainset.

Nip the problem in the bud and ensure Regt or Bn HQ lay on good camps. When they're not...let it be known. (In the nicest possible way of course :) )

Camps should build upon each other.... and the first things that should happen is someone pulls the PXR file from the previous year....reads and digests it.
Ah - the wonderful simplicity of it all.

The TA has changed.

Forever.

Get used to it.

A 'camp' is an anathema to the modern mobilisation culture. The regular Army want IRs, not formed units (however 'bonded' they may be) and if we are to be able to deliver competent, well trained, fit, enthusiastic and available individuals, somethings got to give (unless they are all prepared to do 50 days+).

More and more courses and functions are now centralised (RTCs, OAR etc) and this is only the beginning. Kit will be cadre'ised, WFM will remove any flexibility and the ongoing cuts in funding will remove 'exciting' opportunities.

Two weeks away? - I've got better things to do. How long before Bounty is predicated on MATT, Trade, Rank, Operational tour (or the availability to be mobilised - FFM) etc?

Oh, and by the way, we've sold off most of the training estate and can't afford to maintain that which we've got left. More and more units are returning to UK putting even more pressure on Trg Area availability long term.

The future is e.learning, cadre's, op tours, centralised trg, regular and TA unit pairing and high turnover.

Sorry.
 
#13
Wingletang said:
Oh, and by the way, we've sold off most of the training estate and can't afford to maintain that which we've got left. More and more units are returning to UK putting even more pressure on Trg Area availability long term.

The future is e.learning, cadre's, op tours, centralised trg, regular and TA unit pairing and high turnover.

Sorry.
Who needs a training estate when we have so many sunny foreign places to play? We have now entered a state of continual war and as such there are fantastic opportunities to learn on the job.

Depressing, isn't it.
 
#14
[quote="WingletangOh, and by the way, we've sold off most of the training estate .[/quote]

Have we ? Last time I looked we had actually increased the area available through leasing shedloads more Forestry, taking on Kirkudbright and Cape Wrath etc etc. RAF Tain adds another 3000 acres of potential live-fire trg area - ( Imagine Barry Butlins without the buildings or fixed ranges...)

We got shot of what - Leek and Macrahanish ? Tregantle and Cultybraggan are both mothballed. ( Shame about Culty - anyone for a management buy-out - rent it to Bad Lads Army ?) Tigh-na-Blair is still being leased but has not been used for over a year.

We still have Camps with enough beds to accommodate 1/4 of the Army at any one time. The bean-counters are indeed looking at the training estate, the suburban masses of SE England need more housing with associated "recreational land" while not liking the noise of exercises and shooting - and we have Surrey Commons, Barrossa, Hankley Common, Ash and Pirbright etc all begging to be built on . Its up to us to make best use of it. Get out of the classrooms, get crawling through the undergrowth, get shooting - its what the recruits joined for anyway !!
 
#15
Trossachs said:
Tigh-na-Blair is still being leased but has not been used for over a year.
:) Unfair. You can't use it half the year anyway, because you'll scare the sheep (more than the locals) or disturb the grouse shooting.... and of course, it's so easy to get a vehicle on to the area through the farmyard :)

...although a good friend did unnerve the sh*t out of his PSI when he took the SF Platoon up there for a live shoot.
 
#16
Wingletang said:
Mr_Bridger said:
Sapukay said:
Isn't the question dependent on what your camps like? I know my last regiment my troops were desperately trying to find alternate courses, as they expected it to be dire (and they believe it was).

Two weeks field firing sounds like an excellent way to train and retain, as would two weeks in the field.

Perhaps it's dependent on your headshed?

I do wonder, especially given the size of a Battalion these days (about the same number of bayonets as a WW1 era Rifle Company) if it wouldn't be better to have Brigade Camps?
Before wishing for Brigade camps (or Capbadge camps) for anything other than courses camps, I would suggest that the F*** factor would be exponential, with an awful lot of management wanting to play witha very small trainset.

Nip the problem in the bud and ensure Regt or Bn HQ lay on good camps. When they're not...let it be known. (In the nicest possible way of course :) )

Camps should build upon each other.... and the first things that should happen is someone pulls the PXR file from the previous year....reads and digests it.
Ah - the wonderful simplicity of it all.

The TA has changed.

Forever.

Get used to it.

A 'camp' is an anathema to the modern mobilisation culture. The regular Army want IRs, not formed units (however 'bonded' they may be) and if we are to be able to deliver competent, well trained, fit, enthusiastic and available individuals, somethings got to give (unless they are all prepared to do 50 days+).

