|War hits Army morale as 14,000 quit in a year|
By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Published: 19 August 2006
More than 14,000 soldiers left the Army last year, Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures have revealed, raising fears that low morale and "overstretch" in Iraq and Afghanistan is leading to an exodus from the armed forces.
The MoD put the best gloss possible on its latest recruitment figures, indicating that numbers joining had increased. But the figures also showed that the Army shrank last year by 1,500 soldiers.
The campaign group Military Families Against the War said the haemorrhage of troops - coupled with increasing numbers going "absent without leave" - was caused by the stress of service after the "illegal war" in Iraq. Sally Keys, mother of Tom, a redcap who was killed in an uprising because his platoon had no working phones to call for back-up, revealed her second son, Richard, 21, was one of those leaving the Army. "He's leaving because of parental pressure," she said. "We asked him to leave because we have lost one son and we don't want to lose another. We get people ringing us anonymously to say they have done three or four tours and they don't want to go back to Iraq."
The MoD stressed that the figures showed a rise in recruitment of 9.2 per cent last year, making a total of 11,460 extra joining the Army. The armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, said: "I'm pleased to say that this year we have seen a significant increase in those expressing an interest in joining the Army."
But the rise in recruits still fell short of the Army's overall target figure by more than 1,000 soldiers
Mark Harper, the Conservative defence spokesman, said: "Retention is still poor, with more than 14,000 leaving the Army in the past year outstripping the recruitment. With ever increasing commitments and a shrinking Army, the effects of overstretch are just going to get worse."
The figures show that 13,740 soldiers left the Army last year. An MoD spokesman said that 740 troops were currently "on the run" but had not been dismissed from the service.
|British soldiers risk death for less than the minimum wage|
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 11 September 2006
British soldiers risking death in Afghanistan and Iraq are being paid about half the national minimum wage. The troops, facing daily attacks in Helmand and Basra, and suffering a rising toll of dead and injured, are among Britain's lowest paid workers.
In the midst of a recruitment crisis, with soldiers being sent to highly dangerous conflicts with little monetary reward, commanders believe an improvement in wages is essential to maintain morale. General Sir Richard Dannett, the recently appointed head of the Army, said: "There are issues like basic pay. A Para with a year's training at Catterick, engaged in Helmand, is taking home £1,150 a month. Is that enough? Is that fair?"
The discontent over pay comes amid growing concern about casualties being suffered, especially in Afghanistan from a resurgent Taliban. Doubts have been expressed about the tactics being pursued. The former aide-de-camp to the British task force in Afghanistan, Captain Leo Docherty, of the Scots Guards, who has just left the Army, said the campaign in Helmand was " a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency".
The average salary of a newly qualified soldier is £14,300 before tax - compared with about £20,000 for a police officer. In a combat zone, being on duty for a minimum of 16 hours gives the troops an hourly rate of £2.45. There is also a longer service separation allowance of about £6 a day, but this only applies to those who have served at least 12 months away from home.
This is well below the current national minimum wage of £ 5.05 an hour, which is due to rise to £5.35 next month. In reality the figures for soldiers' earnings are even worse. In Helmand, where British forces are involved in some of the heaviest fighting in the Army's recent history, there is little respite from incessant attacks and they are, in effect, on duty all the time. Lt-Gen David Richards, the British commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, said soldiers were enduring "days and days of intense fighting, being woken up by yet another attack when they have not slept for 24 hours. This sort of thing has not happened so consistently, I don't think, since the Korean War or the Second World War. It happened for periods in the Falklands, obviously, and it happened for short periods in the Gulf on both occasions. But this is persistent, low-level dirty fighting."
The soldiers get free accommodation and food while based in combat positions such as Helmand. But they still pay council tax on their barracks rooms in Britain, and, back home, they also pay for food and board.
A British officer who has recently returned from Helmand said: "The wages paid to the privates is well below the minimum wage. Frankly, they would make more money emptying dustbins. They are being treated appallingly. It is not, of course, just what they undergo in combat, but the after-effects from these places as well. With our men it took a few weeks to get over what they experienced in Northern Ireland. After Iraq it took more than a year for many of them."
Anthony Bradshaw, who saw combat as a private in the Pioneer Regiment during the Iraq conflict in 2003, said: "Our take-home pay during training was £650 a month after the deductions. When we were in Iraq it rose to £800 a month. No one can say that the pay of a private soldier is good. It certainly does not lend itself to any luxuries." Pte Bradshaw, 22, was injured in Iraq and now receives a war pension and income support. "This does not add up to much either. Being a current or ex-soldier hardly makes you rich," he said.
The Ministry of Defence is looking at a series of options to boost the income of soldiers. They include proposals that soldiers will no longer pay tax while on operations overseas and payment of college fees.
The armed forces were to be brought into the minimum wage structure by the incoming Labour Government in 1997. But the idea was dropped after pressure from the then Defence Secretary, George Robertson, who claimed it would put the military into a financial and legal straitjacket.
|Army officer quits in protest at 'mad' Afghan war|
By Martin Hodgson
Published: 10 September 2006
The former aide-de-camp to a senior commander in the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan has reportedly resigned from the Army in protest at its "grotesquely clumsy" campaign against the Taliban.
Captain Leo Docherty was ADC to Col Charlie Knaggs, the commander of British forces in Helmand, but left the Army last month after becoming disillusioned with its strategy in the restive province.
"We've been grotesquely clumsy - we've said we'll be different to the Americans who were bombing and strafing villages, then behaved exactly like them," he said.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Docherty said the campaign was "a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency."
British operations have been dogged by a badly-planned strategy, a lack of local knowledge, and shortage of troops and resources.
The British mission has "deviated spectacularly" from its original aim of be nation-building, and troops are now scattered throughout towns in northern Helmand, where their only hope of survival is "to increase the level of violence so more people get killed".
"It's pretty shocking and not something I want to be part of," he said.
"Having a big old fight is pointless and just making things worse. All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British.
"The plan was to secure the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, initiate development projects and enable governance ... During this time, the insecure northern part of Helmand would be contained: troops would not be 'sucked in' to a problem unsolvable by military means alone," Docherty said.
The plan "fell by the wayside" due to pressure from the provincial governor who feared the Taliban were targeting local chiefs . "Now the ground has been lost and all we're doing in places like Sangin is surviving. It's completely barking mad," he said.
|QUOTE (Bridget @ Sep 12 2006, 02:08 PM)|
|The Ministry of Defence is looking at a series of options to boost the income of soldiers. They include proposals that soldiers will no longer pay tax while on operations overseas and payment of college fees.|
| Soldiers reveal horror of Afghan campaign|
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 13 September 2006
Soldiers deployed in Helmand province five years on from the US-led invasion, and six months after the deployment of a large British force, have told The Independent that the sheer ferocity of the fighting in the Sangin valley, and privations faced by the troops, are far worse than generally known.
"We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming. We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming, either locally or from across the border," one said. "We have used B1 bombers, Harriers, F16s and Mirage 2000s. We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs. At one point our Apaches [helicopter gunships] ran out of missiles they have fired so many. Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed. We need an entire battle group to move things. Yet they will not give us the helicopters we have been asking for.
"We have also got problems with the Afghan forces. The army, on the whole, is pretty good, although they are often not paid properly. But many of the police will not fight the Taliban, either because they are scared or they are sympathisers."
British officers in Helmand acknowledge that the next few months will be crucial in this conflict, which they insist can still be won with an additional thousand extra fighting troops.
Last week General James Jones, the Nato military chief, called for 2,500 extra troops, armour and helicopters from member states. But at the Warsaw summit currently under way, the countries with significant forces, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey, say they will have their hands full with Lebanese peacekeeping duties and have no troops to spare.
The anxiety has been deepened by the decision of the Pakistani military to do a deal with militants and withdraw from some of the border areas. The government of President Pervez Musharraf said the Taliban had promised in return not to continue to cross into Afghanistan to mount attacks, a declaration that a senior British officer described as "risible".
British forces in Helmand had not originally planned to go into Sangin. But when the provincial governor, Mohammad Daoud, appealed for help from President Hamid Karzai to counter increasing Taliban activity, the US commander in the country asked British troops to move in. The result has been that overstretched forces have come under constant attack.
Lt Gen Richards, who says British forces have been involved in some of the fiercest fighting since Korea, has now decided to withdraw from outlying positions, which will be taken over by the Afghan forces. It is a decision that some have questioned. An officer who has served in Helmand said: "We have to ask, can we rely on them? Especially the police."
He continued: "We did not expect the ferocity of the engagements. We also expected the Taliban to carry out hit and run raids. Instead we have often been fighting toe to toe, endless close-quarters combat. It has been exhausting. I remember when we had to extract a Danish recce group which was getting attacked on all sides; it was bedlam. We have greater firepower, so we tend to win, but, of course, they can take their losses while our casualties will invariably lead to concern back home.You also have to think that each time we kill one, how many more enemies we are creating. And, of course, the lack of security means hardly any reconstruction is taking place now, so we are not exactly winning hearts and minds."
In the market town of Lashkar Gar, Afghan civilians are increasingly concerned about security. One man said: "We are not safe now; it is more dangerous than it was just a few months ago."
Bodies of Nimrod crash victims return home
The flag-draped coffins carrying the bodies of the 14 British servicemen killed when their reconnaissance plane crashed in Afghanistan were returned home yesterday to a sombre reception in Scotland.
A ceremony for the victims of last week's Nimrod crash, Britain's worst single loss during its current deployment, was held at RAF Kinloss in Moray. Air force chiefs and the Duke of Edinburgh joined the families of the airmen for the repatriation, at which Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, described the 14 as "outstanding, brave and dedicated".
He said: "They were working towards making Afghanistan a safe and secure place as well as protecting our nation and its interests. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude."
|Friday, August 25, 2006|
'I can't go to Iraq. I can't kill those children' - Suicide soldier's dying words to his mother
Source: The Independent
While his peers from St Augustine's Catholic school were this month contemplating university careers or first jobs, Jason Chelsea was preoccupied with a different future: his first tour of duty in Iraq.
The 19-year-old infantryman, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was tormented by concern about what awaited him when the King's Lancaster Regiment reached Iraq, where 115 British soldiers have been killed since 2003.
He had even told his parents that he had been warned by his commanders that he could be ordered to fire on child suicide bombers.
It was a fear that he never confronted. Within 48 hours of confessing his concerns to his family, Pte Chelsea was dead after taking an overdose of painkillers and slashing his wrists.
On his death bed, he told his mother, Kerry: "I can't go out there and shoot at young children. I just can't go to Iraq. I don't care what side they are on. I can't do it."
Today, mourners including comrades from his unit will attend Pte Chelsea's funeral, wearing the colours of his two favourite football teams, Chelsea and Wigan. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to begin an investigation into his death, including allegations that the teenager was bullied. In a suicide note, the young soldier had said that he was "just a waste".
His parents said yesterday that their son's ordeal had convinced them of the need for an urgent review of the pre-deployment training given to British soldiers bound for Iraq.
Tony Chelsea, 58, a factory production supervisor, said: "My son was made very, very lonely by what was happening to him. He was very sad inside and he bottled up what was causing it. It was only after the overdose that he told us about his fears over what might happen in Iraq.
"In training, they were made to wrestle with dummies. Jason said they were also told they might have to fight kids and that they might have to shoot them because they were carrying suicide bombs. He said the policy [where there was a suspected suicide bomber] was to shoot first and ask questions later."
His mother added: "Jason said that during the training for Iraq he had been told that children as young as two carry bombs and the time may come when he would have to shoot one to save himself and his friends. I think they need to think again about the training they give to young soldiers before Iraq."
It is understood guidelines on training for British troops heading for Iraq offer no warning on child suicide bombers. But defence sources confirmed that the details of the advice given to soldiers are decided by each regiment. There have been no known cases of suicide attacks in Iraq committed by young children.
The death of Pte Chelsea, who had served in Germany and Cyprus, will renew concern about the psychological pressures faced by British troops as they deal with deployment to Iraq. Four days before the infantryman attempted to take his life, the MoD released figures showing that 1,541 soldiers who served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness. Last year, 727 cases were recorded, amounting to nearly 10 per cent of the British deployment. Special units have now been set up in the country to help soldiers deal with combat stress. While services were also available in Britain to Pte Chelsea to discuss his concerns within the Army, it seems he felt unable to disclose them.
