It was only a few weeks ago that British troops returning from Afghanistan had to change out of their uniforms on a Birmingham Airport runway before they would be permitted to walk through the airport concourse. We now hear that one of the first recommendations coming from the National Recognition Study group is that service personnel should now be encouraged to wear uniform when off duty. The National Recognition Study, set up last December under the chairmanship of Quentin Davies MP, is working on identifying ways to improve the British public's perception of and support for the Armed Forces.
If the wearing of uniform when off duty gets the go ahead, it will overturn a policy introduced in the 1970s when the MoD considered a serviceman in uniform made a conspicuous target for the IRA. Unfortunately, a serviceman walking in a UK street by himself in 2008 may well feel just as vulnerable as his predecessor did in 1978; gangs of youths, anti-war campaigners, radical islamists and any old nutter may think they can assault and harangue a single soldier who, being in uniform, will find it difficult to respond.
Other proposals coming from the review are for more parades, open days at military bases, school visits and the promotion of cadet forces.
As a matter of interest, the study group approached British Airways and Virgin to see if they would give discounts to service personnel; Virgin said it already does and British Airways, the national flag carrier, said it wouldn't - well there's another good reason why not to fly BA!
What the MoD should be doing is employing the likes of Dean Tabreham and Ross Kemp on its PR team - they would quickly improve the public's perception of the Armed Forces.
Link> The Times: Britain urged to love a man in uniform again
Link> BBC: Off-duty troops may be in uniform
Link> The Guardian: Military personnel should wear uniforms off-duty, says study