THE death of a Territorial Army reservist from Yorkshire is another poignant reminder, as the nation falls silent at 11am to mark Armistice Day, about the risks that continue to confront the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
These are not brave individuals who provide support to regular soldiers from a safe distance. They are on the front line, in the heat of battle, and helping fulfil Britain’s obligations to Nato’s International Security Assistance Force.
The Armed Forces are also bearing the brunt of the defence cuts. They are being expected to do more, even though Britain is, thankfully, out of Iraq. And, while the withdrawal of UK troops from Germany will provide some much-needed slack, this exercise will not be completed until 2020 under the Government’s new timetable.
However this does not excuse the support afforded to the TA and their families which, frankly, leaves a lot to be desired. As Brigadier Greville Bibby said, these recruits can be flown out of Helmand Province on Friday – and be back at their desks on Civvy Street by Monday morning. He added: “The onus is on us, as the Army, to keep our arms around them.”
Given that a Territorial Army soldier will be deployed for a year from the onset of training to their return home, and that this region supplies nearly a fifth of all reservists, it is perturbing that so much is left to chance. The consequence is more recruits being treated for a range of mental health afflictions, placing MoD budgets under even greater strain.
As each soldier is mourned, David Cameron and MPs pay tribute to the Armed Forces. They now need to re-enforce these sincere words with measures to ensure that TA personnel, the Army’s unsung heroes, have sufficient support on and off the battlefield.