Recruitment crisis grips the military – why we shouldn’t be surprised

It is being reported today that an Army training course had 82 of its 96 places left unfilled as a recruitment crisis grips the military.

Just 14 would-be troops signed up for the common infantry course at Catterick, the Army’s biggest base.

There are a number of reasons for this sorry state of affairs.

Take, for example, the MoD’s failure to look after those who have bravely served but are medically discharged onto Civvy Street with no help or support.

One such case is Major Wayne Owens who was honoured three times by the Queen, saved countless lives and defused nearly 1000 bombs in Afghanistan.

Despite this,  his 27-year decorated career ended with him being dumped – after he asked for help in battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The bomb disposal expert confided in military doctors after suffering terrible nightmares and anxiety attacks from the horrors he witnessed.  But after two years of treatment he was told he was unfit to serve anymore, despite medical experts saying his condition was improving.  Rather than offering him a non-operational posting, as had happened with troops suffering physical injuries, the army ruled his career was over.  He was given a medical discharge and just £6,000 compensation to pick up the threads of his life.

Then there is the duty of care (or lack of it) the MoD provides to our servicemen and women while they are serving on the front line.

Under current proposals, combat immunity – which provides an exemption from legal liability for the Ministry of Defence – would apply to all claims brought by those in combat, even procurement decisions made back at Whitehall, where equipment provided to our troops subsequently turns out to be faulty or unsuitable.    Both legally and morally, the MoD should not be allowed to legislate its way out of the duty of care it owes to our armed forces.  If the MoD, as an employer, can legislate its way out of a duty of care to our armed forces where does this stop?  Will other employers be next?  The Fire Service? The Police Force?  Where will it end?

There needs to be a complete overhaul in military thinking. If you sign up for one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet then you need to know you will be looked after if things go wrong.

I have long campaigned for a membership for life with benefits and support for those who have served.
There should also be a working military link back in to a commanding officer or a dedicated help line. This was so obviously lacking in the cases of those accused by IHAT, where there was no framework of support or assistance.

The military should set up a working committee of not just the MoD but stakeholders with interests in supporting the military family and veterans.  Top on the agenda should be medical assistance, rehabilitation and mental health support, legal assistance, housing, retraining and debt.

Charities and breakfast hubs reliant on donations do a fabulous job and could be used as a net to catch anyone in need of assistance – but the MoD needs to totally rethink its strategy.

Hilary Meredith