Reports about British Armed Forces
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Latest UK Armed Forces Manning Figures Released
Figures showing that the UK Armed Forces are currently just under 98 per cent of their full time trained strength requirement have been released today by the MOD. This is up from 96.8 per cent a year ago and shows a continued upward trend in both recruitment and retention.
The statistics show that the number of people leaving the trained strength of the UK Regular Forces in the 12 months to 30 September 2009 has fallen by 21.9 per cent compared with the same period a year ago. Overall, the number of people leaving is at its lowest in five years.
A total of 24,230 new recruits have joined the UK Regular Forces
in the 12 months to 30 September 2009, an increase of 12.6 per cent (2,720 people) compared to the previous 12 months. The number of people joining the Armed Forces is at its highest point since the 12 months to 31 March 2002.
These figures show that there were 18,270 untrained personnel
(not including officers) at 1 October 2009, up from 15,540 at the same point last year. The number of untrained officers was up from 3,060 to 3,230 in the same period.
As at 1 October 2009, the full time trained strength of the UK Armed Forces was 174, 890 against a target of 178,490. This comprises 170,050 UK Regular Forces, 1,320 full time reserve service personnel and 3,520 Gurkhas.
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The Defence Minister said
“These latest manning figures are good news. A career in the armed forces is challenging and rewarding and for young men and women who want to make a difference it’s a great choice. The training and opportunities these careers offer, in a huge range of trades and professions, are undoubtedly second to none.”
Since 1 October 2008, the proportion of females in the UK Regular Forces has risen from 12.0 per cent to 12.1 per cent for officers and from 8.9 per cent to 9.0 per cent for other ranks.
The percentage of UK Regular Forces from ethnic minority backgrounds continues to rise; at 1 October 2009 ethnic minorities accounted for 6.6 per cent of UK Regular Forces compared to 6.3 per cent at the same point last year.
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Plea to the public from the front line
Please support us at Christmas–but not by sending parcels!
Generous members of the public who show their support for Armed
Forces personnel by sending welfare parcels to Afghanistan are being urged to stop and think – and consider alternative and better ways they can back the troops.
There are many different ways in which people in the UK can thank forces deployed overseas for their work and commitment, and support practical efforts to make their free time more enjoyable and comfortable.
But whilst the kindness and generosity of people who send boxes of treats out to operational theatre are greatly appreciated, the sheer volume of mail now being received - and the unintentional inclusion of inappropriate items - is causing serious difficulties for those charged with running the distribution service of supplies, including post, in theatre.
As the amount of post traditionally increases in the run-up to
Christmas, officers and soldiers at Camp Bastion hope to highlight the unintended consequences of the public’s generosity – and point out other, much more effective ways that people can do their bit to bring a little cheer to the front line.
The message comes direct from military personnel at the sharp end, and their message is simple: troops on the ground in Helmand Province really appreciate support from back home, but the mountains of well-intentioned mail cause genuine difficulties which outweigh the benefits.
The volume of mail arriving at Camp Bastion for
Onward distribution is causing three key problems
• Personal mail sent to deployed personnel by their loved ones can become significantly delayed, amidst all the other items from members of the public. Receipt of letters or gifts from a parent or spouse can be very important for morale in theatre and for the peace of mind of families back home. Whilst unsolicited parcels are without doubt popular with recipients, the delays they inevitably cause to the delivery of the much more anticipated personal mail are considerably less welcome.
• The onward delivery of goodwill parcels to forward operating bases necessitates additional re-supply flights and convoys which places Service personnel at additional risk in what is already a difficult and dangerous operating environment. Every time an additional convoy is laid on, more troops are put at risk of enemy attack.
• The type of items included in many welfare parcels are either already readily available in theatre or are simply not appropriate for the Afghan environment, and therefore can go to waste.
The Ministry of Defence is very keen to ensure that members of the public who wish to support British service personnel are able to do so in a way which does not cause problems for the very people at whom the help is directed. For that reason a list of recommended Service charities, which accept public donations to assist deployed personnel and their families back at home, has been drawn up.
Some of these funds send welfare parcels to Afghanistan – but they do so, in consultation and partnership with the Armed Forces, in a co-ordinated way which does not put undue pressure on resources. This list of charities can be found on the internet at:
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The newest of these charities, established this year, is the SSAFA Operational Welfare Fund, which delivers items for which troops on the ground have bid, to make their lives a little more comfortable. More details on this charity can be found at:
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Operational Welfare Fund
Another of the charities is uk4u-Thanks! which delivers a Christmas box to every soldier, sailor and airman deployed overseas – in Afghanistan and elsewhere – in time for 25th December. Its parcels are delivered via the supply chain, meaning there is no impact on the mail network. This charity benefits from corporate sponsorship but also appeals for private
donations. A 2009 media launch for uk4u-Thanks! takes place on 1st December at RAF Northolt (Newsdesks please note an Operational Note will follow)
Captain Charlie Malcolm, Officer Commanding the Operation HERRICK Postal and Courier Squadron, based at Camp Bastion, explaines:
“Unfortunately backlogs of mail do build up from time to time, particularly at this time of year. For personnel deployed overseas, personal mail from loved ones is very important. But the system can be completely overwhelmed by the public’s generous donations, which results in mail from family and
friends being delayed."
