Sunday’s Telegraph (8 April) carries a piece regarding RAF personnel who can be called up even after they have been sacked – reserve liability. I’ve been banging on about this issue for some time. The same problem faces Army officers and I have an uncanny feeling that if plans to increase the TA don’t materialise we could indeed see the reserve being re-called the next time we find ourselves involved in an operation of any sort. In fact I wrote to my MP some weeks ago pointing out that TA recruiting rates (as reported in the Times, 24 February) fall laughably short of the Future Force 2020 requirement and that subsequently the reserve must be at real risk of being re-called to fill the gap. Now the grown-ups will tell us what a practical and cost effective idea this is, and it would only happen in the direst of circumstances but I can’t help but think that re-calling those you have previously sacked because they are ‘surplus to requirement’ feels, well, dirty. Either you need them, or you don’t.
This is a family issue. Imagine – your soldier is made redundant, you face the trauma of finding a new home; establishing for the soldier, or re-establishing for the spouse, a career at a time of economic gloom; your children have to move schools; coming to terms with the soldier being uprooted from a career they loved and you’re just finding your feet when you’re re-called. The reserve is meant to be for a national emergency but unless TA recruiting increases dramatically it is most likely any reserve call-up will be used more routinely to fill the gap created by redundancies and left unfilled by insufficient TA recruits. Will your new employer really welcome this? How do you feel having been pushed out to have to return to an employer who has let you down? Few having faced the indignity of enforced redundancy will willingly return. If the MOD is sure that the Army 2020 model will work, there should be absolutely no need to keep sacked personnel on the reserve. They should have the decency to remove the obligation for those who face involuntary redundancy (they can keep the possibility to ‘opt in’). After all, when you’ve devastated a family’s life plans once is it morally right to maintain an option to do so again? It feels a little like the MOD trying to have its cake and eat it.