He had joined the Army at 16 after a visit to his school, St Augustine's, telling his family the Army was to be his life. He was at home on leave when his fears came to a head this month.
After watching a football match on the night of 10 August, he calmly wrote the suicide note, telling his father it was a letter to a relative, took 60 painkillers then slashed his wrists. As he lay bleeding, the soldier dialled 999, telling the operator: "I have done something stupid."
In normal circumstances, Pte Chelsea, who suffered from dyslexia, may have recovered from his injuries. But when doctors began tests to assess the damage caused to his liver by the drugs, it was found that the organ had been irreparably damaged by alcohol. His family were told his liver was similar to that of someone who had been an alcoholic for 20 years and he would not survive a transplant. He died on 14 August at St James's Hospital in Leeds after his family gave consent for his other organs to be used for transplants.
His father said he believed t he reasons behind his son's drinking had provoked a previous suicide attempt in 2004, when he cut his wrists in his barracks. After this incident, Pte Chelsea was treated by an Army psychiatrist which the family said had restored his confidence.
Mr Chelsea said: "My son started drinking 18 months ago. He destroyed his liver in less than a year and a half. I believe that is because he was being bullied again. He did not want to make anything of it. He was in the Army, he knew he had to be tough. But it only takes a few words. He said he would hear comments aimed at him because of his dyslexia. He was told he would get his colleagues killed because he was stupid.
"I support the British Army and what it does. But I would like to stand before my son's unit with a picture of him in uniform and ask those who made these comments to him time after time to think about the effect they had."
The young soldier's despair was displayed in the note he wrote to his parents before his overdose. He said: "Really sorry, mum and dad. I'm just no good for you. I have got to finish it. I am just a waste."
The MoD said it was "greatly saddened" by the death but the details of his treatment remained the subject of an inquiry. A spokesman said: "We send our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Pte Chelsea. It is our intention to convene a board of inquiry which will examine the circumstances around his death."
Five other suicides since Iraq invasion
* JULY 2004
Pte Gary Boswell, 20, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, hanged himselfnear his home in Milford Haven. He was on leave from Iraq
* 31 OCTOBER 2004
Staff Sgt Denise Rose, 34, who served in the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, was found dead from a gunshot wound at a British Army base in Basra
* 26 DECEMBER 2004
Sgt Paul Connolly, 33, of the 21st Engineer Regiment of the Royal Engineers was found dead from a gunshot wound at Shaibah Logistic Base, south-west of Basra
* 15 OCTOBER 2005
Capt Ken Masters, 40, of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, hanged himself in his office in Basra, just five days before the end of a tour
* 22 MARCH 2006
Cpl Mark Cridge, 25, of 7 Signal Regiment, shot himself at Camp Bastion in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.
Source: The Independent
|"We are in a tribal society in Basra and we [the British army] are in effect one of these tribes," said Lt Col Simon Brown, commander of the 2nd Battalion. "As long as we are here the others will attack us because we are the most influential tribe. We cramp their style."|
Call over armed forces shortages
The overall shortfall stood at 5,850 in April - up from 5,170 in 2006
There are not enough servicemen and women to meet the demands placed on the UK armed forces by the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, MPs have said.
The Commons public accounts committee said the overall shortfall in personnel stood at 5,850, or 3.2%, of full strength in April.
Numbers leaving early reached a 10-year peak in some areas, the report said.
The Ministry of Defence said there were shortages, but that "some of the pressure should soon start to ease".
Defence Minister Derek Twigg said the current "high tempo of operations" was stretching the armed forces, but insisted that recent reductions in the numbers serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq would help.
"I accept that there are manning challenges and shortages in some specific areas, but we are taking action," Mr Twigg said.
The committee called on the MoD to develop a long-term strategy to deal with the problem.
The MoD has been relying for too long on the goodwill and courageous spirit of our servicemen and women
Public accounts committee
The report concluded that shortages were particularly severe in specialist areas, including vehicle mechanics and nurses.
Chairman Edward Leigh said downsizing and overstretching were affecting the ability of the MoD to "retain and provide a satisfactory life for armed forces personnel".
"The MoD has been relying for too long on the goodwill and courageous spirit of our servicemen and women to compensate for the increasing shortages of personnel in all three services," he said.
"The staffing situation has reached the point where there are simply not enough service people to meet levels of military activity planned some years ago - let alone the heightened demands now being placed on them by commitments such as the Iraq and Afghanistan operations."
For the past two years, the numbers leaving early had risen, the report said.
Heavy workloads, frequent overseas deployments and impact on family life were key reasons for this.
The MoD must think hard when it makes cuts in recruitment about the consequences for manning levels some years along the line
Public accounts committee
These figures had reached a 10-year peak for members of the RAF of all ranks and army officers, it said.
The MPs said cuts in recruitment in the 1990s had also had an impact on current staffing levels.
"The MoD must think hard when it makes cuts in recruitment about the consequences for manning levels some years along the line," Mr Leigh said.
"The consequences to manning levels are almost impossible to rectify speedily and any measures taken seem to cost more than was saved by the original cuts."
HAVE YOUR SAY
Servicemen on the whole enjoy their jobs but are being exploited
The MoD denied that there were increasing shortages of personnel.
"The number of people leaving has remained broadly stable and compares favourably with the retention rates in the public and private sector," Mr Twigg said.
The committee welcomed last year's tax-free allowance of £2,240 for those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia.
It also backed the offer of pay rises to encourage the retention of specialist staff, but said further measures - including longer notice of deployments - were needed.
|MoD issues gag order on armed forces|
New restrictions on blogs, emails, websites and text messages
Friday August 10, 2007
Sweeping new guidelines barring military personnel from speaking about their service publicly have been quietly introduced by the Ministry of Defence, the Guardian has learned.
Soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel will not be able to blog, take part in surveys, speak in public, post on bulletin boards, play in multi-player computer games or send text messages or photographs without the permission of a superior if the information they use concerns matters of defence.
They also cannot release video, still images or audio - material which has previously led to investigations into the abuse of Iraqis. Instead, the guidelines state that "all such communication must help to maintain and, where possible, enhance the reputation of defence".
The regulations, issued by the Directorate of Communication Planning, come in the wake of the row over the MoD allowing two of the HMS Cornwall sailors held captive in Iran to be paid for their stories. Receiving money for interviews, conferences and books which draw on official defence experience has now been banned.
The MoD document, circulated last week, covers "all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies, on issues arising from an individual's official business or experience, whether on-duty, off-duty or in spare time".
The rules have provoked consternation among the ranks, with human rights lawyers saying yesterday that they could be in contravention of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, which allows for freedom of expression. The rules apply not only to full-time forces but to members of the Territorial Army and cadets whilst on duty, as well as MoD civil servants.
Service personnel are currently bound by Queen's Regulations, which mean they must seek permission before speaking to the press but are free to blog and take part in online debates. However, many have spoken out anonymously on issues such as poor kit, housing and the treatment of wounded service personnel evacuated from combat zones. Criticism of the RAF in Afghanistan and the state of the ageing vehicles being used there have all appeared in the press.
An unofficial soldiers' website, arrse.co.uk, was full of angry debate about the issue yesterday. One poster said: "Why does it not occur to MoD that if it did things properly, and treated its people well, they wouldn't feel the need to bring things into the public arena quite so often, and they wouldn't need to spend so much time covering-up?"
Another suggested that the rules were intended to silence the average "tommy" while senior personnel were free to speak to the media without fear of reprimand. "Every single leak of significant information to the media, certainly in the last six months, has come from the top down. Not the other direction," he said. "Should Cpl Bloggs, or Major Good Bloke in some Platoon House in downtown Helmand-on-Styx complain in a private letter that he hasn't enough ammo to despatch the Queens' enemies, or the RAF really should try harder to deliver it, it's 'March in the guilty B*stard' and 'conduct prejudicial to good order' and discipline and finger-wagging all round."
The MoD's director general of media communications, Simon McDowell, denied that the guidelines were a form of censorship or gagging.
"We are trying to give straightforward, clear guidance that is up to date. The existing regulations were confusing and didn't include things like accepting payment. It applies to communicating about defence matters, not personal things. Particular things can impact on operational security; information which somebody can get a hold of. Even a little photograph sent from Afghanistan on a mobile phone could endanger people's lives and break operational security."
He added: "It is not gagging. It is setting out procedures so people know what the rules are." Those infringing the rules would be dealt with on a case by case basis, he said. "There is now far less of a chance of having the kind of mishaps that we had with Iran now there are clear guidelines."
Mr McDowell said that the MoD was experimenting with authorised blogs from Afghanistan. It was also seeking "legitimate outlets for people to express themselves".
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a leading human rights lawyer, said that the guidelines were likely to contravene the Human Rights Act. He said they reminded him of the "catch-all" section of the old official secrets act, which made it a criminal offence to disclose information without lawful authority. The discredited section, which was repealed in 1989, "stopped soldiers from revealing the brand of tea served in the MoD canteen", he said.
"It's increasingly important, given Britain's escalating foreign troop engagements, often in conjunction with less-disciplined forces, that soldiers, officers and officials can speak frankly to the media about their engagements without having their honest briefing subject to any spin," Mr Robertson said.
|A homecoming fit for heroes? Deserted streets greet soldiers' parade on their return from Afghanistan|
|• The Army is so short of soldiers that it has hired Group 4 Securicor to help train British troops heading for frontline operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.|
The £7million contract will see the private company's staff being paid to demonstrate key military skills such as quelling riots, storming enemy compounds and carrying out vehicle checks - as well as dressing up to play the parts of enemy fighters or local civilians in training exercises.
Currently such demonstrations and play-acting are carried out by serving British soldiers who are drawn from other units to help their colleagues prepare for hazardous operations abroad.
But with the Army struggling to cope with the demands of simultaneous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence admitted yesterday that the ground-breaking deal was intended to "free up resources".
Although the Army uses small numbers of civilians in specialist training such as language classes, this is the first time it has used private companies to provide more general training in front-line operationalskills.
Group Four Securicor stressed that it would use only former soldiers, mostly recentlyretired Gurkhas, to fulfil the training contract.
But the latest move was seen as a further sign of the severe overstretch facing the UK armed forces, who have faced drastic manpower cuts in recent years despite the heavy demands of fighting overseas.
The British Army is at its smallest in modern times, with only 99,350 trained soldiers according to latest MoD figures - and almost 2,500 posts left vacant owing to recruitment and retention problems.
|MoD accused of 'glamorising' war|
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 07 January 2008
Young people are being recruited into the Army with misleading marketing, and the disillusionment which follows has led to a huge number of them leaving the service, a report has claimed.
The advertising campaigns used by the Ministry of Defence "glamorise warfare, omit vital information and fail to point out the risks and responsibilities associated with a forces career", says the study. At the same time, promises made to those joining the ranks are often not kept and the recruits are also not told of their legal rights.
The report, by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, says that recruiters are targeting children as young as seven and points out that the UK is the only EU state to recruit those aged 16. It recommends sweeping changes to the MoD's current policy including a new charter setting out the responsibility of the state; a radical review of recruitment literature; phasing out the recruitment of minors and new rights for recruits to leave the services.
The dossier is said to be the first piece of comprehensive research into the methods used to attract the young to the armed forces and comes at a time when the Army acknowledges it is facing serious problems retaining its numbers. It follows another report last month which claimed that the Army was losing almost a "battalion a year" due to the use of illegal drugs.
One important factor behind personnel leaving had been the continuous deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report says that "for every two in the 16 to 22 age group joining the Army, one is leaving. In 2007, 48 per cent of all soldiers found army life to be worse than expected. More than £2bn is invested annually in training; most of this is used to train approximately 20,000 new recruits who replace those who leave each year."
The report, Informed Choice? Armed Forces and Recruitment Practices in the UK, says that literature provided by the services "fails to mention that unless they leave within six months of enlisting, minors have no legal right to leave for four years."
There is now a wide range of avenues, from brochures and magazines to CDs and DVDs, for those interested in joining the Army. One particularly successful programme is "Camouflage", aimed at 13 to 17-year-olds, which includes a magazine, website and interactive games. In addition there are services career advisers who visit schools as part of an outreach programme.
The MoD says it does not recruit from schools. The report claims: "The Ministry of Defence's youth policy contradicts this, describing military curricular activities in educational establishments as a 'powerful tool for facilitating recruitment especially if the skills developed through curricular activities have a direct bearing on military requirements'."
