'The Territorial Army deserves better'

From Guardian.co.uk 16 Oct 2009: The Territorial Army deserves better | A TA soldier writes | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

The MoD has relied heavily on our services in recent years, and brutal cuts are our reward, writes a TA soldier

I have been a serving member of the Territorial Army (TA) for several years. During this time I have seen many changes, the most notable being the compulsory mobilisation of TA soldiers in 2003 to fight the war in Iraq. I was mobilised and spent several months away from family and friends, my part-time job becoming a full-time occupation. During my time in theatre I served alongside regular soldiers, doing the job of a regular soldier, and the fact that I was part of the TA was no issue, with many completely unaware this was the case.

My unit continues to train TA soldiers for overseas tours, including the conflict in Afghanistan. However, recent events have made me question whether the TA, having offered its support, is now receiving the support it needs. Budget cuts this year have already led to a reduction in TA training days, and now we are told there will be a six-month halt to all training. This has already led to some units shutting up shop until April 2010. The army has a responsibility to provide the right training for the people it is sending into war zones. This is difficult enough already for the TA, only having its recruits part-time – with a reduction in training, will our soldiers have the necessary skills to serve their country in the future?

Since the Ministry of Defence announcement I have witnessed a fall in morale among TA soldiers, with many questioning whether there is a future for them within the armed forces. We are told that there is just one army, regular and part-time, but it is hard to believe this is the case when it is the TA bearing the full brunt of budget cuts. If my unit is put on a six-month stand-down I am not sure how many of its soldiers will return, meaning the loss of some very skilled men and women. I am saddened that in an age when the TA is increasingly being used for frontline duties it seems to be facing a fight for survival.

The MoD has been happy to use the TA to bridge gaps, but now that the recession has boosted recruitment in the regular army and fewer soldiers are leaving, it seems our services are not as essential. We are in effect being made redundant without any compensation, and yet will still be expected to put our lives on the line if called upon. It is important to note that many TA soldiers would still be prepared to do this if needed, highlighting their unwavering commitment.

A lot is asked of our TA soldiers. We work full-time jobs during the week, and then give up many of our weekends to undertake training. We are happy to do this if the sacrifices we make are valued, but to many this latest announcement is a hard blow to bear.

If this signals the end of the Territorial soldier it will leave a very bitter taste for me and many others, who have devoted years to what we believe to be a truly worthwhile cause.


The author of this article, a TA soldier, wishes to remain anonymous


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