G4S have failed to deliver their contractual obligations for London 2012. Step forward 20 Armoured Brigade, based in Germany and recently back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. We were ready to enjoy summer leave with our friends and families before the next busy training cycle begins for the final deployment to Afghanistan in 2014. For many of us leave has been cancelled.
Recent unemployment figures suggest that if G4S really wanted to fulfil their contractual obligations, then a trip down to the Job Centre may have sufficed; especially when you read that almost half a million young people are currently struggling to find work. But maybe that’s too simple. Just when you thought you couldn’t ask any more of an over stretched Army. Let’s procure 3,500 troops recently back from war. Theresa May. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Already a bitter pill to swallow we then throw on top of that SDSR, redundancy, Army 2020 and the reduction of no fewer than 23 regular units from the Army. We’ve also had changes to our pension scheme laid out – though yet to be fully announced we are undoubtedly set to loose thousands. Then there’s the budget fiasco. Well done George Osborne. A ridiculous percentage increase in benefits, while many soldiers see what is essentially a cut in pay with the rising cost of living. There’s literally something to complain about at every turn but then in context we see the sad milestone of the 400th death of Service Personnel in Afghanistan.
The Army I joined was all about retention. It wasn’t uncommon for soldiers to negotiate dream postings and promotion on the threat of signing off, but good soldiers were retained and if anything felt valued. It’s hard to feel valued when the bloke that was returning fire in contact or taking cover from IDF next to you is all of a sudden in the bracket for redundancy, and the career that he or she risked everything for has effectively said thanks, I know how much you’ve sacrificed to accommodate this unpredictable way of life but unfortunately the arse end of the economy has fallen out and we’ve been haemorrhaging money for years on rubbish, so unfortunately you’re out of a job. I’m frequently reminded that it’s what I signed up for.
A lack of value, respect and fairness is a clear indication of a failing Military Covenant and for me the greatest tragedy is the impact this has on our families. Time and time again it is our families who are left to pick up the pieces. Could you imagine having to explain to a 5 or 6 year old child the reasons why they’re not going on holiday this summer? I think it’s just a term used by naïve politicians. If it sounds good maybe people won’t ask too many questions.
The only thing that will make the coming weeks bearable is the support from the general public. In recent years the support we have received has been truly immense, and without it we wouldn’t be where we are today. We will be there at the Olympics because we are there to be called upon to make personal sacrifices in the service of the nation, our end of the Military Covenant, but just take a second to think of the real sacrifices we have made to be there. With cuts in defence and military redundancies it is little wonder that morale within the Army is at an all time low.
That was a guest blog written by an anonymous serving soldier who has had leave cancelled to be on duty for the Olympic Games in London.