More and more courses and functions are now centralised (RTCs, OAR etc) and this is only the beginning. Kit will be cadre'ised, WFM will remove any flexibility and the ongoing cuts in funding will remove 'exciting' opportunities.

Two weeks away? - I've got better things to do. How long before Bounty is predicated on MATT, Trade, Rank, Operational tour (or the availability to be mobilised - FFM) etc?

Oh, and by the way, we've sold off most of the training estate and can't afford to maintain that which we've got left. More and more units are returning to UK putting even more pressure on Trg Area availability long term.

The future is e.learning, cadre's, op tours, centralised trg, regular and TA unit pairing and high turnover.

Sorry.
Hmmm... an interesting theory, and whilst I agree that our training estates are no where near where they should or will be in the short and near term, I fundamentally disagree with the majority of your post.... IMHO.

I Agree that the TA has since Telic, changed and for the better...training estates can be worked around given good planning and imagination. For example the majority of the ranges in the UK are used only 50-75% of the time....

27 days may be the minimum requirement. This is wholly unrealistic, it equates to a 15 day camp of course (a realistic achievement) and 12 days out of camp training...which is wholly unreaslitic if you want anything more than a MATT trained soldier. 12 days equates to every wednesday night or and no weekends, or 5 to 6 weekends of training and no wednesay nights.

50 days would be around the minimum I expect from my guys. How is an RTC going to administer all these IR's ?

A) without the admin umbrella ?
B) capbadge expertise and career management ?
C) political will from the mainstream army ?

How even will it achieve this when the RTCs cannot fill the posts that they are currently advertising? All manner of carrots from "surefire promotion", "it's changing to a command earning slot" etc etc to generate grass roots interest...

e.learning is cloud cuckoo land. At least with the current level of expertise, understanding and most importantly funding.

as anyone who has undergone, mentored on or been involved with MK1 and MK2 for example. It's been shambolic and continues to be so. Even some Regular army training establishments do not have the correct software, access rights etc etc to load the packages on.

Add to this the rolling shambles that is the DII rollout with it's ever increasing timescales, let alone when the TA might recieve it in part or full.

Add to this the training of the mentors to explain that which can't be covered with an FAQ.

Add to the fact that not every soldier will have private access to IT equipment, let alone broadband access required on a number of these packages.

Add to that the cost and time associated with the private study, and it soon becomes clear that whilst elearning may have it's place...it is still a place, not some glorious panacea that will solve all ills.

And my last and final point is that (for my capbadge at least), given the new ethos of "Train to Test" and the modular points system associated with it it would take on average 8 years...I'll say that again 8 years to get some one to Class 1 level. Is this really going to reduce skill fade???

So yes... the army will get it's IRs...and they'll be at the Pte - Cpl level. But whose going to mentor and train these guys? where are they all going to come from? what about the ever expanding gap between those who were in green kit before the modular system came in and those in after?

"The future is e.learning, cadre's, op tours, centralised trg, regular and TA unit pairing and high turnover."


We cannot sustain in either the TA or the Regular army the current levels of turnover. We have some Regular units that are experiencing up to 50% sign off rates. How in the hell is a reserve army of the size we have going to fill these kinds of voids with our levels of commitment?

TA pairings under FAS are a nice thing. But what on the ground will they actually deliver? Within a 2-3 year cycle I would imaging the vast majority of any unit management will have cycled through and out, certainly in the various corps. Regular Soldiers work week days, TA lads do weekends... and whilst there are exceptions to every rule...pretty much never the twain shall meet.
 
#17
Annual camps, good or bad ? Depends really.

A camp that is properly planned, properly recruited and executed with passion and flair will deliver excellent training and retain soldiers for years. Just listen to soldiers in the bar, "do you remember when we .... 'king brilliant !". If you can provide camps that elicit that response you're laughing. And the plans The_Duke outlines below are a good example of this sort of thing, - good luck with the execution.

However ... if camp is something that is done "because we always have a camp", that features a mish-mash of activities done because they can be rather than to meet specific training goals - ie lots of AT with no real aim other than to kill time, that contains very little relevant to the capbadge attending, that has G4 arranged round the fat drunken God-bothering QM (align laundry timings with the field phase ? Certainly not !), that features a token field phase, that leaves leaves soldiers saying "we had some laughs ... but what did we achieve again ?", that rejects input from juniors off op tours in favour of some old geezer wittering on about 3 Shock Army ... then soldiers will do anything not to attend and do something interesting instead.

