News that the Government is to reverse its decision to shut down Territorial Army training and weekend exercises, if true, is welcome. But the fact that this proposal was ever on the table shows an alarming misunderstanding of the TA’s role in current operations.
The decision to pull all TA training was rightly met with outrage and derision. And although it looks like the U-turn is more about saving face than protecting the lives of our soldiers, it is the right decision.
Those who will welcome this most are those Reservists committed to going on operations in Afghanistan next summer. Their confidence in the Government’s commitment to support them, however, must surely have taken a knock. These soldiers will be amongst roughly 1,200 reservists deployed annually to areas throughout the world.
TA soldiers come from all walks of life and provide support across many areas of military operations - from communication systems, to life saving treatment in the medical corp.
The role of the TA has been transformed in recent years and many Reservists have experience of active operations. If I was to point to just one example, and there are many, it would be the 90 Medic Reservists who were cheered in the streets of Exeter by hundreds of local people when they returned from a three month tour of duty in Afghanistan. This company were involved in staffing a newly-opened medical centre in Helmand province, which took the place of a tented field hospital that had been opened since 2003.
As trained volunteers, TA recruits can be called out in times of crisis, war, and for humanitarian, peacekeeping and disaster relief operations. But with the threat of closure of regular training facilities across the country, the ability of the TA to continue to provide the same level of support clearly comes into question. According to the MOD:
"anyone joining the TA can expect to be mobilised for operational service within five years, unless you join within 3 years of leaving the Regular Army when mobilisation can be deferred for up to 3 years."