The report's author, David Gee, said: "The literature available to the young glamorises the armed services but does little to show the dangers recruits may face and even less the moral dilemmas they may face.
A MoD spokeswoman said: "We welcome any report that contributes to serious debate on the armed forces. However, some of these assertions are incorrect and ill-informed, others are selective in their interpretation of recruitment practices and some of the evidence is out of date. Our recruitment practices avoid 'glamorising war' and we refute any allegations that they depict warfare as 'game-like'."
|From The Times|
March 7, 2008
Row over military uniforms in public
Francis Elliott, Fiona Hamilton and Michael Evans
Plans to urge soldiers, sailors and airmen to wear their uniforms in public were in disarray last night after RAF personnel were ordered to dress in civilian clothes while off-duty because of persistent threats and abuse.
The uniform ban was imposed by the station commander at RAF Wittering, near Peterborough, after a number of servicemen and women walking in the city in their military clothes were targeted because of their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gordon Brown and Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, tried last night to overturn the ban. But the incidents in Peterborough threaten to undermine a new planned policy, favoured by the Prime Minister, that aims to draw the military and general public closer together.
The Prime Minister is to be presented this month with a report that will call for the widespread wearing of military uniforms to engender respect and appreciation for the Armed Forces. In the US service personnel wear their uniforms off-duty. This was banned in Britain in recent years because of the IRA terrorist threat.
Quentin Davies, a former Tory defence spokesman who defected to Labour, was asked by the Prime Minister to review ways of improving the public’s attitude and opinion of the Armed Forces.
The Times understands that Mr Davies will recommend that all British military personnel should be encouraged to wear their uniforms in the street. The MP is known to be of the view that if other sections of society, such as firefighters, paramedics and police officers, can wear uniforms, members of the Armed Forces should also do so as a matter of course. Mr Davies is also expected to recommend that local authorities be persuaded to organise homecoming parades for any units based in their communities that have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or other conflict zones.
Mr Davies and two aides have visited the United States, Canada and France to gauge how they treat their military in public. But the Peterborough incidents highlight concerns that some sections of the British public may be openly hostile to the proposals.
After the Peterborough decision became known yesterday, there was an immediate response from Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence. An adviser to the Prime Minister said: “Our Armed Forces should be able to wear their uniforms with pride and to have the respect of their local communities. If instead they face abuse and violence, then this must be dealt with by the police as a matter of urgency.” The Defence Secretary said that the right of Forces to wear their uniforms in public needed to be defended. “It is a great shame that some individuals in this community don’t have respect for our brave Forces, who every day are doing a great deal for this nation. This is not a situation we should be tolerating.”
Group Captain Ro Atherton, the RAF Wittering station commander, took advice from RAF Police before ordering his personnel to keep a low profile. Squadron Leader Tony Walsh, a spokesman for the base, said that a number of personnel who lived in and around Peterborough suffered abuse.
The order ran counter to an existing general policy of allowing uniforms to be worn more widely, which came after the easing of tensions in Northern Ireland. During the Troubles, the wearing of uniforms in public on the mainland was regarded as too risky.
The abuse, said to have been from a cross-section of the community, came to light after Parviz Khan, from Birmingham, was jailed for planning to kidnap and behead a Muslim soldier.
Marion Todd, Peterborough’s mayor, described the jeers as despicable. The mayor, whose great-nephew is serving in Afghanistan, said: “It’s a sad day for the city and for the country when the RAF can’t wear their uniforms . . . A small minority of people shouldn’t be able to dictate to us.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, the Chief of the Air Staff, said: “Whatever people’s views are about specific military operations, everyone should be able to recognise the bravery and professionalism of our Armed Forces and respect the difficult job they do.”
Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said: “Of course the commander on the ground must make the final decision but I regret that the circumstances exist where a decision like this had to be made. I think the majority of our public would be appalled to hear there are no-go areas for our Armed Forces, even in their own country.”
|The Prime Minister is to be presented this month with a report that will call for the widespread wearing of military uniforms to engender respect and appreciation for the Armed Forces. In the US service personnel wear their uniforms off-duty. This was banned in Britain in recent years because of the IRA terrorist threat.|
|RAF TO BOMB PETERBOROUGH BACK TO STONE AGE|
PETERBOROUGH was today bracing itself for wave after wave of devastating raids by low-flying Tornado fighter-bombers.
How Peterborough's magnificent 12th Century cathedral will look to the boys of 4-2 Squadron
The historic cathedral city has been targeted by RAF chiefs after air force personnel were called names by some students.
Air Chief Marshall Sir Tom Logan said: "Our brave airmen have been subjected to ill-considered taunts from some of Peterborough's most fanatical and determined Guardian readers.
"We could simply ignore them and go about our business, but that would send the wrong message to our enemies in Iraq, Afghanistan and France."
The raid will be carried out by a formation of six Tornadoes each carrying a 200 pound Geronimo, laser-targeted bomb, also known as the 'Cathedraliser'.
Many people have already evacuated, although a Guardian-reading hardcore has pledged to shout incisive criticism at the planes as they unleash fiery death.
Sir Tom added: "Thanks to the cutting edge technology of today's RAF, this charming, provincial city with its treasured medieval architecture will be a smouldering husk by around tea time.
"Peterborough has made its date with destiny. I would strongly advise its citizens to flee to Grantham. If you're going via the A1, there's a lovely tearoom at Woolsthorpe."
|Discrimination against military to become crime|
By Kim Sengupta
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
The Government is to bring in new laws making it a criminal offence to discriminate against people in military uniform and impose extra penalties on those convicted of assault or harassment of service personnel.
The new legislation will be among 40 recommendations in a report adopted by the Government, including an Armed Forces Day bank holiday and a drive to enrol state school pupils into cadet forces.
The report, National Recognition of our Armed Forces, was compiled by the MP Quentin Davies at the request of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and attempts to address what is seen as a lack of knowledge about the military.
The study suggests that the media and parliamentarians should have more open access to military personnel and an officer should be stationed at the House of Commons to give technical advice to MPs over laws involving the services. There are further recommendations for raising awareness about the military in the national curriculum and holding homecoming parades for troops returning from combat zones.
The introduction of the new laws, the most controversial of the measures, follows a small number of high-profile incidents in which service personnel have been barred from premises and others abused in public. In one instance, an Army officer in uniform was refused entry to Harrods department store on Remembrance Day and, on another occasion, RAF personnel were abused on a street in Peterborough.
Existing legislation covers cases of harassment and intimidation, but the report suggests that targeting the military should be viewed as an aggravating factor to be considered in sentencing. The Armed Forces minister, Bob Ainsworth, said that talks will be held with the Crown Prosecution Service over the legislation.
The National Union of Teachers voted at its annual conference this year to oppose military recruitment in schools because it often employed "misleading propaganda". Mr Ainsworth insisted that motions passed by the NUT "did not necessarily reflect the views of all schools and teachers and this would not be detrimental" to the setting up of cadet forces at state schools.
Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools, and said: "I believe Combined Cadet Forces can make a huge difference ... This is not just about recruitment, this is about personal development and educational opportunities."
Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: "An Armed Forces Day is welcome, but it will ring hollow for those forces families who put up with sub-standard housing."
|New uniform offence and Bank Holiday to celebrate Armed Forces|
May 20, 2008
Michael Evans, Defence Editor
A Bank Holiday to celebrate the work of the Armed Forces is under consideration by the Government as part of a drive to improve relations between the military and the public.
Legislation is also to be introduced to make it a criminal offence to discriminate against military personnel in Service dress or combat fatigues. This is an attempt to encourage members of the Armed Forces to wear their uniforms in public as often as possible.
Anyone who physically attacks a serviceman or servicewoman in uniform will also be charged with an “aggravated offence”, to underline the seriousness now attached to the well-being and security of Armed Forces personnel when in the public eye.
The recommendations are in an official report, National Recognition of Our Armed Forces, drawn up by Quentin Davies, the MP and former Tory defence spokesman, who switched to Labour in June last year. He was asked by Gordon Brown to investigate ways of improving the relationship between the military and the civilian public.
Mr Davies said that the military and public had drifted apart in recent years, claiming that society had become more “individualistic, hedonistic and materialistic” compared with the values of self-sacrifice shown by the Armed Forces.
The creation of an Armed Forces Day, which he envisaged could be merged with Veterans’ Day, would not detract from the significance of the annual Remembrance Sunday. This would remain a “precious national institution”, he added.
The report says that if the Government decides to create a public holiday in honour of the military, it should be on a Friday or Monday at the end of June. If not a Bank Holiday, then it should be a Saturday so that school-children and most working adults would be available to attend events. Senior military figures have already expressed support for a national day of celebration for the Armed Forces.
Among his 40 recommendations published yesterday, Mr Davies suggested that lessons on the role of the Armed Forces in society should be included in the national curriculum, and that more Combined Cadet Corps should be set up in schools. He also recommended more visits to schools by representatives of the Armed Forces, although not for recruiting purposes.
Of the 6,400 secondary schools in the United Kingdom, 260 have cadet corps and most of them are in grammar and independent schools. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said: “I believe combined cadet forces can make a huge difference to the young people who join them, and it’s also important for them to understand the diverse role of the Armed Forces.”
The report also proposes the launch of a modern version of the Royal Tournament, which was scrapped in 1999 because of the cost and pressure on Service personnel. Mr Davies said that it would not be practicable to revive the Royal Tournament itself, but suggested a possible link-up with television journalists and other interested parties, such as Ross Kemp and Jeremy Clarkson.
Bob Ainsworth, the Armed Forces Minister, confirmed that the Government had accepted all the recommendations in the report.
In a foreword to the report, the Prime Minister says that he believes the public is fully behind the men and women of the Armed Forces but he feels that there is a need for greater understanding of “the work they do in our name”.
Mr Davies accepted that the unpopularity of the Iraq War had had an impact on public opinion although he emphasised that the Armed Forces were carrying out the orders of the politicians.
He condemned recent incidents in which Service personnel had been picked on by members of the public. His report highlights incidents at Birmingham and Edinburgh airports last year when soldiers and Royal Marines returning from duty in Afghanistan were either told to put on civilian clothes before going through the terminal or were diverted to keep them out of the public eye.
Military personnel who had lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan and were being treated at the Armed Forces rehabilitation centre at Headley Court, near Leatherhead in Surrey, also suffered verbal abuse from members of the public in November when they used the local swimming pool.
Mr Davies referred to a policy adopted by Harrods, the Knightsbridge department store, of banning military personnel wearing combat fatigues. “We regard any such rule as quite unacceptable,” Mr Davies said. Harrods, however, has said that it does not not ban military personnel who wear their Service uniforms. An incident in November 2006, when a Harrods security assistant prevented an army officer from entering the store wearing Service dress after a Remembrance Day ceremony had been a mistake, the shop said.
The report calls for a wider use of uniforms in public, reversing a policy that has been in force since the IRA threat of the 1970s and 1980s, although Service personnel are allowed to wear uniforms to travel to work and to attend functions. Mr Davies said that he wanted the military to be encouraged to wear their uniform in public as often as possible, although he accepted it would not be right to do so “in nightclubs or on the beach”.
The report also calls for a more systematic approach to homecoming parades. These have become more common since General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, appealed last year to local authorities to organise more parades for Service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Davies said that regional commanders should approach local authorities to hold such parades.
Other recommendations include allowing senior officers from all three Armed Forces to have access to the media without having to get permission from the Ministry of Defence.
Commenting on the proposal for an extra Bank Holiday, John Cridland, deputy Director-General of the CBI, said: “The idea of celebrating our Armed Foces is a positive one but there is no reason this couldn’t be done on an existing Bank Holiday. Statutory holiday entitlement is being increased from 20 to 28 days over the next two years - a substantial cost to firms. Offering staff an extra Bank Holiday would cost the economy up to £6 billion on top.”
A chance to change attitudes - or just more parades?
An Armed Forces Day to be held in June each year to celebrate and honour servicemen and servicewomen
Why? Any move to make the public think more about the sacrifices made by today’s military, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, has got to be beneficial for everyone.
Why not? Some Service personnel might think: “Oh no, not more parades.”
Legal protection for the uniform, making it a criminal offence to discriminate against Service personnel wearing their combat or dress clothes
Why? Although the incidents are rare, the measure would be viewed by the military as an additional mark of respect for the Services.
