Why join?

Discussion in 'Army Reserve' started by BreakerMorant, Oct 7, 2005.

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  1. This was rather good I thought, from today's FT.

    In the line of fire
    By Sathnam Sanghera
    Published: October 6 2005 19:01 | Last updated: October 6 2005 19:01

    I have long been fascinated by those army recruitment adverts in which the Ministry of Defence suggests the military exists purely to bestow engineering skills upon school leavers, with no mention at all of the possibility of being killed or being force-marched 20 miles in the rain with a 30lb rucksack on your back.

    So when I was called by an organisation called SaBRE (Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers) and invited to spend a day with a battalion of the Territorial Army, in order to discover the benefits of becoming a reservist, I leapt at the opportunity, and reported for duty at the Stanford Training Area in Norfolk at 1030 hours one day last week.

    I was met by an army major who explained I was going to be attached to a platoon of the Lancastrian and Cumbrian Volunteers who were on exercise, practising counter-insurgency tactics. During these operations, he added, I would be playing the role of an accredited war correspondent.

    This task worried me because my acting skills are such that if I was hit by a truck, I would struggle to convey the concept of being flattened. And it didn’t do my confidence much good when the ferociously handsome part-time soldier given the task of looking after me welcomed me with the quip: “Oh, we were expecting Kate Adie.”

    Nevertheless, I didn’t embarrass myself on the exercise – mainly because being an accredited war correspondent during a counter-insurgency operation involves little more than whimpering behind the wheel of a big truck while watching everyone else fire guns. But I had less success in my personal mission for the day: to find out from the part-time soldiers why professionals should consider becoming reservists.

    One of the problems was that the part-time soldiers and I spoke different languages: while I communicated in English, they communicated in “banter”, the tongue most men resort to when they have spent more than 30 minutes in the company of other men. Getting straight answers proved difficult: when I asked one reservist what he did for a living, he replied: “Lap dancer”; the next one I asked said “Lego technician”; while my ferociously handsome escort merely said: “I’m not here.”

    The other problem was that when these part-time soldiers did talk, it was usually to highlight the downsides of being in the TA, rather than benefits. For instance, I learnt that joining the TA would mean:

    ■spending large chunks of holiday time on TA activities. Generous employers give reservists extra time off, as paid or unpaid leave, but most do not, meaning that most training is undertaken at weekends or during holidays.

    ■probably being sent to war. For many years the TA was seen as playing at soldiers – something comedian Jack Dee recently echoed in his comment that TA members were “part-time soldier, full-time banging on about it”. But no more. Many of the lawyers, accountants and factory workers in my platoon had been on active service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Since January 2003, about 11,000 reservists have been mobilised, for periods of up to nine months.

    ■possibly losing your job. Although it is illegal to terminate the employment of a reservist because he or she is mobilised, and although employers are required to reinstate a reservist to a former job, there can be problems. The platoon commander, a lawyer, said his firm was initially understanding when he was mobilised to Iraq, but when he came back he was fired for a trivial reason. Twenty- three reservists are currently taking their former employers to tribunals after losing their jobs on their return.

    ■possibly being killed. Two members of the TA have been killed through enemy action in Iraq, and one in Afghanistan.

    Indeed, while the brochures I was sent by the TA went on about the career benefits of joining – being a reservist apparently makes one a better manager, a better time keeper, a better team player and so on – the pros weren’t being emphasised by the part-time soldiers in my platoon as much as the cons.

    An 18-year-old reservist, a plastering student, did say that the TA was great because it was fun doing “outdoor stuff” and “firing guns”. And a middle-aged reservist, a solicitor, did say that the TA offered camaraderie. “You’d share your mug and, if you had to, your toothbrush, with your mates here. You wouldn’t do that in a solicitor’s office.” But the general mood of the men was encapsulated by a comment made by their commander: “So far, the TA has cost me two long-term relationships and a job.”

    Which, of course, raises the question: if it’s so bad, why have they remained with the TA for, in some cases, more than a decade? I put the question to my escort. His reply came after a pause: “It just has to be done, doesn’t it?”

    I initially considered this remark unhelpful. But on the way back from Norfolk, I realised he may have alluded to something important – one of the key reasons why 6,900 people joined the TA last year, in fact.

