What Measure Is a Reserve?

3 Jul

The latest idea from the British Government for cutting military costs is to depend more on the Army Reserve. This is one of those ideas that sound good to beancounters, but works poorly (if at all) in the real world. Indeed, as a recent article from Breitbart-London suggests, more volunteers have gone to join the Jihad in Syria than have signed up for the Army Reserve. Leaving the accuracy of this article aside for the moment, let us take a look at the contrast between the regular military and the reserve.

The army has at least one thing in common with a regular full-time job. Soldiers are soldiers first and foremost. They spend their days on deployment, training and exercising, leave or assistance to the civil authorities (flood relief, for example.) This is not true of reservists. They are people who hold jobs outside the military, which they have to leave at short notice when called to the colours. This tends to cause problems for their families and their employers. AND for the military.

A large business can probably cover for the sudden absence of one or two people. However, it would be a headache for managers, who would either have to make do without the reservist (for the duration of his deployment) or hire someone to fill the gap. To the best of my knowledge, it is illegal to fire someone for being a reservist; however, the prospect of someone being unable to commit to a full-time job will make managers unwilling to hire them. The smaller the business, the less room they will have to compensate for the loss of one of their workers. In short, being a member of the Army Reserve is likely to cut down one’s job prospects.

This problem has already appeared in the United States. National Guardsmen have often been forced to decide between the National Guard, which has gone on deployment alongside the regulars, or their places of employment. What price is patriotism when their families need money to live?

Why exactly wasn’t this taken into account when the government was drawing up its plans?

This isn’t the only problem. Modern war isn’t quite as simple as handing out the weapons, then pointing aggressive young men in the general direction of the enemy. Pre-deployment training eats up a considerable amount of time prior to any deployment. So reservists must be trained, and trained again, which will take them away from their jobs even if they aren’t sent out of the country.

And then we have another issue. Reservists will have families. Now, military families have to live with the fear that, one day, their loved ones will come back in a box, or hopelessly crippled. How much worse will it be, I ask you, if the family had several years of no military service at all, then lost a husband or father to a sudden shooting war?

Or what about pensions? What sort of support will be offered to the families of dead reservists? What about insurance? I’d be surprised if soldiers or reservists found it easy to get life insurance.

There are some advantages to maintaining a sizable Army Reserve. In the event of flooding, a major terrorist attack or mass civil unrest, it would be useful to be able to strengthen our deployable forces at high speed. However, the reserve cannot replace the regulars, which the government seems to believe possible.

Part of the problem, I think, is the perception that nothing is sacred any longer. Imagine yourself a young man, someone tough enough to consider a career in the British Army. You sign up, pass the qualification tests, go to Catterick and then pass the test to become part of the Parachute Regiment. Maybe you have ambitions to join the SAS after a tour or two of duty with the Paras. You put in all that effort … and then you get made redundant by the latest round of idiotic cuts. Why bother making the effort at all?

The bottom line is this. There is no way the Army Reserve can match the capabilities of regular soldiers. Trying to use the Reserve in the way the government has planned will be disastrous. It will, in the long run, cost us far more than maintaining a reasonably-sized regular army will cost us. And we would still be able to meet our commitments.

Right now, that is questionable.

We are at war. There are enemies out there. And our leaders are intent on disarming us.

<rolls eyes>

11 Responses to “What Measure Is a Reserve?”

  1. Chas July 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Pity the bean counters don’t think that way – if they think at all. Something you mentioned but needs to be emphasised, is that the modern military soldier/sailor/airman requires a considerable degree of technical training to use his equipment, much of which is of a highly technical nature. Anyone that thinks it’s just a matter o pointing a gun and shooting it, should try field stripping, servicing and rebuilding an SA80 or something even more complex. (For those who don’t know, the SA80 is the current assault weapon issued to Her Majesty’s troops, and I’ve heard stories that it’s not as good as the bureaucrats would like to have people think.). Any squaddies reading this can no doubt tell me if I’m wrong.

  2. thelyniezian July 4, 2014 at 2:17 am #

    “We are at war”? Since we have pulled out of Iraq and are in the process of pulling out of Afghanistan, can I ask precisely what wars we are currently fighting? What engagements which might necessitate armed conflict might our country absolutely need to fight? We need capable forces to defend our borders and shipping lanes it’s true, and if relying on reservves is not enough or problematic, fine. But how much do we really need to “project” ourselves out there?

    • Colin July 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

      What? Are there people this naive still in the UK? Ha! Wow!
      I would try and explain but as they say about leading a horse to water…..

      Chris you are bang on as are Chas’ comments. Keep up the writing. Really enjoying the books, thanks.

      • chrishanger July 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

        Yes. Most of them tend to end up in government. Chris Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:15:56 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

      • thelyniezian July 28, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

        @Colin: Am I to take it you suppose me personally to be naive? On what grounds? If so, unless you explain, I don’t know what you mean, and what is the point in responding thus?

        I asked the simple question: with whom are we at war, and in what military engagements are we currently active as a country? I am not trying to suggest that an army made up mostly of reserves is in any way effective, just what are our broader motivations for the military policy we are pursuing.

  3. k findlay July 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    The armed forces are there to protect the interests of the country and to provide a defence against the what if scenario. A good example is Sierra Leone where the disruption of that country led to the necessity of our deploying soldier’s very rapidly to resolve an urgent issue. There was no time to train up the force’s. The other major use is to deter aggression towards us. We cannot simply call up reserves to use to man bases like the Falklands, Cyprus or even Gibraltar as a deterence. One real issue is that as an Island we have little or no Navsl protection. The whole of Scotland is guarded by a minesweeper. We have no aircraft to patrol the ocean’s and are relying on fishermen to tell us when Russian battlefleets are appearing of our coasts.

  4. Mark P July 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    The idiocy is clearly demonstrated today by the launch of a lovely new aircraft carrier which won’t have any fixed wing aircraft for at least 5 more years! This will be followed by a second one which will probably never be used.

    • k findlay July 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      I agree especially with the knowledge that it’s seriously at risk to submarines. Of course the main issue is that we now have a serious lack of knowledge in actually running a carrier and fleet ops

      • Les Barrie July 7, 2014 at 11:17 am #

        Even more stupid is building an aircraft carrier that you cannot protect,even if you used every surface vessel the Royal navy has,destroyers and frigates [they have nothing latger] it would be virtually impossible to protect the Queen Elizabeth

  5. Alfred Durrance July 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    The UK is not alone in this scenario. The US government is doing it’s best to disarm itself and arm the enemy. Deployment of reserve forces to Afghanistan and Iraq proved to be traumatic for families and businesses.

  6. Bob Costello July 7, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Just because we’ve decided to stop fighting does not mean the other side has made the same decision. They still have a vote, and given our simpering “plan” for effective unilateral disarmament, I’m afraid it will come in the form of another 9/11-type “splashy” attack. Given the observed expansion of the apparatus for a surveillance state, many in government will not view this as a wholly bad thing, their inevitable caterwauling notwithstanding.

    BTW, this is from an American perspective, though it very likely applies …elsewhere as well. 😦

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