To any COs reading, here's a clue (and I couldn't possibly have any particular unit in mind). If you have to mandate attendance every three years it's because Camp is sh!te. Run a good one and soldiers will flock to attend, go through the motions and you'll need to drag them in.
 
#18
Ahem Mr Bridger!

- whilst you say that you disagree, you then confirm some of my worse fears about pairing, admin, capacity etc - I was being mildly tongue in cheek as I don't believe that the modern TA is realistic within the financial and organisational structure we have - you seem to agree.

My point is that camps don't really fit the plot these days - in the tone and mentality of the modern TA.

There are other ways of achieving the aim. I concur with OOTS in that a 'good'camp will be self fulfilling. A bad camp is just retention negative. However, we could default to 9 day camps (possible within TA Regs) or be more creative about how we achieve basic standards for the units. If the RTCs do not deliver, we'll all be back where we started anyway.
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
#19
One_of_the_strange said:
And the plans The_Duke outlines below are a good example of this sort of thing, - good luck with the execution.
Thanks. They are halfway through it now, and well into the field firing (sorry, Live Firing Tactical Training) phase. Feedback is good so far.

Unfortunately, I have had to miss out in order to do a course!

Edited to add - for those who propose e-learning, centralised training etc, my comment is Arrse! There are far too many TA soldiers who have "all the gear, no idea" or even worse "all the ideas, no experience".

Changing training into a pure sausage factory for deployments, geared solely towards ticking the required boxes will be counter productive. The soldiers will have attended the mandatory training in a pure training environment. Without the confirmation of this training by exercise in demanding conditions, it will not achieve it's full value. You will manage the EDI but not the P part of the practical training cycle.

Teach, then practice, then deploy. Part of that practice includes all ranks doing their command appointment bit, which cannot be fully taught on a course.

Duke
 
#20
Wingletang said:
Ahem Mr Bridger!

- whilst you say that you disagree, you then confirm some of my worse fears about pairing, admin, capacity etc - I was being mildly tongue in cheek as I don't believe that the modern TA is realistic within the financial and organisational structure we have - you seem to agree.

My point is that camps don't really fit the plot these days - in the tone and mentality of the modern TA.

There are other ways of achieving the aim. I concur with OOTS in that a 'good'camp will be self fulfilling. A bad camp is just retention negative. However, we could default to 9 day camps (possible within TA Regs) or be more creative about how we achieve basic standards for the units. If the RTCs do not deliver, we'll all be back where we started anyway.
Wingletang said:
Ahem Mr Bridger!

- whilst you say that you disagree, you then confirm some of my worse fears about pairing, admin, capacity etc - I was being mildly tongue in cheek as I don't believe that the modern TA is realistic within the financial and organisational structure we have - you seem to agree.

My point is that camps don't really fit the plot these days - in the tone and mentality of the modern TA.

There are other ways of achieving the aim. I concur with OOTS in that a 'good'camp will be self fulfilling. A bad camp is just retention negative. However, we could default to 9 day camps (possible within TA Regs) or be more creative about how we achieve basic standards for the units. If the RTCs do not deliver, we'll all be back where we started anyway.
My apologies if I missed out on your humour :) I will state for the record however that I disagree that the TA is "unrealistic with the current funding and organisational structure". Whilst money can always be thrown at problems, I would point to the NHS as a shining example of how not to do it. The simple answer is that the books for UK Plc don't balance. Hence why there are cuts across the services and all govt depts.

However you have yet to prove to me what benefit a 9 day camp will have over an 14 day one? Why do camps not fit the plot? What is the tone and mentality of the modern TA?

Much can be covered off in a fortnight trainings, but it needs to be well planned, well executed and delivered by good people. and in this respect the Regular Army faces many of the same challenges as the TA, the difference being the regular army HAS to turn up for training.

Bad camps I would submit (and i'm sure all units experience them from time to time) are on the whole not caused by lack of money, or trg estates they are caused by half arsed planning, poor admin, or meddling by the ill advised or worse still by those who wish to further their career/CR/Ojar at others expense.

Attendance and quality training are cyclical beasts which should go hand in hand.

I would suggest that the simple solution is to ensure that the reserves of all forces continue to receive the very best individuals from their Regular Counterparts. Some units are more fortunate in this respect than others, however the resposibility rests with the company/sqn commanders and ultimately the unit CO for ensuring that standards are met and maintained.

IMHO
 
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