    Just like those recruitment ads that don’t mention the main downside of joining the military (the possibility of being killed), none of the official TA material I read mentioned it. This may be because politics, political correctness and fashion have made it unmentionable. But it strikes me that a central reason why people continue joining the TA, despite the evident disadvantages, is patriotism.

  2. Patriotism and the idea that it's not right to leave all the difficult jobs to other people.

    A good article. The very first I have seen in the national meejah which more or less describes the mood in the TA accurately, unpatronisingly and without that element of "ho-ho, look at what the Weekend Warriors are up to now: Keystone Kops capers in Basra". It's good that despite listing the disadvantages, the point is made that people are still joining.
  3. It is a good article.

    Why is it people always ask what do you do and why didn't you join the real/proper army :roll:
  4. Excellent Piece.

    Though 'ferociously handsome escort'? We usually have to make do with devilishly rugged Landies. Must have been a staff car.
  5. ... I have to say that's a good article.

    ... but let's face it - it's hardly going to be for the money or the duty frees.

    <... next stop somewhere hot and sandy - ho hum>.
  6. I'm sorry? - surely, the only reason for joining is to train to be an IR - isn't it? - or has Rebalancing missed something?
  7. Don't forget that many TA HAVE been in the Regular Army/Other Services. Probably about a quarter of my Sqn have seen previous regular service of some kind.
  8. Why did I join all those years ago, in the time of the Old Blunder Bus, 58 webbing, large packs and buying all your own stuff to make you half comfortable. Looking back now fecked if I can remember. However, I have left a couple of times, LOA (not AWOL), I got to a point where I actually missed being toatlly knakckered in the field, running about and being pushed from puillar to post by NCOs. One of the things I did miss was the crack with the blokes, having a larf in the bar, in the field the general banter which is unique to forces life. Now we are in a time of PCness and restricted by the HSE, wheres the enjoyment now? I suppose it is still the banter, which unfortunatley some of the new blokes don't get, its not something you can learn from an X-Box.
    Oh yeah, the cheap beer and the bounty can be handy.......................
  9. [rant] Right. You're obviously one of the old soaks who spend their entire time on weekends and drill nights chuntering on about "the good old days, when we was ready to fight 3rd Shock Army".

    You're what's commonly known in the TA as dead wood.

    Most of "the new blokes" are ready to take on a role which is dangerous, and unrewarding. The "new blokes" that I see filtering through to the platoon are enthusiastic, ready to learn and READY TO DEPLOY.

    Many of them join because of patriotism.

    Many of them join because they want something more to life than a humdrum work a day existence.

    Not many join for "cheap beer and the bounty".

    Left a couple of times have we? You're obviously jealous of those who had the commitment and the opportunity to put their best in. I'm guessing we've been passed over for promotion a couple of times, haven't we?

    Hand your kit in, and leave. It'd be better for you (no more PCness, no more HSE, no more new lads who don't quite understand army slang that's almost as out of date as yourself) and no more recruits would leave because they don't see themselves in your place ten years down the line. [/rant]
  10. There's a rant, and there's just being a bit quick off the mark.

    Tell you what, next time someone makes a light-hearted comment about how much they enjoyed their time, and what they had to put up with, and perhaps their discomfort with how H&S has changed things...

    ... count to ten before you call them dead wood. Because that's a pretty damning accusation (along with the other insults you flung).

    Yeah, those of us who joined in the days of the Red Hordes may not have been likely to mobilise, but we knew if things kicked off, our life expectancies would be measured in days. And those of us who smiled, and kept soldiering through Options, and SDR, and SDR II, and looked at FAS, and did our best throughout? Want to fling some more accusations at someone who tries to agree with the thrust of the post, but doesn't do it in a manner to your liking?

    Bitter little sod, aren't you.
  11. Gravelbelly,

    This is what I objected to. It doesn't try to agree with the thrust of the post.

    There are plenty of old and bold to be found in TAC's up and down the country. I don't doubt that most of these lads served knowing that they were more than likely to become the "speed bumps" of legend if the CCCP had ever reared its ugly head. My point is that for every five of these (and there were a good few who convinced me not to leave during training), there was at least one who saw the TA as a place where they could try and be the big man, convince recruits that they were worthless (see playstation generation comment above), and tell racist/sexist/otherist jokes because they saw it as a boys club.

    Dead wood? There's plenty of it about. Most TA units play the numbers game. Or is yours perfect? As to a "light hearted comment", it seemed twisted and cynical to me.