Why not? If Service personnel are big enough to handle the Taleban, they can deal with impertinent or rude shops, cinemas or members of the public.
More Combined Cadet Corps (CCF), the appointment of a “cadet ambassador”, and instruction in schools on the role of the Armed Forces
Why? More knowledge of and personal participation in the military world will help to improve understanding among young people.
Why not? The CCF is probably viewed as a toff-school activity and it could be tricky to persuade parents that it’s the right thing to do; and visits to schools should not be regarded as backdoor recruiting.
|From The Times|
July 10, 2008
Half of all British servicemen say they want to quit
Bearing brunt of two wars is hurting family life
Michael Evans, Defence Editor
Britain’s ability to sustain campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan was called into question last night as it emerged that almost half of all military personnel are ready to quit.
The first survey to assess attitudes across the Armed Forces reveals unprecedented levels of concern over equipment, morale and pay.
The research was conducted by the Ministry of Defence and involved more than 24,000 military personnel.
It found that the sense of overcommitment means that 47 per cent of soldiers and army officers think regularly of handing in their resignations.
Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP for Newark and a former commanding officer, said that the findings reflected the duress under which military personnel were operating. “I think the tempo of operations has produced such a level of stress on the families that it is no wonder so many are thinking of leaving,” he said.
The report highlights the pressures on the Armed Forces of enduring two medium-scale military campaigns simultaneously. Returning for second and third tours, particularly in Afghanistan where the Taleban are in resurgent mood, has had a significant impact on families.
The same sense of overstretch is reflected across all three Forces, and 45 per cent of those questioned admitted they were not happy with the level of separation from family and friends.
Asked whether they regularly considered leaving, 47 per cent of soldiers and officers in the Army said that they did. The same percentage of Royal Navy personnel agreed, along with 37 per cent in the Royal Marines and 44 per cent in the RAF. The Regular Army is already 5,000 soldiers short and experienced young officers are leaving at an increasing rate.
The survey was carried out between July and October last year, a time when 20 Service personnel were killed in Afghanistan and 15 in Iraq.
Casualty figures in Afghanistan have remained high. A total of 110 have died since November 2001, including 24 so far this year, most by roadside bombs and mines. In Iraq the death toll is 176, with two killed this year. The British, Americans and Canadians have borne the brunt of casualties in Afghanistan.
Dissatisfaction with equipment and resources was also a common theme, reflecting the criticisms voiced by coroners. Andrew Walker, the assistant deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, has attacked the MoD numerous times during soldiers’ inquests for failing to provide enough of the right equipment to protect the troops.
The research revealed contrasts in morale. Individual personnel appeared to enjoy high morale, but the perception of morale as a whole in their particular Service was poor.
In the Army, 59 per cent of those questioned rated the level of morale as “low” or “very low”. In the Royal Navy it was 64 per cent and the Royal Marines 38 per cent. The worst perception of morale was in the RAF, where 72 per cent of those asked thought that morale was low.
Vice-Admiral Peter Wilkinson, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (personnel), said that 15,000 military personnel were committed to operational theatres in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans in mid-2007, with a further 15,000 deployed on other military tasks around the world and in Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships.
He said that pay and disturbance money — known as the X factor — had risen and living accommodation had improved and that it was in this context that the tri-Service attitude survey had been carried out.
However, personnel appeared not to be satisfied with the improvements. Asked if they were satisfied with the 13 per cent increase in the X factor as a way of compensating for working conditions, 64 per cent of the Army said “no”. The figures were higher in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and RAF.
Asked whether the frequency of tours had an impact on whether to leave the Services, 47 per cent of the Army said that it made no difference; 38 per cent said it increased their intentions to leave. The figures were roughly similar for the other Services.
The MoD said that the research had revealed “areas of concern”. It said that a number of measures had been introduced, including tax-free operational allowances for those serving six-month tours and pointed out that about two thirds of the personnel surveyed thought that the current frequency of operational tours was “about right or not enough”.
|Record numbers of ex-soldiers in UK jails as combat trauma blamed|
At least 8,500 former service personnel are in custody - nearly a tenth of the UK prison population. Jamie Doward reports
The Observer, Sunday August 31 2008
'They don't have the right equipment and they're knackered'. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
The number of soldiers who end up in prison for violent offences has increased dramatically in the past four years, according to a report that has raised concerns about the mental health of military personnel returning from war zones. Compiled by probation officers, the report estimates that at least 8,500 former soldiers are in custody - 9 per cent of the UK prison population and nearly double the estimate of a previous study by the Home Office in 2004, which put the figure at 5 per cent.
But even the estimate by Napo, the probation trade union, may be on the low side. In a sign that the Ministry of Defence is increasingly aware of the problem, it recently carried out its own assessment in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and ex-services charities. A pilot study at Dartmoor prison concluded that almost 17 per cent of inmates had been members of the armed forces.
'It is of real concern that thousands of soldiers are in prison and many more are on parole or community service orders,' said Harry Fletcher of Napo. 'In virtually every incidence the former soldier served in either the Gulf or Afghanistan, became involved in excess alcohol or drug-taking, and was subsequently convicted of an offence of violence.'
The Napo report was compiled from more than 70 case studies. Whatever the true figure, it is apparent that soldiers comprise by far the largest occupational group in the prison system. 'It is clearly worrying that a significant proportion of people in the penal system are ex-servicemen and it doesn't say much for the support given to those leaving the military,' said Andrew Neilson of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
'An inability to cope with civilian life, particularly for those who joined the services on leaving school, can certainly lead to offending and see someone swapping one institution for another.'
Often it is those closest to the soldiers who are victims of their violence. The report cites the example of one serviceman who struggled to adapt to civilian life after six years in the army. His relationship with his partner broke down and she stopped him seeing his children because of his heavy drinking. Verbal abuse turned to physical abuse, which led to a jail sentence.
Another soldier ended up in a prison in Humberside for actual bodily harm. According to his probation report, he started drinking heavily after he returned from having served in Bosnia at the age of 19. The soldier said he had not been prepared for what he saw while on peacekeeping duties. For years he could not get the image of people nailed to trees out of his mind.
'The number of soldiers in prison is definitely on the rise,' said Tracey Johnson of Veterans in Prison, which believes there is a link between the intensity of the army's current missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the number of soldiers currently in jail. 'They're fighting in back-to-back conflicts, coming out and going back again; they haven't got time to recover. There are not enough of them. They don't have the right cover or equipment and they're absolutely knackered.'
The organisation has been inundated with letters from soldiers in prison. In virtually every case it believes that the writers were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One father said that before his son was jailed for threatening to shoot another soldier, he had been wetting his bed and in floods of tears because 'he couldn't get Iraq out of his head'.
'He told me they often had to raid buildings where they believed terrorists were hiding,' the man wrote. 'Because he is a big strong lad, he had the heavy machine gun and so had to enter these buildings first and in his words "was shit scared". I told him anybody would be in that situation, but I got the impression he felt it was a sign of weakness.'
David Bradley, 43, developed post-traumatic stress after serving in Northern Ireland. In 2006, he shot his uncle, aunt and two cousins at close range with a pistol he had smuggled into the UK after serving in Bosnia. Several hours later, armed with a nail bomb, a sawn-off shotgun and a pistol with silencer and ammunition, Bradley walked into his local police station in Newcastle and calmly said: 'I have killed four members of my family.'
As the incidence of post-traumatic stress becomes more prevalent there are suspicions that some soldiers will cite combat fatigue as an excuse for their criminal behaviour. 'There are those who say they have it as some sort of amelioration for their actions,' conceded Peter Poole, director of welfare services at the charity Combat Stress.
The Napo report provides some of the most credible evidence to date that stress is a major factor behind the rise in the number of soldiers going to jail. Dozens of clinical psychiatric assessments speak of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress when they attack others. Often the disorder is not identified until the soldier enters the prison system.
'Military operations in recent years have placed the armed forces under increased pressures,' said Derek Howard-Budd, head of welfare at the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. 'Associated issues like PTSD can take a long time before symptoms develop and much longer to be diagnosed.'
Post-traumatic stress has been dubbed 'the hidden wound' - the injury that is never talked about because of the stigma attached to soldiers suffering psychological problems. 'The idea that it is not a "real" condition is inherited from the First World War, where shell-shock among troops was thought to be a sign of weakness,' said Bridget O'Connell, of the mental health charity Mind. 'Now, with a better understanding of the way trauma affects us, this notion is long-since outdated.'
It was not until he was serving life for murder that Tracey Johnson's husband, Jimmy, who was the victim of a bomb attack while serving in the army in Northern Ireland, became aware he had problems. She fears that many more soldiers will end up going the same way. 'Many of them don't even know they've got it,' she said.
Despite heightened concerns about the prevalence of the condition, there are claims that little is being done to assess soldiers' mental health when they return from war zones. What help is available is usually on an ad hoc basis and often available only when they have been incarcerated. Staff at Everthorpe prison in Brough, East Yorkshire, have become so concerned at the lack of support traumatised soldiers receive upon release that they have taken to issuing them with information packs giving details of mental health charities.
Groups such as Combat Stress can be effective, but have limited resources. 'We can only help those who seek help,' Poole said. 'And there are more people than we are equipped to deal with.'
In a statement to The Observer, the MoD said that counselling was available to service personnel at all times, and pointed out that all troops receive briefings before and after deployment to help them recognise the signs of stress.
'We have launched six pilot schemes of community-based veterans' mental health therapists which will be rolled out across the UK,' the MoD said in a statement. 'Veterans can also receive free mental health assessments from a consultant psychiatrist with a military background. This service is also available to veterans in prison.'
But politicians said it was clear that more needs to be done to identify and treat post-traumatic stress at an early stage. The Labour MP John McDonnell, who is secretary of the Justice Unions All Party Group, said it was time for the government to urgently review systems for supporting serving and retired members of the armed services.
Elfyn Llwyd, a Plaid Cymru MP who has become alarmed at the number of his constituents who have served in the armed forces and are now in prison, said that service personnel and their families were being let down. 'If better treatment was available for these servicemen, hundreds, maybe thousands, would not have offended,' he said.
Veterans In Prison draws comparisons with the United States, where soldiers returning from war zones are put through 'decompression courses' where they are assessed by mental health experts before leaving the base.
'Here they just get them altogether in the barracks and ask them who wants to see a shrink,' Johnson said. 'Nobody's going to put their hand up to that.'
|From Times Online|
September 13, 2008
Life after war: when the guns fall silent
Special Air Service veteran and writer Andy McNab talks about the internal battle that begins when the fight is over
“The first time I killed a lad,” says Andy McNab, “it was 1979, I was with the Green Jackets in Northern Ireland, I was 19, and he wasn’t far away, I could see his eyes. I was absolutely sh****** myself. But you can’t say you were scared.” Did he talk to anyone about his feelings? “Absolutely not. It wasn’t the done thing, you’re worried about peer pressure and promotion and being down as a fruit. Besides, nobody wants to know about any failings, it’s a success, it’s what you do. It says in the manual, ‘The role of the infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy.’ The Army calls it ‘being kinetic’, which means blowing things up and killing people.”
When McNab passed selection for the Special Air Service in 1984, there was, he says, among his new elite comrades, more honesty regarding the dangers of combat. “You’re older and more confident, so you do talk about it more, mainly, ‘F*** that, I don’t want to do that again.’ But there was no system, no counselling, although a couple of lads used to sneak off to a charity in Wales for help. Delta Force [the US equivalent of the SAS] used to have an in-house psychologist. We would take the p***, but actually, it was a good idea.”
After McNab led Bravo Two Zero, the SAS patrol behind enemy lines during the first Gulf War which later gave rise to his 1994 bestseller, he had a couple of sessions back in Hereford with Dr Gordon Turnbull. “His claim to fame was he’d looked after the mountain rescue teams who were at Lockerbie. He talked to us about post-traumatic stress, what the symptoms were and so on. At the time I didn’t think I got a lot out of it.”
But as McNab has grown older (he is now 48) and wiser, he has become fully converted to the idea that some, not all, soldiers suffer post-traumatic stress and need help. His new book, his first work of non-fiction (many novels have intervened) since Immediate Action, the sequel to Bravo Two Zero, deals with the consequences of such stress on several of his former SAS colleagues, the members of Seven Troop of the book’s title. In particular, McNab tells the story of Frank Collins and Charles “Nish” Bruce, both of whom committed suicide several years after leaving the regiment, in 1998 and 2002 respectively.
