Marching on: the Army’s role in the world of today

first_imgMarching on: the Army’s role in the world of todayOn 1 Jun 2004 in Military, Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:center_img The head of HR for the British Army occupies the hottest seat in thebusiness. He talks to Michael Millar about bullying, stress and the role of theArmy in a modern worldLieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin arguably has the most demanding HR jobin the UK. It is a job dogged by constant media analysis and political scrutiny, andpunctuated by thunderous bangs that echo around his base on Salisbury Plain asartillery gunners are put through their paces. The general manages an annual budget of £1.7bn and, as the Army websitesays, looks after its ‘most vital resource – its personnel’. As the Adjutant General, he holds the third most senior position in theBritish Army, and is responsible for the recruitment, training, manning andretention of more than 100,000 officers and soldiers deployed in more than 20countries. His role is becoming more important than ever; no-one could have missed thebarrage of headlines over the war in Iraq, or the deaths at Deepcut barracks inSurrey, where four young recruits apparently committed suicide. A 15-month Surrey Police investigation, published in March, uncoveredrepeated examples of bullying, and failure to learn from the lessons of thepast at Deepcut. Bullying To attract new recruits in a modern environment, the Army now markets itselfas a career that goes beyond shining boots and being shouted at. Instead, the literature and website emphasise not only a demanding andprofessional life, but one also peppered with sport, adventure, world traveland camaraderie. This spotlight on teamwork and ‘friends for life’ is a total contrast tomedia stories of a brutal regime that drove four young soldiers to their deathsat Deepcut. General Irwin is adamant that the Army has been misrepresented by mediareports. “Of course there is bullying in the Army, there is bullying everywhere.It is part of the human condition. I wish it wasn’t, but it is,” he said. “Do we tolerate bullying? Do we pay no attention to it? Of course not,because we realise that bullying is counterproductive. “We have a very clearly defined policy that is written and distributeddownwards and is seen to be distributed downwards to the bottom levels,”he said. “The policy is reinforced by action in terms of specific trainingwhen officers and non-commissioned officers go on courses. They are all toldabout this and tested on it in terms of how they understand it all. “At unit level, where this is the predominant problem, companycommanders are absolutely aware of their duties in these matters and keep aneagle eye. It is a combination of policy at one end, and absolutely practicalhands-on supervision on the other.” The Army today Sitting in his office in the kilt of his regiment, The Black Watch, andsurrounded by portraits of historic military events, the general is the firstto admit the Army faces huge challenges in the modern age. “Like every other employer, we are finding it increasingly difficult toget enough people of the right quality to be interested in what we aredoing,” he said. “There is a suspicion in a lot of people’s minds about what life in theArmy is all about, and until we overcome those feelings, we can’t recruitthem.” Stress From the ‘Thousand Yard Stare’ to post-traumatic stress disorder, stress hasalways been a barrier to recruitment. Recent research by Personnel Today revealed that stress costs UK employersmore than 1.5million days and £1.24bn a year. Few, if any of these face theprospect of sending their staff into a war zone. But the general said the Army is working hard to abandon the masculine,‘stiff upper lip’ approach to stress, whereby soldiers were encouraged to just‘deal with it’. It now offers a UK Army Welfare Service and a network ofinformation centres similar to the Citizen Advice Bureau. The Army also uses a physical assessment programme to make sure the state ofa soldier’s body matches their state of mind. “We have become much more sophisticated about [stress],” thegeneral said. “In training, we include a lot about how people shoulddetect symptoms of soldiers beginning to go over the edge, and what they mustdo to help them sort it out.” Help available to officers even includes a pocket-sized aide-mémoire for themanagement of stress. This states the reasons for stressed staff and how toidentify symptoms, right down to advice on how to create a management plan tocombat it. Training Training goes far beyond the strictly combat. The Educational and TrainingServices (ETS), a branch of the Adjutant General’s Corps, comprises 328officers who act as the Army’s education and training developmentprofessionals. The Army offers a holistic approach to individual training, practising a‘whole life development’ concept, which encompasses professional develop- ment,career management and personal development. No matter where a soldier may be in the world, training continues. Eventhose in Iraq have just been recipients of a mobile Army Learning Centre, oneof 115 online study facilities. Best practice When the general returned to the issue of the ‘myth’ of the uncaring,inattentive and bullying Army, he argued that instead of lambasting the Army,people should look to it as an example of best practice, if only in light ofthe commercial realities it faces. “We don’t look at our people as another resource to be used and thendiscarded,” he said. “We can’t buy and sell labour – we have torecruit somebody and keep them. We can’t let them go and then re-hire them. “The chain of command takes an interest in them and makes them feellike part of the organisation, and they always are. This creates a sense ofbelonging and a sense of loyalty to the Army, which I’m not sure is commonoutside because of commercial pressures at work. “There is a tremendous sense of connecting up from the top to thebottom in a personal sense, which I think is a very strong best practicething,” said the general. Undeniably, the Army has its problems. It’s caught between a proud heritagebuilt on rigid discipline and a modern world. If something goes wrong, theworld finds out and numerous interested parties enter the fray. Only last week, the Ministry of Defence requested that the Adult LearningInspectorate assess and report on training offered to all new recruits in thewake of the Deepcut deaths. As the Army remains firmly in the sights of the British media, and withDeepcut families threatening to request a judicial review of the Government’srefusal to hold a public inquiry into the deaths at the barracks, generalIrwin’s job looks set to remain one of the toughest in HR for a long while tocome. CV Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin KCB CBE2003    AdjutantGeneral2000    General OfficerCommanding (GOC) Northern Ireland1999    Military Secretary1985 – 1999     Aftervarious appointments, including director of land warfare, and project directorin the Procurement Executive, he was appointed as commandant of the RoyalMilitary College of Science1985    Twenty-five yearsafter his father had held the same position, he took command of 1st Battalionof The Black Watch and led it on tours in Northern Ireland, Edinburgh and WestBerlin1970 – 1985     After anumber of regimental and training appointments, he graduated from the RoyalMilitary College of Science, Shriven-ham and the Pakistan Army Staff College inQuetta, and was then posted to the Ministry of Defence. This was followed bycommand appointments in West Germany and Northern Ireland1970    Graduated from StAndrew’s University, and was commissioned into The Black Watch (Royal HighlandRegiment) Features list 2021 – submitting content to Personnel TodayOn this page you will find details of how to submit content to Personnel Today. We do not publish a…last_img

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