independent professional staff association for UK forces personnel

'The can-do culture stays calm and just cracks on'

Author Patrick Bishop, writing in The Daily Telegraph, argues that apart from the debate about equipment, the defence review is about people – the remarkable men and women who make up the three Services, with whom the public has a warm but ambivalent relationship.

Bishop's thought-provoking aricle discusses the relationship between the armed forces and public opinion, which "has shown an interesting ability to combine support for the military with opposition to, or disquiet about the Afghan war". He concludes that:

Soldiers' readiness to do the job depends on them not feeling they are fools for volunteering. They must have the necessary equipment to perform the tasks they are asked to do. Their pay and conditions, the quarters they live in and the education available to their children must feel adequate and fair. If they suffer physical or mental injury, they must be properly looked after and if they die, their dependants properly taken care of.

It is what they are owed and what they expect. Any attempt to short-change them, as a senior officer told me in private recently, could have a "subliminal but insidious effect on morale". The Coalition pledged a fair deal for the forces when it reaffirmed its backing for the Military Covenant in its Programme for Government last May. It must make sure that whichever way the axe swings next month, that commitment is honoured.

Patrick Bishop's novel 'Follow Me Home', set in southern Afghanistan, will be published by Hodder and Stoughton next spring.

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