The catalyst for the mental deterioration of both men seems to have been the death of their colleague Al Slater at the hands of the IRA in Co Fermanagh in 1984. Collins and Bruce (and McNab) were present the night Slater was shot. But whereas Collins blamed his superiors for his mate’s death, and Bruce blamed himself, McNab didn’t blame anyone. “It’s not a science,” says McNab, standing at Slater’s grave in the SAS plot in St Martin’s Church, Hereford. “It was foggy, we couldn’t see ten feet, we had no comms, you make the best decision you can make at the time.”
He walks further along the row. All the graves have flowers on them, some have bottles of beer or wine too. Another friend, Paul Hill, “Hillbilly”, is buried here. He died on a covert operation in Cambodia in 1988. And here are Bob Consiglio and Vince Phillips, two of the three members of Bravo Two Zero who perished in Iraq in 1991. How does McNab feel, being here? “Just that they’re dead, and obviously it’d be better if they weren’t. But it’s all part and parcel of it.” McNab may sound callous, but what is there to say? But for pure luck, a bullet on a marginally different trajectory, and one of these men would be pouring a tot of rum on his grave rather than the other way around.
Nish Bruce is not buried in this churchyard. Frank Collins is, but not in the SAS plot, because he was not a serving member when he died. “The thing about Nish and Frank,” says McNab, “is they thought about it all too much.” He doesn’t think they were more intelligent, or introverted, or indeed extroverted, than others, but they were probably more sensitive, more likely to dwell.
“My wife reckons I’m all right because I only ever think about the next three hours,” says McNab. He isn’t joking. “Today’s today. If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. You control what you can and the rest, f*** it.”
McNab believes both his friends suffered from post-traumatic stress, yet their condition was more complicated than guilt over Slater’s death or clichéd flashbacks to other battlefield horrors. Both men were involved in the SAS siege of the Iranian embassy in 1980. Both served in the Falklands war. Bruce told McNab he felt guilty about “killing a young [wounded] Argentinian lad, he’s dying, it was like a mercy killing”. And yet, says McNab, their real problems began when they left the forces. Indeed, “post-career anticlimax” may pose as big a problem for ex-soldiers as post-traumatic stress.
“From the day he left, Frank regretted getting out, but he couldn’t admit it. He was always looking for something, but everything was a disappointment.” Collins found religion, becoming an ordained Anglican priest, wrote a book, then asphyxiated himself with exhaust fumes in a friend’s garage. Bruce threw himself, literally, into skydiving, and then one day opted to jump out of a Cessna 5,000ft over Oxfordshire without his parachute. “I hope he was smiling all the way in,” says McNab.
Neither had prepared properly for leaving the Army’s embrace, but that itself is common. “Blokes know it’s coming but they ignore it,” says McNab. “They don’t realise the military is a tribe, a little clan that nobody understands, a very small part of our culture, and once you’re out nobody gives a f***. People don’t understand your language, your humour.”
McNab has studied the problems faced by ex-servicemen. They are massively over-represented among the homeless, in prison, in the divorce courts, among alcoholics and in the suicide statistics. Besides Bruce and Collins, two of his other close-ish colleagues have also killed themselves, and another tried to. “We’re not dropping like flies, but it’s well above average.” Several years ago, it was discovered that the number of Falklands veterans who have killed themselves far exceeded the number killed in the actual conflict (more than 400 as against 255). When an ex-serviceman takes his own life, the average length of time between his doing so and having left the Forces is 13 years.
Nish and Collins both fit into that time frame. As does a third member of Seven Troop, Tommy Shanks. Shanks, who was awarded the Military Medal during his service in Oman, left the SAS pretty much as McNab joined in the mid-Eighties, but he remained in Hereford, and McNab got to know him there. Shanks was obsessive, a little repressed perhaps, a driven man. He retrained as an anaesthetist, moved up north, and then in 1998 shot his ex-girlfriend dead with two bursts in the back from a Kalashnikov. He is serving life. “It’s not as if we saw it coming, but we weren’t surprised,” says McNab.
One study found that close on 50 per cent of 2 Para, the unit that probably saw most action in the South Atlantic, exhibited some symptoms of post-traumatic stress on their return, and 22 per cent were formally diagnosed. In those days, Army culture militated against counselling, to say the least. Worse, in the years after the Cold War, defence cuts meant that such formal provision as existed to help with mental breakdown was lost, principally “Ward 11”, the military psychiatric facility in Woolwich. Other military hospitals were closed. “The Army would end up paying the Priory £500 a day for a squaddie who might have a psychotic illness to sit next to some Henrietta from Notting Hill Gate who’s had too much Ecstasy. Facilities for ex-military,” claims McNab, “were better during the war with Napoleon than they are now.”
Things are changing, however. The new military hospital in Selly Oak is being expanded. On the front line, attitudes towards mental problems have become more enlightened, partly a reflection of changes in wider society, partly because of the necessity to retain experienced men. Soldiers are now encouraged to discuss their feelings about an action as part of their debrief afterwards. “Senior NCOs are sent on courses and taught to engage with the Toms about what’s happened,” says McNab. “The culture is changing, but it will take a long time. There’s still that, ‘F*** off, I’m not a fruit.’” There are now 15 or more psychologists working in the Army. “The stigma of talking about how you feel is going.”
Not before time. The Falklands was an intense conflict, but it was short, the distinction between combatants and civilians was clear, and it was popular at home. Iraq and Afghanistan are much messier, with far greater potential for lasting trauma. “We get a sanitised view on TV here,” says McNab, “but the lads out there are seeing it for real, and when they come back there will be a proportion of them who think about it.”
During these new emotional debriefs, says McNab, “the NCO will say we had to do this, we had to do that, they’ll just talk about what went on and why, try to sort it our early, make it acceptable to talk it through.” And keep it in the family, deal with the issues of fear, or horror, or guilt, in a military context, because that is far preferable to someone repressing those emotions for a decade, while meanwhile descending into spousal or alcohol abuse, self-loathing and rage.
McNab has made several visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, as a journalist, as a businessman with interests in the security sector, and as a morale booster under MoD auspices. He still has friends in the Army, plus many ex-SAS colleagues working in the private sector. He’s been out on patrol in Helmand (Afghanistan) and Basra, admitting he misses the camaraderie of the Army and loves being back with the boys. “I’m not an adrenalin junkie though,” he says. “Look, I’m a f****** multimillionaire, if I want to jump off El Capitan, I can.”
The vast majority of young infantrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan, McNab is keen to emphasise, “are having a great time, and when they leave they’ll be fine. They’re saving up for a three-year-old BMW when they get home. They’re young lads, they’re from crap estates but they’re doing something with their lives, they’re all bombed up, they’re aware of what the Army does and they’re, ‘F****** hell, I want some of that.’” As an 18-year-old arriving in Crossmaglen, fixing bayonets on the border, he says he was exactly the same. What about the prospect of being killed? “You don’t think about getting zapped. It’s the culture.”
The public still does not fully understand the scale of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Time was, you could spend a career in the Army and never fire your weapon in anger. Combat was reserved for Special Forces and other elite troops. Now, on a tour of Helmand, a young soldier in a county regiment will fire thousands of rounds. “Ten years ago for instance,” says McNab, “house assaults were considered an SF black art, the ordinary infantry never got anywhere near them. Now, the first man through the door is a 19-year-old rifleman.” One battalion just back from a tour was so hyped up they had to be taken off for a fortnight’s adventure training to stop them fighting civilians and other soldiers in their garrison town.
These young men will leave, and grow up, and have children, and they will start to reflect on what they’ve seen. Most of them will process their experiences phlegmatically, like McNab, like the other members of Seven Troop (now variously a farmer, a teacher, something in the City, or out on the security “circuit” in the Middle East). Some, without help, will turn into the Nish Bruce and Frank Collins, and one or two perhaps even the Tommy Shanks, of the future. “Society has to understand there will be a problem and it’s worse because they know how to use a gun,” warns McNab. At least two Iraq veterans in the United States have been on a killing spree. There are no statistics for British post-Iraq/Afghanistan suicides. “The MoD doesn’t exactly jump up and advertise it.”
The Army can only do so much with the resources available to it. Besides, it is treading a fine line: the expression of normal human emotion in a war zone must be contained. “You want these lads to put tin hats on and kill people, they can’t think too much about it,” says McNab. “They can’t hesitate.” The reabsorption of former soldiers into a prosaic, peaceful society has always presented problems, and the soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan will be no different. “Give it about a decade, I reckon,” says McNab. “It’s a time bomb.”
Seven Troop by Andy McNab, published by Bantam
|Officer was shocked by firefight in which Royal Marine died|
Dec 3 2008
A MARINES commander said yesterday he was shocked by the intensity of a firefight which killed one of his men.
Lance Corporal Mathew Ford was killed as his unit stormed a Taliban fort in Afghanistan in response to regular attacks on his headquarters.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Magowan told an inquest in Cleethorpes he believed five hours of bombardment had broken the enemy before sending in his men.
However, they were met with a strong response.
He added: "I was not expecting that response."
Marine Ford lived in Dundee with his fiancee and had been contemplating leaving the forces.
A Royal Navy report earlier this year found he had almost certainly been shot by another British soldier.
The inquest continues.
|Royal Marine died in friendly fire during battle with Taliban|
Published Date: 03 December 2008
A ROYAL MARINE caught up in friendly fire while assaulting a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan was killed when Nato bullets hit him in the head and chest, an inquest heard.
Lance Corporal Mathew Ford would have died almost instantly when a fellow Marine fired a burst from his machinegun after mistaking a group of British soldiers for enemy gunmen, in January 2006.
He was hit while his unit was involved in fierce fighting with the Taliban and when his unit withdrew, his body was left behind and was recovered by four marines who returned to the battle ground strapped to a helicopter.
At the inquest into Lance Corporal Ford's death, at Cleethorpes Town Hall, the court heard he was part of a mission designed to show the enemy Nato still had control over the "gateway" into Helmand Province, Garmsir.
The court heard from Lt Col Robert Magowan that a force of Marines were set to assault Jugroom Fort, a Taliban stronghold south of the strategically vital town of Garmsir.
He said the region's importance was "political and geographical" and that the area had changed hands many times.
But in spite of taking control of the region Lt Col Magowan was finding that he and his troops were coming under frequent attack.
He said: "I was charged with ensuring the town's security and ensuring it remained in Nato hands. I decided I had to seize the initiative back." The Lt Col said in an attempt to regain control of the area he decided to conduct a series of raids called the Glacier Operations.
While an attack was going on Lance Corporal Ford's unit, Zulu Company, took part in a battle with the Taliban that was more fierce than expected. The British troops withdrew but it was assumed their fatally injured colleague had been taken away in a vehicle. Troops returned by helicopter when it emerged he had been left behind.
Andre de Villiers Horne, a forensic fire arms examiner, told the hearing that after tests two bullets recovered from Lance Corporal Ford's body had been fired from the same gun and were ammunition typically used by Nato troops.
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Last Updated: 03 December 2008 9:39 AM
|Soldier tells of command breakdown|
Published Date: 03 December 2008
A serviceman has told the inquest into the death of a Lincolnshire marine that he believed there was a breakdown in command during a firefight outside the fort.
Warrant Officer Steven Shepherd, who was the company sergeant major of Zulu Company at the time, was asked by Lance Corporal Mathew Ford's mother, Joan, from Immingham, about the decision-making by the officers.
She said to him: "Was there a break down somewhere along the line?" The senior NCO replied: "Yes, I believe there was."
Warrant Officer Shepherd said Zulu Company had been involved in daily fighting since it arrived in Helmand following a stint in Kabul.
But he said the confrontation outside the fort's walls was the fiercest. "From the second we got out of the vehicles it was seriously, seriously intense from three sides," he told the inquest.
"I've done quite a lot of battles and operations and I've never been in anything as ferocious as that."
The Warrant Officer described how he was behind the lead troop as it lined up in front of the wall of the Fort.
He said at first his men were progressing well and he thought the whole company might get inside but then the reports of casualties began to come in.
Warrant Officer Shepherd said four marines were taken out of the small area they were fighting in.
He told the coroner: "We couldn't stay in this. We were basically sitting on a killing ground." He then went on to describe how the company retreated without Lance Corporal Ford.
