Army to give soldiers more time off
Troops to have extra six months between tours of Iraq and Afghanistan
Wednesday 21 January 2009
British soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be given an extra six months off between tours because the "relentless pace" of operations in both war zones is putting pressure on their marriages and family lives. The Army is "undermanned" and needs 3,500 more serving troops, its head, General Sir Richard Dannatt, also said.
General Dannatt, in a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, confirmed that British servicemen and women would have their time between overseas deployments rise from two years to 30 months, because the present system was "unacceptable".
He said: "Many families and marriages have unfortunately fallen victim to the relentless pace of operations. We have seriously stretched our soldiers, both their goodwill and [that of] their families. A gap of one year between operational deployment is not unusual, and often soldiers are spending much of the year before a deployment away from home in training and preparation. This is unacceptable."
General Dannatt, who retires as Chief of the General Staff this year, said he would reduce the amount of time soldiers spent overseas by creating fewer fighting brigades with more troops in each, to be deployed less often. There are 10 units, each with around 4,000 soldiers, but under the new system there will be only six.
He said: "The Army should be about 102,000 soldiers. It is about 98,500. By definition we are undermanned. There is a very strong argument for the size of our land forces to be larger."
The general also criticised the Government for delaying the production of a new generation of armoured vehicles, saying that soldiers' present forms of transport "harks back to the Sixties and Seventies". The Defence Secretary, John Hutton, who is visiting troops in Afghanistan's Helmand province, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I agree with what the general has said and I think we have accepted that the strain of mounting two major operations – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – is creating very substantial strain and stress on our military forces."
Although insisting that it was "not a regular occurrence" for troops to be sent on an operational deployment after only a year's break, Mr Hutton acknowledged that the pressure on soldiers serving in small, specialist units was too high and should be addressed. He said the demand for serving troops would be relieved by the removal of some soldiers from Iraq this year.
But the shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, described General Dannatt's comments as "yet more confirmation that overstretch is seriously damaging the Army's ability to do its job" and called for a review of the present strategy. He said: "The surest way to have unhappy service personnel is to have unhappy service families. General Dannatt's suggestions should be taken seriously, as he is at least attempting creative solutions for our overstretch problem.
"Reducing the number of overseas deployments is a start, but the Government must also look at issues of housing, health care and veterans' welfare if it wants to avert a serious crisis in recruitment and retention. Repairing the broken military covenant is long overdue."
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Top 10 most expensive cities in the world: Singapore named costliest place to live – but what about London?
Oscar Pistorius trial: Neighbour feared athlete would use gun that killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to shoot himself
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'cheated on me' with Reeva Steenkamp, former girlfriend Samantha Taylor tells Pretoria court
Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 3 Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
- 4 Man stabbed with Legend of Zelda Master Sword in serious condition
- 5 Study suggests that 'gaydars' are real - at least for women
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...
£40k to £50k pa OTE £80k: Charter Selection: My client, a leading profitable a...
£46,141 to £51,816: NI Direct: The PPS is responsible for all prosecutions pre...
£50000 - £330000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Resident...