Monday, 30 April 2012

Is the Commanding Officers' Designate Course a barometre for morale?

Thousands of service personnel gathered at Twickenham this weekend for the Army v. Navy game giving many a chance to catch up with old friends. In an age of austerity it’s all about excess as espirit de corp abounds.

Jubilation at being in today’s Armed Forces is in short supply. Last week I presented at the Commanding Officers' Designates course to the chosen few. I sense a wind of change – normally very much ‘on message’ having achieved the life-time goal of being designated for command, those I saw seemed daunted by the prospect of what must be an impossible task as the gaping holes in welfare, finance and manpower become apparent - making their job as Commanding Officer increasingly difficult. Whilst some bravely state that austerity measures call for tough leadership one should remember that even in the years of plenty the Armed Forces were expected to deliver a champagne performance on cider budget. So how will these future COs manage to continue providing on tap water?

The future size, shape and direction of the Army will be announced over the next few months as Army 2020 is revealed – the fact that their most ‘keen as mustard’ personnel seem unconvinced by plans afoot are a worrying indication of the dire state of defence. It may have been a win for the Army at Twickenham – but I doubt many in the Army will feel like winners as the reality of life in the tranches continues.


  1. Very eloquently put Catherine. Interestingly, you have those that say nothing changes and those who say history has a habit of repeating itself. Having joined the Army in the mid 80's with a soul full of pride and an undeniable willingness born out of the events of the Falklands War (for which I was a smidge too young to participate), I seem to remember things like "Options for Change" and a continual culture of austerity and cutbacks that seemed to worsen year on year, not get better. Not even a successive change in Government seemed to change much in this area. I remember we used to say - When I joined up you could go to the QM and ask for a pencil and you'd be given a box-full. Now you have to write a justification in triplicate and get it signed off by your great great grandparent's budgie's niece before they'll even entertain the idea. (Oh and of course you'd have to produce the old one sharpened down to nothing before they'd even tell you which form to fill out).

    I've been out of the Army and pursuing my career as a therapist with a specialty in PTSD for some time now. But, because of this specialty, I've kept a very close eye on the goings on within the services often with a sad shake of the head and heavy sigh. Do I see a change or just history repeating itself? I think BOTH!