Copyright © Press Association Ltd. 2008, All Rights Reserved.
The full article contains 276 words and appears in Press Association newspaper.
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Last Updated: 03 December 2008 3:31 PM
Source: Press Association
Location: The Press Association Newsdesk
|Marine inquest conclusion: 'I still don't know who killed my son'|
Wednesday, December 03, 2008, 17:19
A MOTHER has been left 'disgusted' after an inquest into her son's death was unable to determine who was his killer.
North Lincolnshire and Grimsby District Coroner Paul Kelly ruled there was not enough evidence to conclude whether Immingham Marine Lance Cpl Mathew Ford was killed by the Taliban or 'friendly fire'.
As reported, Lance Cpl Ford died on January 15 last year after being shot in the chest and head in an assault on a Taliban-held fort in Afghanistan.
At the end of the two-day inquest at Cleethorpes Town Hall, Mr Kelly said: "The forensic evidence does not allow me to make findings of the origins of the rounds entering Lance Cpl Ford's body from which he died.
"I must conclude Lance Cpl Ford died from injuries sustained in Helmand Province while on active service."
However, it has his devastated mum Joan Ford, of Pilgrim Avenue, Immingham, no closer to finding out what really happened to her son.
She said: "That verdict had nothing to do with my son’s death. From the day he died till now, I still do not know why he died or who shot him.”
She added: “I hoped to find out what happened on that day, why he was left behind and why it took so long for them go and get him. I still do not have the answers. I am disgusted."
Stepfather Carrol Lewis said: "It has been two years and we are still in the same position not knowing."
For a full report see tomorrow’s Grimsby Telegraph.
|Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008|
Mother's upset at Marine inquest
The mother of a Royal Marine killed in action in Afghanistan has said she is "disgusted" at the outcome of an inquest into his death.
L/Cpl Mathew Ford, 30, died during an attack on a Taleban fort in the Helmand province in January 2007.
A coroner in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, gave a narrative verdict and said evidence was not clear for him to say who had shot the Marine.
L/Cpl Ford's mother Joan said she still did not know how he died as a result.
The Marine's body was recovered in a daring rescue mission which made headlines after three colleagues and a Royal Engineers officer strapped themselves to the sides of two Apache helicopter gunships to get him back when he was left behind.
L/Cpl Ford was brought up in Immigham, North East Lincolnshire.
At the time of his death he shared a flat in Dundee with his fiancée, Ina.
He was a member of 45 Commando Royal Marines, based in Arbroath, Scotland.
After the inquest Mrs Ford, who still lives in Immingham, said: "From the day he died I still don't know what happened to him.
"I still don't know why he was left. I still don't know know why he was shot. I still don't know who shot him.
"I hoped to find out what happened on that day."
She added: "All that went on in there was rubbish, total rubbish. At the end of the day I'm just disgusted."
At the end of the two-day inquest coroner Paul Kelly said: "The nature of the forensic evidence in this case does not allow me to make finding to the required standard as to the origin of the rounds which entered L/Cpl Ford's body causing the injuries from which he died."
Mr Kelly recorded that the marine died from injuries sustained on active service.
The inquest heard that L/Cpl Ford was part of Zulu Company which was tasked with entering the fort after commanders judged a five-hour bombardment had neutralised the enemy inside.
But as the company's Viking armoured vehicle arrived outside the fort walls, they came under heavy fire from three sides.
Four Marines were hit and were immediately evacuated but a series of events amid the confusion of the firefight meant L/Cpl Ford was left behind.
The coroner told L/Cpl Ford's family: "He was plainly a courageous young man who died serving his country."
|Book about Immingham marine launched|
Monday, September 15, 2008, 16:34
Comment on this story
A NEW book detailing the death of Immingham marine Mathew Ford, who was killed in a friendly fire incident on January 15, has hit the bookshelves.
As reported, L/Cpl Ford (30) was killed storming the Jugroom Fort in Afghanistan.
At the time L/Cpl Ford's body was recovered in a daring helicopter raid, where marines were strapped to the side of two Apache helicopters.
Now, one of those flying the Apaches, Ed Macy, a pilot with 3,930 flying hours, has written a book describing the incident.
In the book Macy, who left the Army this year, describes the scene at Ford's funeral.
He writes: "On a still, cold morning beneath a blue sky, his hearse was driven through Immingham at walking pace so the hundreds of mourners who lined the route could see him as he passed.
"His coffin was draped in a Union flag and decorated with flower arrangements: Son, Brother and Maff."
He also goes on to write about the aftermath for the family.
"Joan (his mother) visits it daily, and Ina (his fiancee) comes down from Dundee every few weeks.
"Delivering a red rose, she often lies down beside Mathew, and tells him about her life."
Apache, by Ed Macy is out now, priced at £18.99
|Author charts the military history which won a war|
Western Morning News (Plymouth); Aug 30, 2008; p. 20
(Copyright © 2008 Northcliffe Newspapers Group Limited. All rights reserved.)
Somewhere in deepest South Devon, a man is clutching two books as he sits in the sort of cosy cluttered office or den that you'd imagine a retired lieutenant colonel who's knocked around the world a bit might have.
In one hand resides an immaculate newly-printed 300-page tome, in the other there's a scrapbook, full of home-drawn sketches and notes, that's falling apart at the seams.
As we speak, the man is giving both books his full attention because both have very important stories to tell. The new volume, called 3 Commando Brigade, has just been published so its name is constantly on the tip of author Ewen Southby-Tailyour's tongue.
But the other book, the handwritten jotter that's falling apart, can claim to be a genuine piece of military history. It has even been heralded as a "book that won a war".
Ewen Southby-Tailyour is a military historian and a retired Royal Marines Lieutenant Colonel - two qualifications which enabled him to write the new work about the recent Afghan heroics of the Westcountry's 3 Commando. But he's also a veteran of various Middle East battles and skirmishes, and of the Falklands War - and it's the latter conflict that provides the backdrop for that important but tatty volume of notes.
However, it was the new book which took me to South Devon to meet Ewen, and was the first subject in our fascinating discussion which you can hear in full on the WMN website.
"The Royal Marines gave me permission to talk to as many people as I wanted and I interviewed everybody from brigade commander downwards," said the author as he gave an overview of the book that's based on the actions of 3 Commando in Helmand province. "But most of the book is about the young soldiers - the junior Marines, the junior leaders, corporals, sergeants - with input from the commander and a couple of colonels. It's an amazing, frightening, but heart-lifting story," says Ewen, before insisting it is very much the men's tale and not his own.
"If you look between the lines of their story you will find Britain's youth - and I mean the young officers and young Marines - at its very best. If anybody wants to look beyond the purely military business of engaging (with the enemy) then you'll find they're not talking about war, they're talking about their comradeship, their desire to help each other, desire to be part of a team.
"I remember interviewing a number of Marines in the Sergeant's Mess at Lympstone and one of them was going on in a very diffident way about how he was part of an assault on Jugroom Fort - which is the fort where the Apaches (combat helicopters) had to rescue a fallen comrade. And he was describing this as if he was talking about a walk on Salisbury Plain. Then he stopped and he said: 'Oh, I got shot in the back - I was a bit redundant after that and it was a bit boring...'
"They would say it isn't courage, but training," said Ewen when I told him that, for me and millions like me, the idea of going into a firefight in Helmand was something that required levels of courage beyond the call of duty. "And of course this is a tribute to the Royal Marine training at Lympstone, which I believe is best in the world for an infantryman." [Poor training, confusion and friendly fire, the real story behind brave Apache rescue]
Ewen admitted he was probably ideally equipped to write this piece of military history. "I speak the (commando's) language obviously - I fought in the Middle East so I understand that," he said. "So, yes, I knew the language and the questions to ask - and I know what desert warfare is like because I've been through it."
Which brings us to Ewen Southby-Tailyour's remarkable past. "I wanted to be a doctor but I failed Latin so I was happy to go to Pangbourne (school) and from there it was natural I joined the Royal Marines," he said. "I went out to 45 Commando in Aden as a young officer.
"Up country in a place called Darla we were trying to keep apart various tribesmen. It was old-fashioned frontier soldiering. We came under fire regularly. I started taking an interest in the Arabic side of things so I took a (language) course in that. At that stage I volunteered to become a landing-craft officer because I actually wanted to join the SBS (Special Boat Service) and in those days every officer there did the landing-craft course. I passed and I went out to command a detachment of Marines in an old war time tank landing ship in the Gulf."
Ewen's SBS plans were scuppered when he broke a leg playing rugby in Bahrain. "I saw an advertisement - young officers wanted to volunteer for service with Sultan of Muscat's Army. The Dhofar War was just starting - the Army couldn't supply enough young officers for the junior posts. I was the first Royal Marine to go - but before that I did three months Arabic language school - then a few months in Arabic school in Aden.
"Having left there I joined the Northern Frontier Regiment and I was waiting to join a rifle company and moved out to a place called Ibris - a real desert town."
Eventually Ewen was moved south. "The war was getting difficult - we weren't winning, that was for sure. We joined the Desert Regiment and were sent way to the west - way beyond the enemy's front line to the border with Oman. My career changed out there. I wasn't the world's best soldier but we got involved with a series of very bloody ambushes. You never found the enemy unless he ambushed you.
"There was one ambush - I remember the date, it was 11 January 1968 - my sergeant major was killed alongside me, and my driver was killed. My company commander pushed off with some wounded to an old desert airstrip - and I was there with his company. Very alone. One white British officer amongst 150 Arab soldiers - fighting their war. A war in which I believed, I have to say."
Soon afterwards Ewen returned to Britain on leave and was awarded the equivalent of the British distinguished service order medal. "I came back having actually grown up - seriously grown up," he told me. "It changed my life. I then married Tricia shortly after I came back and went back into the (Marine) corps - so it was a big turning point in my life."
After various postings Ewen was eventually sent to the Falklands to command the garrison, which is where he created that notebook. "I spent much of my 12-13 months down there mapping, charting, taking surveys, taking photographs, studying the wildlife, studying the beaches," he said. "It's a whole story in itself which I wrote about in a book.
"Later I offered all this work to the Navy's hydrographic department and they described it as: 'The amateur jottings of an itinerant yachtsman and of no interest to this establishment'. That was the chief hydrographer of the Royal Navy - his own words..."
Three years after Ewen returned to the UK, the islands were invaded. "I was summoned to Stonehouse (barracks at Plymouth) and the brigadier said: 'Tell me all you know about the Falklands'. I said: 'No, I won't, not unless you take me with you."
Because of his wealth of experience in charge of landing-craft incursions and training, Ewen was made senior landing-craft officer for the entire Task Force in the Falklands. "They said it was the book that won the war, or something - but I'm afraid I snorted at that," laughs Ewen. "We were all part of the team - I saved a few weeks recce time. We'd have still won."
3 Commando Brigade - Sometimes the Best Form of Defence is Attack - by Ewen Southby-Tailyour OBE is published by Ebury in hardback at pounds18.99. It is available on Monday.
|Heroes of Helmand: the first amazing pictures|
It was a daring rescue mission - two soldiers strapped to the wing pods of a helicopter, determined to bring back the body of a fallen colleague. Mark Townsend reconstructs the remarkable flight to Jugroom Fort
The Observer, Sunday January 21 2007
Robert Magowan gazed over the parched flatlands of Helmand and wondered what might lay ahead. The lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Marines knew his men were preparing for a trip into the unknown, a mercy mission that has already etched itself into contemporary military folklore.
He had been told they were missing a man following a firefight that forced British troops to retreat from a dawn raid against a Taliban fort nearly four miles beyond the horizon.
Now in a remarkable sequence of images, the bravery of the men involved in one of the most extraordinary, but ultimately tragic rescue operations carried out by the British army in Afghanistan can be revealed. Military photographers chronicle how, in a feat never previously attempted, four Royal Marines strapped themselves to the wing pods of two Apache gunships and flew back to heavily fortified Jugroom fort in an audacious attempt to recover Lance-Corporal Matthew Ford.
The men are shown clinging to the side of a gunship as it rumbles just 100ft above the desert landscape at speeds of 50mph, lower than normal to avoid the effects of wind-chill during the Afghan winter.
