Thursday, 31 January 2008

Loss of trained personnel means less training for new recruits

"Nearly 1,000 new army recruits face having their combat training cut by half so that they can be rushed to the battlefields of Afghanistan." So says today's Times. The newspaper claims that British infantry battalions are experiencing 15% manpower shortages, 3,600 men in total. Up until now the Army has been able to make up the infantry shortfall by transfers from other regiments but this will no longer surfice. Instead it is being proposed that infantry training programmes could be reduced from 28 to 14 weeks. Senior officers are worried that young soldiers will be sent into the frontline without the skills and experience necessary to fight an enemy as capable as the Taliban and that troops with abridged training may come to represent 60% of the fighting strength of infantry battalions serving in Afghanistan.
The MoD PR Division reckons "we’re taking action in terms of the manning challenges" and will be able to "fast track" recruits through an "accelerated training" programme without compromising the highest standards expected from the British Army.
What all this highlights is the growing sense of alarm being felt about the manpower crisis in the Armed Forces and it is the loss of experienced, trained personnel which causes most concern. This of course brings up all the issues about low pay, poor accommodation, overstretch, pressures on service families, squeezed military budgets etc - all of which are contributing to the increasing number of guys marching out the door.
The Government should be working towards staunching this outward flow of experienced personnel rather than plugging the gaps in the ranks with undertrained, unprepared and therefore more vulnerable, rookies. That or cut back on the commitments that it has foisted on the Armed Services.
It's good to hear that recruitment levels are more or less on target and that morale among new recruits remains high - see BBC report below.

Link> The Times: Half-trained troops to fight the Taleban
Link> MoD :Ainsworth: Defence training project on track
Link> BBC: Training for war in 28 weeks