Friday, 25 July 2008

Para Colonel, Stuart Tootal, remains critical of conditions on the frontline

The MoD and the Government continue to be criticised by senior officers on their retirement from the Army. The latest officer to berate the conditions being experienced by frontline troops is Lt Colonel Stuart Tootal DSO who led 3rd battalion of the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan in 2006. The Battalion is currently on its second tour in Afghanistan.

It was back in November 2007 that the highly decorated para revealed that he was resigning from the Army in disgust over the “appalling” and “shoddy” treatment of troops. In an interview published in last Sunday's Observer he continues to lambast his former political masters for:
  • The poor pay, particularly for junior soldiers. "Even with the tax-free bonus for a tour somewhere like Afghanistan, soldiers get only £20,000," he said. "A tanker driver in the UK who can go on strike and takes no risks gets £32,000."
  • The low priority for the equipment and training needed for today's low-intensity military operations . He called for an end to the 'Cold War mentality' at the MoD, saying: "We have to ask if we really need so many high-altitude fighters right now. Defence has to be about priorities. We can't do everything. Helicopters are critical and save soldiers' lives". Although there are now more helicopters in Afganistan, the number of troops out there has also increased and the ratio remains more or less unchanged.
  • The treatment of soldiers at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham where injured soldiers continue to be treated by overstretched staff in mixed wards alongside civilians. He welcomed the improvements to the care of wounded soldiers recently by the Government's Command Paper on service personnel welfare.
  • The lack of a unified command structure in Afghanistan, insufficient investment in the Afghans' own security capabilities and an inability to master the complexities of the regional situation and the tribal and social structures on the ground, vital if the battle for hearts and minds is to be won.

Lt Col Tootal said: "All the guys I fought with were really motivated and really professional and the least a grateful nation owes them is the right gear and the right support."

However, it is not uncommon for retiring officers to sound off especially when their memories are soon to be published.

Link> The Observer: Para hero slams government treatment of frontline troops
Link> The Mail: Our troops 'betrayed': Paras chief who quit speaks out for first time over treatment of soldiers

Link> The Sun: Para quits over troop treatment
Link> Sky News: Lt Col Stuart Tootal, 3 Para Commander Resigns