    Bitter? I've nothing to be bitter about.
  12. gingwarr, grow up.

    The reason the Army works isn't because of the oath of allegiance, patriotism or blind faith in superiors. It's because of loyalty to your mates. The better you know your mate, the more loyal you become and hence increase each other's life expectancy. The socialising forms a major part of this, just as much as the formal team-building exercises. In short, the whole thing is psychological.

    Go up to a stranger in the street and call him an ugly cnut. You'll get what you deserve. Do the same to one of your mates and he'll respond with a similar remark. It's called banter and we do it better and harsher in the services than any full-time civvy can even hope for.

    With regard to Vds01's comments with regard to PCness restricting enjoyment, I can understand exactly where he's coming from. Forget the racism/sexism and other ism trash you read in the papers. There's less in the Forces than you'll find anywhere else. In the past we have used the words that, if you didn't realise that they were banter, you may find offensive. They were accepted because the recipient, far from being offended, understood that it was a badge of belonging. Again, some things you can say to your mate that you wouldn't say to a stranger. You also realise that by making such comments, you are inviting similar comments in return. The problem now is that third parties get involved, parties that aren't part of the community, and they misconstrue the meaning behind the words. As a result, everyone has to be very careful of what they say and so spontaneity goes out the window.

    I'll give you an example: In the late 70's I was involved with a unit that was equally represented by whites and blacks (or persons of an afro-caribbean ethnic origin if you want to use 36 letters where 6 will do). There were two LCpl Greens, one of each colour. For ease of reference, one was known as LCpl Light Green, the other as LCpl Dark Green. No disrespect intended to either and both saw the funny side. A small item like this encouraged unit cohesion. Nowadays, this wouldn't be allowed for fear of the racism tag being applied and could result in severe reprimands.

    As for your comments about dead wood, I've got 30 years service behind me. I had an estimated 5 minutes life expectancy against 3 Shock Army (of 1000 men in the battalion, I would have been the Soviet's preferred target). I had my kit packed and ready to go at 24 hours notice during the Falklands conflict. During GW1, I didn't expect to be mobilised and I wasn't. I was mobilised for Telic 2 and admit that when my employer asked "Do you really want to go?" I had to think for a while, but then the loyalty kicked in. I'm still serving, even though I realise that there's a good chance that I'll be mobilised again before I get retired (kicking and screaming). I might be getting on a bit, but I won't consider myself "dead wood" until I've passed on my experience to sufficient subordinates. And there's the rub, in my unit there just aren't sufficient newcomers joining - probably all too interested in X-boxes etc. I suppose they'll just have to increase the retirement age yet again...

    Bear in mind, young pup, that when I was 38 I dreamed of being 40 so that I wouldn't have to do the BFT. Now I dream of being 50 so that I won't have to do the CFT. No doubt that will change again...

    And I agree, you're bitter, but you have nothing (yet) to be bitter about.
  13. I'd like to add a small addition to this......

    The piece was written by a journalist who had no idea what she was entering into. Her main effort may have been to write a piece about a "Weekend in the life of...the TA" but with such eloquency, she managed to make the TA seem rather attractive. In fact, it may even move alot of FT (and syndicated journals that have used this) readers to think about joining the TA.

    I wonder if it will have a better effect than all of the other advertising that goes on currently.

    Point is ladies and gents....it's a valuable piece of journalism that we (and our full time partners) should give thanks for and enjoy. For it will give us (the TA) nothing but a positive result in recruiting and retention. It gives our full time collegues the numbers they want and need, when they need it most.

    Win all around really.

  14. It's good but a little simplistic. To say it's just patriotism slightly misses the point - I agree with the loyalty to mates, the unit, (SNCOs and Officers maybe?) as well as a general esprit de corps as well as the new friends, new skills and diffferent experiences. Oh, and of course, being an IR for ever into the future.
  15. Stirred things up didn't I. "Dead Wood" on the contary, I'm still here ready to be counted! I have not progressed by doing the easy things in life. I think it may be the ginger one who has issues. In answer to your question about leaving, left due to the staleness and uncertainty caused by SDR, an era that you may agree we are in at the present. I question the new guys coming through, I've see so many pass phase 1 and then fall by the wayside, why, you tell me? They've done the hardest part, the world (literally) is their oyster.

    Hope that this answers your RANT.

    See you on the LD!!!!!