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Slim Company

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Oh dear me! Who would have thought that the UK ending combat operations in Afghanistan after our famous victory in Helmand (errr...) combined with outsourcing army recruiting to Capita PLC would create a perfect storm for officer recruiting? Just about everyone involved in the process actually, and they were right. So how to respond to the calamitous fall in applications? Two options really: a. improve the 'offer' to try to attract more high quality applicants who won't be put off by Capita's tedious, bureaucratic, process-driven bollocks; or b. lower the entry standard.

Nobody familiar with the British Army's commitment to excellence will be surprised to discover that they plumped for option b. Thus we now have the Sandhurst Leadership Development Course, alias Slim Company.

Back in the day, if you were what is called a 'risk pass' at AOSB you were in severe danger of getting sent on Rowallan Company, a ferocious beasting based on the Nietschean dictum that: 'That which does not kill you makes you strong'. Pretty well anyone who got to the end of RowCo without going for the DS with a '58 pattern pick-helve had proved that they had what it takes to pass the commissioning course. That's changed. Nowadays, a risk pass will get you straight into Sandhurst, albeit with a slightly marked card, and off you go on your merry way towards leading men and women in combat.

In reality, Slim Company is for people who have failed AOSB - normally because of personality defects - but who have a psychometric profile which suggests that they might be able to cope with the intellectual demands of the Commissioning Course. The purpose of Slim Company, which isn't a RowCo style beasting, is to try to iron out these defects before the start of the Commissioning Course.

So does it work? The jury is out. The original intention was that Slim Company alumni would be reassessed by AOSB at the end of the 12 week course but when they did this for the first course, 18 out of 46 failed again. The commandant of RMAS saw his OJAR taking a nasty turn and promptly overruled AOSB for the first time ever, so far as anyone can remember, and 10 of the 18 were reinstated and sent forwards to the commissioning course. Nowadays, Slim Company does an in-house reassessment before loading 'graduates' onto the commissioning course and thus we are now in a situation where a number of individuals who have never passed AOSB or an AOSB supervised process have now been commissioned into the British Army as direct entry officers.

But shouldn't that be alright? After all, these chaps and chapesses have had the benefit of a term of leadership development at Sandhurst as well as the 44-week Commissioning Course and, whatever else it is, RMAS is a world-class training establishment. Actually, that is the problem. Sandhurst is really good at what it does and the training they deliver there may well mask any problems that individual Officer Cadets have which are likely appear later. I suspect that everyone who has served in the army will have come across DE officers who have personality issues which make them marginal leaders, however good they may be at the technical aspects of their job; even so, these people will still have passed AOSB at some point. We now have officers who have negative traits which were obvious enough to be picked up on at AOSB. That can't be good.