Earlier, hundreds of British troops led by the Royal Marines had retreated back over the Helmand river before word spread that Ford was missing. An unmanned probe was dispatched to Jugwood, a Taliban stronghold ringed by watchtowers, the command headquarters for insurgents' activity across the district. An alert RAF soldier noticed an unusual light blob, just outside the fort's imposing walls. It was Ford. Retrieving the stricken soldier with Viking amphibious vehicles might cost more men.
A 39-year-old helicopter pilot, known only as 'Tom', said that strapping soldiers to the helicopter would be the quickest way to rescue Ford.
When the request for volunteers rang out, everyone in the Helmand Operational Post at Garmsar stepped forward for a mission that carried echoes of Saving Private Ryan, the Hollywood film in which a battalion risk their lives to rescue a soldier behind enemy lines.
'He's a Royal Marine the same as me - there was no way we were ever going to leave him, or anyone else, on that battlefield,' said Plymouth-based Sergeant-Major Colin Hearn, 45, of the Royal Marines landing force command support group. His friend Gary Robinson from Rosyth, Fife, added: 'I just wanted to get him back.' Shortly afterwards, both were strapped to a gunship.
On the other Apache, signaller Chris Fraser-Perry, 19, from Southport, a member of the Royal Marines for just 14 months, added: 'I just wanted to be part of getting him back.' He would be hanging from the outside of an Apache with Royal Engineers' Captain Dave Rigg, 30, from Newton Ferrers, Devon.
Minutes later the four were sweeping low over the river towards the fortifications of Jugroom. It was only then that Robinson appreciated the difficulty of their rescue mission. Strapped to the gunship's small wings and clearly visible from the ground, the men had no protection when Taliban snipers opened fire . 'It only really dawned on me once we cleared the river and were just about to land and I saw some muzzle flashes,' said the 26-year-old.
As the Apaches landed in a hail of fire, pilot Tom recalled being blinded by furls of black smoke billowing from the fort. As the other Apache landed close to where Ford's prone body lay outside the compound's perimeter defences, Tom made the decision to land within the pock-marked walls of Jugroom, raising a wall of dust.
'I thought that we'd probably got about two to three minutes at most with the element of surprise before they [the Taliban] would realise what was happening, and it was after we'd been on the ground for about three minutes that we were engaged.'
Gunfire came from a building to Tom's right, forcing him to radio his helicopter gunner, who began targeting the enemy snipers. Moments after, Tom watched the second Apache rise above the outer walls. Under a withering stream of fire, Fraser-Perry and Rigg had managed to retrieve Ford, tie him to their Apache and strap themselves to its fuselage before taking off.
Hearn, Robinson and Tom escaped soon after. The pilot remembers being so exhausted 'I was too out of breath to speak into the radio'.
But it could have been worse. When the pilot landed at the British army's main Helmand base, Camp Bastion, he had enough fuel remaining to fly for just two more minutes. Later that afternoon the men heard that Ford had died from his injuries. Those who helped to reach him have admitted they could not sleep in the nights that followed.
'The first night I was thinking if we could have done anything quicker, but I've had a word with the surgeon and his wounds were fatal. There wasn't anything we could have done,' said Tom.
Robinson offered the soldier's typically sanguine response to acts of heroism: 'I don't think it was heroic or dangerous in any way. I personally knew him, I served with him, but in my position any one of my colleagues would do the same.'
A memorial service for Ford was held the following morning just after daybreak close to where the Apaches that tried to save the 30-year-old took off. Plymouth-based Hearn said: 'There was a 10-minute service with a couple of readings, then a two-minute silence and some prayers, which I think was closure for the men.'
|RAF pilot not trained to carry out manoeuvre - Iraq inquest|
Published Date: 04 December 2008
By ANTHONY MCLEAN
AN RAF helicopter pilot told an inquest he was not trained to complete a manoeuvre which led to a fatal collision with another aircraft in Iraq.
Staff Sgt Mark Powell, of the Parachute Regiment, and RAF Sgt Mark McLaren, were crushed to death under a Puma helicopter during a botched landing north of Baghdad.
The aircraft's rotor blades clashed with those of another Puma as it landed near Taji in the early hours of April 15 last year.
Stf Sgt Powell, 38, from South Wales, and Sgt McLaren, 28, from Ashington, Northumberland, fell from the chopper and were found dead underneath the aircraft, which had rolled on to its right side.
The pilot of the aircraft, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the inquest at Trowbridge Town Hall, Wiltshire, the minimum distance required between aircraft when landing was 10ft.
But the pilot, who was also captain of the aircraft, said he was not specifically trained to land so close to moving objects, including rotor blades.
Speaking from behind a blue curtain and referred to only as Witness 1, the pilot said: "In the training, we would land helicopters together, but not with the express intention to judge a 10-feet distance between the rotors."
Coroner David Masters asked if he had any training in landing next to moving objects, including rotor blades.
The pilot replied: "It was never part of my training."
The pilot, who received his wings in October 2003, and has undertaken a number of tours of duty in Iraq, said the closest he had previously landed to other aircrafts in theatre, was between 15 to 20ft.
Guidelines have since been introduced to clarify the recommended separation distance between aircraft, he added.
He said: "We now have guidance that we should not land at field sites closer than two rotor spans - which is roughly 30 metres."
Earlier on in the hearing, the captain told the inquest Puma helicopters had a fault with the auto-pilot which caused them to unexpectedly kick to the side.
He said: "There was a minor fault with the automatic pilot. The aircraft would sometimes kick in yaw ? as we were flying it would rotate on a central axis."
The pilot said to correct the fault, one of the auto-pilot functions would be switched off, using foot-pedals.
Mr Masters asked: "It couldn't be repaired because there weren't spares there?"
Witness 1 replied: "They were on demand. To be sent out from the UK."
But the captain said the fault would not have affected the helicopter at the time of the accident, as measures were taken to counteract the problem.
The servicemen were on a mission as part of a five Puma task force and came into land on flat terrain at 12.59am.
The lead helicopter ? Puma One ? touched down and troops disembarked before Puma Two, in which Stf Sgt Powell and Sgt McLaren were travelling, came into land.
Opening the inquest, the coroner said: "We shall hear that as Puma Two descended to land its main rotor blades came into contact with Puma One's main rotor blades.
"As a result Puma One's tail boom broke and it yawed left, rotated and moved some three feet across the ground.
"Its main rotor blades were shredded. A jolt was felt in Puma Two, it started to yaw left and roll to its right.
"Sections of the blade broke off and flew through the air. A dynamic
roll-over occurred. It came to rest on its right side. The tail flung over the top of the aircraft.
"As it rolled, the crewman, who was Sgt McLaren, fell out of the right end cabin door.
"The solder, Stf Sgt Powell, had been sitting in the right-hand cabin doorway.
"He and Sgt McLaren were found trapped underneath the aircraft. Both died at the scene."
The coroner said a Home Office pathologist found Stf Sgt Powell died of multiple injuries, and Sgt McLaren died of traumatic asphyxia.
The inquest was delayed by a late application from the Ministry of Defence for witness anonymity.
Mr Masters expressed concerns over the MOD's "untimely" application, but granted anonymity to 11 witnesses, in the interests of national security.
Family, including both servicemen's widows, sat at the back of the court throughout the hearing which is expected to last four to five days.
The inquest is expected to last four to five days.
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Last Updated: 03 December 2008 8:07 AM
Location: Blyth, Northumberland
|Monday, 19 March 2007, 19:39 GMT|
Military inquest venue to change
Inquests into the deaths of British service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be held at more locations, BBC News has learned.
All UK war dead are currently returned to Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, and their inquests heard in that county.
But from 1 April bodies will be returned to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, and hearings held either there, or where the dead person came from.
Critics say the move is "foolhardy" and valuable expertise will be lost.
Backlog of cases
Last month armed forces minister Adam Ingram admitted the government should have acted sooner to clear a backlog of inquests into the deaths of soldiers killed in Iraq.
In January figures revealed that inquests still had to be held into more than a third of those killed in the Iraq conflict and into 38 deaths of service personnel in Afghanistan.
The Oxfordshire coroner previously handled the majority of military deaths because their bodies were flown back to RAF Brize Norton.
BBC Radio Four's PM programme has now learned that, starting next month, repatriation flights will be switched to Lyneham because of a two-year upgrading programme at Brize Norton.
Wiltshire's coroner will hold hearings into multiple deaths, and single deaths may be heard at the coroner's court closest to the deceased person's home or final resting place - in each case the Wiltshire coroner will decide how to proceed.
Geraldine McCool, the solicitor who represented the family of Matty Hull, who was killed near Basra in March 2003 when a US pilot fired on his tank convoy, said she was "appalled" to learn of the decision.
"We have at least got now established in Oxford a centre of excellence for army deaths - and to hear that that is going to change for no good reason whatsoever is very disturbing," she told the BBC.
She added that spreading the workload around the country looked "initially quite attractive" but was actually "foolhardy".
Coroner Andrew Walker and two others were brought into Oxfordshire last May to clear a backlog of 85 cases of dead service personnel awaiting hearings.
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said the backlog of cases would not be cleared by "moving the pieces about" and needed more funding.
He said: "There's a lot of hardship and a lot of heartache that's being endured by service families here, and the government needs to address this a little more thoroughly than they've been willing to do up 'til now."
The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) said that no new resources had been allocated to Wiltshire, but this was under review.
A spokesman said Oxfordshire had done a "fantastic" job, but that relatives of service personnel had found travelling long distances difficult.
He added: "We are confident that any coroner can build up the same level of expertise on military inquests as Mr Walker and his colleagues did."
|Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK|
Officer recalled to army inquest
A senior army officer has denied lying over the deaths of two army soldiers killed by friendly fire in Iraq.
Lt Col Lindsay MacDuff has been recalled to an inquest into the death of Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, in 2003.
Cpl Allbutt and Trooper David Clarke, 19, both of Staffs, died in the same incident near Basra in March.
Lt Col MacDuff had said he had told his men about the presence of two nearby friendly tanks, but they said they had not been given the message.
The radio log of the incident has since gone missing.
On Friday, Lt Col MacDuff, who was a major commanding B Company, 1 Black Watch, at the time, maintained his claim that he told his men about the tanks.
Richard Hermer, barrister for the Allbutt and Clarke families, said: "You are lying Mr MacDuff. This is not a recollection, it is a fabrication."
Lt Col MacDuff insisted he was telling the truth and was not trying to protect himself or anyone else by lying.
Cpl Allbutt, from Stoke-on-Trent, and Trooper Clarke, of Littleworth, died when a Black Watch tank fired on two Royal Regiment of Fusiliers tanks.
Deputy coroner for Oxfordshire Andrew Williams reacted to criticism of his questioning a soldier in a civilian court, after recalling Lt Col MacDuff.
A letter in The Times newspaper questioned the validity of a civilian coroner questioning a military officer.
But Mr Williams said: ""In that case, how dare a medical coroner ask a question of, say, a gas fitter?
"If you take that step then you are in very dangerous territory indeed."
He requested recordings of Lt Col MacDuff's evidence to the inquest to be handed to the Army Prosecuting Authority (APA) saying he wanted the authority to decide by next Thursday if it wishes to prosecute the officer or not.
He added that without the missing radio log it was highly unlikely he would be charged.
The inquest has been adjourned until Thursday.
|Soldier dies after shooting himself|
28 minutes ago
A British soldier serving in Iraq has died after shooting himself.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said there was no evidence to suggest enemy forces or a third party was involved in the death of the soldier, from 20 Armoured Brigade.
The shooting was reported on Thursday at 10pm local time at the Contingency Operating Base in Basra.
The MoD said immediate medical assistance was provided but the soldier died at the scene.
The soldier was the second to die in Iraq in eight days from wounds which are thought to be self inflicted.
Lance Corporal David Wilson, 27, from West Yorkshire, died from a gunshot wound to the head at the same contingency operating base in Basra on December 4.
L/Cpl Wilson, who was serving with 9 Regiment Army Air Corps, died 11 weeks after the birth of his daughter, Poppy, who his family said "had made his world complete".
The two servicemen are the only British fatalities in Iraq since March.
A total of 177 British service personnel have lost their lives in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
|Soldier from 20 Armoured Brigade killed in Iraq|
A Military Operations news article
12 Dec 08
It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a soldier serving with 20 Armoured Brigade.
At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base.
Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene.
No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway.