“The main cause of this is the huge and unmanageable number of welfare parcels, sent by well meaning members of the public, to recipients not personally known to the sender. In some cases the intended recipients have left Afghanistan long ago. This mail significantly delays the all important personal mail from soldier’s families."
“While we recognise and are grateful for these generous intentions, it would be better if members of the public could channel their goodwill into making a donation to one of the MoD’s recommended service charities. These charities
send out packages – containing items the troops really want and have requested – in a co-ordinated way which does not hold up personal mail, or put unnecessary pressure on resources.”
Lt Col. George Waters, Staff Officer with responsibility for
Operational Welfare at the Ministry of Defence, added
“I have served in Afghanistan myself and I have been the recipient of several goodwill parcels from members of the public. There is no denying that the knowledge that complete strangers are thinking of you provides a boost to morale. But what the troops on the ground want above all else is to receive
their personal mail and the sheer number of welfare parcels in the system causes serious delays to those all-important personal items."
“Everybody in the Armed Forces is enormously grateful for the generosity of people who want to support us. But the timely delivery of letters and parcels from loved ones must always take precedence over the delivery of packages from strangers."
“My message is unequivocal – if you wish to show your support for the troops, the far and away most effective way of doing so is to support an official registered service charity, such as SSAFA.”
Minister for the Armed Forces, Bill Rammell MP, said
“I am delighted that so many members of the public are keen to show their support for our Armed Forces at Christmas. I know how much it means to our brave men and women serving overseas."
“However, it is very important to make sure that people express their support in the right way to make the biggest difference in helping our troops on the ground. Rather than sending their own letter or parcel, I am strongly urging people to consider making a donation of whatever they can afford to one of the excellent Service charities on our recommended list. This is what those in
Afghanistan are saying they would like, as they want to make sure letters from their family and friends get to them without delay."
“Once again, let me say thank you to the British public for their incredible ongoing support for our Armed Forces. I am only the messenger on this one, so please do not respond to me. But this is now the official MOD line to take."
EXERCISE MOUNTAIN DRAGON
TRAINING TO FIGHT THE TALEBAN
Military personnel and industry partners are using pioneering technology to train Armed Forces personnel for fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan from a hangar at RAF Waddington
RAF Tornado aircrew from II (AC) Squadron based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, Army Air Corps personnel from Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk and soldiers from 97 Battery, 4th Regiment based at Topcliffe in Yorkshire are due to deploy to Afghanistan next year are using the Distributed Synthetic Air Land Training (DSALT) system to get the best possible preparation they can.
The DSALT facility enables pilots to fly simulated missions in
support of soldiers in contact with computer generated enemy forces on the ground on exercises supported by a technical and operational team of military, ex-military and civilian backgrounds from Inzpire, QinetiQ, Boeing and Meggit.
The Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC) recently reopened following a major refurbishment and software upgrade and now the scenarios are more realistic than ever before thanks to the introduction of a new Afghanistan database.
It is the first time that most of the soldiers have taken part in this type of integrated air-land synthetic simulator training and so far the feedback has been extremely positive.
Training Staff taking part in Ex Mountain Dragon have said that the exercise provides the best synthetic training for the Army and RAF to practice their fighting skills currently available anywhere in the world.
The ABTC synthetic environment allows individuals and teams to train in a highly realistic high-threat environment and carry out the Tactics Techniques and Procedures that cannot be practiced in normal peacetime training. The exercises are supported by a technical and operational team comprised of military, ex-military and civilian backgrounds.
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Among the first military personnel
To try out the system, as part of Exercise Mountain Dragon, are troops who act as Fire Support Teams (FSTs) including Forward Air Controllers (FACs) on the front line. The job of the FST is to co-ordinate modern weapons; from the Army’s artillery, mortars and Apache helicopters to the bombs and missiles used by the RAF’s fast jets, to engage the enemy without endangering their own comrades, allied forces or civilians.
The opportunities for military units to train as they fight are constrained by peacetime rules, the availability of training airspace and limitations on the employment of live weaponry. But that’s where the technology provided by the ABTC at RAF Waddington as its Officer Commanding, Wing Commander Mike ‘Elvis’ Costello explains:
“We can’t replace the need for live training altogether but we can get as close to actual operations through synthetic simulated training. How good it is depends on how immersed
the players get in it and they are finding it as close to the real thing as you can get without the ‘knee-tremblers’ you experience under fire."
"Exercises like Mountain Dragon provide targeted training for soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan operating very close
to the enemy on how to work with the RAF’s fast jets, and attack helicopter pilots, how to talk to them, and how to effectively execute a mission.”
"Royal Artillery Gunnery Training Team Chief Instructor Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Gray has been involved in training all the Army Brigades deployed on Operation HERRICK and was in
Helmand province during Operation PANTHER’s CLAW. His team provide the Army training staff for Exercise Mountain Dragon.
He said “The Air Battlespace Training Centre, and specifically Exercise Mountain Dragon, provide the best synthetic training opportunity for the Army and RAF to practice their fighting skills currently available anywhere in the world."
"The course at RAF Waddington is awesome and has a significant impact on both soldiers and airmen and their ability to
co-ordinate and deliver military firepower. This is truly joint training at its best and is definitely improving operational effectiveness and saving lives in Afghanistan.”
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