The soldier's next of kin have been informed and have requested a period of grace before further details are released.
|Lance Corporal David Kenneth Wilson dies in Iraq|
A Military Operations news article
5 Dec 08
It is with profound regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Lance Corporal David Kenneth Wilson on Thursday 4 December 2008, while serving on operations in Basra, southern Iraq.
LCpl Wilson, who was serving with 9 Regiment Army Air Corps, was found at Basra's Contingency Operating Base having suffered a gunshot wound. Immediate medical assistance was provided, but sadly he was declared dead at the scene a short time later.
The incident, which occurred at 0900 hrs local time, will be subject to a full investigation. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved.
|From The Times|
September 25, 2009
Number of military veterans in jail ‘has more than doubled in six years’
Misuse of alcohol and drugs are key factors behind offending
Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
The proportion of veterans in the prison population has more than doubled in six years, according to a report published today highlighting the hidden cost of recent military action.
About 12,000 veterans are on probation or parole, representing 6 per cent of the total, while 8,500 are in prison, representing 8.5 per cent of the jail population, according to the report by the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo).
The figures suggest that more ex-servicemen and women are in the criminal justice system of England and Wales than there are troops serving in Afghanistan.
Misuse of alcohol and drugs are key factors behind offending by veterans and a high proportion of crimes are linked to domestic violence. The association said that the Services should do more to tackle alcohol misuse as well as provide programmes to deal with domestic violence.
In the United States 10 per cent of the population of both federal and state jails were veterans in 2004, according to US government figures.
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, said that the findings were of grave concern. “There is overwhelming evidence that support is not available of sufficient calibre when soldiers leave the Service. The preponderance of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression is also alarming,” he said. “All efforts must be made to reduce the number of military personnel who are in the criminal justice system. There is a need to develop alcohol counselling and domestic violence programmes within the military setting as well as the community.”
Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “It is a disgrace that so many who have served their country are languishing in our prisons. No one is above the law, but this Government has failed to provide proper support to our troops on return home.”
The study found that chronic misuse of alcohol and drugs was a big factor in half of 90 cases where veterans had been given a community sentence. Almost half of the veterans were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. The most common conviction was for violence in a domestic setting, which occurred in 39 cases, the Napo paper said. In ten other cases the main offence was against a child. No figures were available for Scotland.
A survey of sentenced prisoners conducted by the Government in 2003 suggested that 4 per cent of prisoners had served in the Armed Forces.
Officials in the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence are attempting to identity the extent of the problem, in response to concern expressed in Parliament last year at the absence of up-to-date estimates.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said yesterday: “Work is currently in progress to match Ministry of Justice data on prisoners with Ministry of Defence data on veterans in order to identify both the scale and scope of the problem of veterans in custody. It is anticipated that this work will be completed by the end of 2009.
“We take our duty of care for all offenders very seriously. Our first priority is protecting the public and, by providing offenders with support and information which will aid their resettlement in the community, we reduce the risk that they will re-offend.”
“People entering the Criminal Justice System are from a range of backgrounds and present a variety of issues which have contributed to their offending behaviour. Staff support individuals in addressing these issues, working towards their rehabilitation.”
The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency has set up the prison in-reach initiative, which intends to ensure that all veterans in prison or on probation and their families are aware of all help available to them. Veterans can receive welfare visits in jail from service charities in addition to their personal visit allowance.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The vast majority of personnel who leave the Services make a successful return to civilian life. Last year’s National Audit Office report found that 94 per cent of ex-Service personnel find work within six months of leaving.”
|QUOTE (The Antagonist @ Oct 22 2009, 02:10 AM)|
|TA units welcome £1.5bn investment in reserve forces|
By Marijke Cox, Reporter Sunday, July 24, 2011
Canterbury MP Julian Brazier has expressed his hopes that recommendations to enhance military reserve forces will become reality
Kent’s Territorial Army units have welcomed Government plans to invest £1.5bn in strengthening British reserve forces.
In a review conducted by the Reserve Commission a set of recommendations were outlined looking to enhance the capability and increase the role of military reserves, with plans for thousands more to be trained for frontline operations.
MP Julian Brazier, who formed part of the small team behind the Futures Reserves 2020 report in his position as deputy chairman to the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, said it was a significant step forward.
The Canterbury representative was a member of the Territorial Army for 13 years and was awarded a Territorial decoration in 1992.
His grandfather raised the Kent Fortress Royal Engineers in 1932 and under his command in 1940 the small unit became the most decorated in the British Army.
Mr Brazier said: “The report was a strategic overview about the condition, strategic context and direction of travel of our reserve forces and a blueprint for immediate action.
“It is in the interests of the whole country to have more balanced forces with reservists from the civilian world playing a larger role in defending Britain, as they did in two world wars and as they do in our English-speaking sister countries.
“As a result of the reserve review, the department will plan for an Army of around 120,000 comprising of regulars and reserves with a ratio of about 70 per cent regulars to 30 per cent Territorial Army.
“The report recommends that reserves also can take on a greater role in domestic resilience.”
He added: “Since entering Parliament over 20 years ago I have been a passionate supporter of our Armed Forces and particularly the TA as I served as a Reserve Officer for 10 Years.
“This report is one of my most important political achievements and I am determined to see the recommendation become reality.”
Kent has four TA units; in Ashford, 133 Workshop Company, 103 Battalion (REME); in Canterbury, 3 The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (Infantry); in Tunbridge Wells, 217 Fd Sqn Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), 101 EOD Engineer Regiment; and in Rochester, 221 Fd Sqn EOD Troop, 101 EOD Engineer Regiment (Royal Engineers) and 3 PWRR (Infantry).
An Army spokesman for the TA in Kent said: “There is going to be a lot more money spent on the reserves so this is a positive thing for the Territorial Army.”
Defence secretary Liam Fox announced cuts to the Armed Forces this week, with the army shrinking from its current size from around 100,000 to 82,000 by 2020.
Mr Fox said he wanted to increase the number of fully-trained reservists in the navy, army and air force and bring Britain more in line with countries such as the US by boosting reserve numbers of 20,000 to 35,000 by 2015.
|Territorial Army reserves could replace 5,000 soldiers in review|
Thousands of regular soldiers could be sacked to boost the role of the Territorial Army under a government cost cutting review.
By By James Kirkup and Thomas Harding
7:30AM BST 16 Jul 2011
The Daily Telegraph has learned that reserves will take a significant role in front-line operations at the expense of up to 5,000 regular soldiers.
The reserves review, which was commissioned by David Cameron and will be published on Monday, has led to clashes with senior military commanders concerned about the impact of further cuts on the army's operational capability.
Critics of Britain’s reserve forces say they are inefficient and ineffective, while advocates say that properly supported reserves can be cheaper and more flexible than regular forces.
The review will recommend that the TA should retain it's current strength of 36,000, with an estimated 5,000 reservists will be trained for front-line operations. According to defence analysts, however, at present only one in 20 TA soldiers has sufficient training to be deployed.
It is understood that the MoD is asking the Treasury for £150 million a year of extra funding for the TA to cover the oost of additional recruitment, training and equipment.
Gen Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, is understood to be battling to receive guarantees that the Army will not face any further cuts until the TA reforms are in place with the estimated 5,000 “deployable troops ready and trained”.
The review has been conducted by General Sir Nick Houghton, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and Julian Brazier, a Conservative MP.
If TA reservists are on the front-line by 2015 then it is likely that the Army will allow cuts of 5,000 regular troops, on top of the 7,000 already underway. The redundancies will see the Army drop to 90,000 troops, its smallest size in more than a century.
“If the TA can deliver the manpower and if this can be funded outside the MoD budget then we could see a like-for-like reduction to the regular Army,” said a planner involved in the reforms.
"That is the surety that the Chief of Defence Staff is looking for but he wants to see the model proved before any reductions are made.”
As well as doing more front-line work, reservists could contribute more to “homeland security” work dealing with the aftermath of terrorist attacks and other emergencies.
The review was set up last year after ministers ducked out of plans to make deep cuts in the TA.
A Whitehall official said that Mr Cameron intends to kick the review into the long grass to avoid another clash with military chiefs.
The official said: “You’re basically talking about a plan that would require sacking regular units to fund the expansion of an organisation that’s already struggling to keep up its numbers. Why on earth would the PM agree to that?”
Kevan Jones, a Labour defence spokesman, said: “Major changes are gong to cost money. Without that, the report will simply sit on a shelf.”
An MoD spokesperson said: "Following the defence review a series of additional studies has been undertaken to continue the work of transforming and rebalancing defence. We expect to announce the findings of these studies to Parliament next week and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."
| 19 July 2011 Last updated at 13:05|
Experts analyse plan to boost UK's reserve armed forces
The regular Army will be cut from 101,000 to 84,000 troops by 2020, Defence Secretary Liam Fox told MPs on Monday.
Instead, £1.5bn will be invested into the Territorial Army over the next 10 years to get thousands more reservists trained for the front line.
The changes will mean the TA will make up about 30% of a 120,000-strong Army and bring the UK's proportion of reservists - currently around 14% - closer to that of countries such as the US, where it is 38%.
But how does our reserve force compare to the US model and what are the implications of the announcement?
The most glaring difference between the TA and the US Army Reserve and National Guard is scale. The two US reserve forces have a combined strength of 480,000.
"You have much more flexibility to meet operational demands and rotate units, so readiness is less of an issue," says Mark Phillips, research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
"It's more difficult to do that in the UK where the force is much smaller. You just don't have that flexibility."
But Mr Phillips adds that compared with the part-time commitment required of most TA recruits (a minimum of 27 days) around half of the US reserves are actually full-time employees.
One arm of the US reserves, the National Guard, is also distinct from the TA due to its focus on "homeland security and resilience", and is well-known for assisting in emergencies, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Guard is controlled by state governors, but the US president can call on them to help overseas if there's a pressing need, says Mr Phillips, with some guardsmen now providing support roles - such as logistics and engineering - for the regular army in Afghanistan.
Dr Fox also mentioned increasing the TA's "homeland security" role, which could see the reserves taking on some National Guard-type duties in times of need.
It's an idea that Mr Phillips says could prove fruitful: "Potentially the TA does offer benefits. These are people who work or live in local communities - they know the environment and surroundings better than regular soldiers would - it's a key strength."
However, such a role is likely to give military leaders further tricky decisions: "If it's expected reserves will also become integral to operations abroad, then the MoD will also have to think how to balance it against what we want them to do in the homeland."
Mr Phillips also says a key challenge for the Army will be increasing the current deployable reserve force - estimated by the defence secretary at around 14,000 - to the stated target of 36,000.
"Recruiting and retention has always been an issue," says Mr Phillips. "You could make it more attractive by changing terms and conditions, allowances, by changing partnerships with employers - but there's no guarantee."
"They'll need to improve things like welfare, families, healthcare, housing, dealing with psychological effects of operations.
"All those things that are discouraging people from staying on in the TA at the moment."
An "absolute must" of boosting the number of part-time reservists should be to help the military "reconnect" and become more relevant to the average person on the street, says Julian Lindley-French, professor of defence strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy.
He argues the low proportion of reservists in recent decades - caused partly by the UK military turning fully professional in 1960 and a lack of modern conscription - has damaged a once familiar relationship.
"One of the reasons foreign analysts say we [the British public] have a robust approach to casualties is because the Army and military is so small compared to civil society, it simply doesn't affect most people.
"There's a dangerous disconnect between civil society and the military, which makes recruiting - even for reserves - very difficult."
The defence secretary alluded to the point in the Commons, saying that a "stronger reserve is one of the ways of increasing the links between the Armed Forces and the communities of this country."
The Future Reserves 2020 report, on which Mr Fox based his recommendations, puts the point more forcefully.
Despite public sympathy for the Army due to campaigns such as Afghanistan, it says the force has become "remote" and "links between a rapidly changing society and an ever smaller and more professional military are eroding".
Bolstering Britain's reserves is a step in the right direction says Prof Lindley-French, but he adds that, inevitably, there will be considerable practical and organisational challenges.
"You have issues with indemnities to employers, the cost of training, where one can uses such reserves - they'll have to be a whole raft of cultural changes in the British approach and their concept of reserve forces for this to work through."
He also suggests that the goal of having more deployable troops and "creating a mini version of the American model" could be partly due to a growing reluctance to rely on foreign military partners in international operations.
"Evidence from Afghanistan is that most Europeans are very adept at making excuses as to why they will not do things and that London will no longer rely on European allies - apart from the French, for anything but the most cursory of operations."