Alcohol misuse ‘significantly higher’ in armed forces

Calls for Ministry of Defence to look at why 13% of military have a drink problem compared to 6% in general population

Alcohol misuse in the armed forces is “substantially higher” than the level expected for the general population, according to a parliamentary report, which also finds that in the military the misuse is four times more common than post-traumatic stress disorder.

The defence select committee calls for the Ministry of Defence to conduct an urgent study into the issue to examine why 13% of military personnel have got a “drink problem”, compared to 6% in the general population.

The report, published on Thursday, includes evidence from Gerry Berragan, a general, who claimed “there was significant misuse of alcohol in personnel under 35 – about twice as high as in broader society – with an even higher difference for women”.

The general said the armed forces recruited risk takers, put them in stressful situations, then returned them home “with money and free time, when they drank excessively”.

Though the MoD now provides briefings, warnings and counselling on alcohol misuse, the committee said this was not enough. The MoD had to recognise the seriousness of alcohol abuse within the ranks, and find ways of stopping personnel from turning to the bottle.… Read more

Military and education not compatible

Letter to the media in response to article by Labour MPs inviting the ‘military to invade our schools’.

Letter to the media in response to article by Labour MPs inviting the ‘military to invade our schools’.

Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy’s call for the military to invade our schools (July 9th) demonstrates a misunderstanding of the incompatible roles of the military and education sector as well as a selective use of evidence. Schools exist to provide a well-rounded education for their students, enabling them to make informed decisions about their future. However, internal Ministry of Defence and Army documents are clear in their emphasis on recruitment as the primary rationale for engaging with schools and young people.

Using The Duke of York’s Royal Military School as an example of the benefits of a military education is deceptive. That school was, until two years ago, an independent school and still has a significantly lower than average number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

There are numerous examples of schools working with challenging students and performing above average without the military’s assistance.
Assumptions about the appropriateness of a ‘military ethos’ within education need full examination and an understanding of incompatible agendas and the problems reported to exist within the military itself – including alcohol abuse and consequent violent behavior (Telegraph 03/11/07 and 13/05/10) – that may not make it such a good role model for young people.… Read more

David Lammy’s Army School for Rioters

There was a truly awful article in last week’s New Statesman by Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, accusing ‘the left’ of a curmudgeonly attitude towards the government’s plans for military-staffed ‘service schools.’

Lammy condemns critics of the scheme for propagating the idea that ‘ servicemen and women are “brainwashed”, “killers”, and hell-bent on converting our sons and daughters to violence’ – arguments that he describes as ‘ nonsense – and offensive nonsense at that.’

With that strawman out of the way, he goes on to argue that

The military already play a hugely positive role in our schools. The Combined Cadet Force and Army Cadet Force are fantastic national institutions. These are organisations which offer adventure training, flying, sailing, white water rafting, and navigating Britain’s finest landscapes from Cornwall to the Cairngorms, all for free.

Of course all these activities could and should be available in schools. The problem is that neither school budgets nor the curriculum allow much space for them, not to mention the obsessive risk assessment process which makes schools reluctant to take their kids beyond the school grounds, let alone go canoeing in the Cairngorms.

There was a truly awful article in last week’s New Statesman by Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, accusing ‘the left’ of a curmudgeonly attitude towards the government’s plans for military-staffed ‘service schools.’

Lammy condemns critics of the scheme for propagating the idea that ‘ servicemen and women are “brainwashed”, “killers”, and hell-bent on converting our sons and daughters to violence’ – arguments that he describes as ‘ nonsense – and offensive nonsense at that.’

With that strawman out of the way, he goes on to argue that

The military already play a hugely positive role in our schools.

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Our curious love affair with the military

Have you detected a growing enthusiasm for all things military? This week the troops were called in to save the Olympics, they’re constantly on our TV screens, and our parks are full of bootcamp fitness sessions for puffed civilians.

Have you detected a growing enthusiasm for all things military? This week the troops were called in to save the Olympics, they’re constantly on our TV screens, and our parks are full of bootcamp fitness sessions for puffed civilians.

Last week, the MoD admitted that budget cuts would result in fewer boots on the ground, but failed to mention the impact on the documentary makers and TV producers who depend on a ready pool of military “talent”. The cultural industry has done very well out of our recent preoccupation with conflict. The public appetite for war stories means guaranteed top billing for shows with military subjects and kudos for the brave soldiers in front of the cameras. No one seems to have noticed how similar these unflinching portrayals of the harsh realities of military life are, but the accolades keep coming. Six of the 18 documentary entries to the Royal Television Society awards this year were about soldiers. Names such as Harry’s Arctic Heroes suggest they tended to be glorifying rather than analytical.… Read more

Labour plan to set up ‘Service Schools’ staffed by soldiers

A new generation of “Service Schools” staffed entirely by former members of the Armed Forces could be set up across Britain under Labour plans to raise education standards, it has emerged.

A Labour policy paper suggests establishing the schools in every English region – and winning support for the plan from devolved governments – as part of a move to improve standards of discipline and promote a culture of hard work among pupils.

The proposal forms part of a radical plan designed to harness the “ethos and standards of our Armed Forces” in the state education system.

The Party is also proposing a huge expansion of Combined Cadet Forces (CCF) in schools and setting up a specialist “mentoring” scheme in which ex-servicemen are drafted into the classroom to act as role models to difficult pupils.

In a document, Labour said this was “currently a feature of many private schools” and could be put to real benefit in the state system.

The move is likely to be opposed by teaching unions who have criticised previous attempts to create closer links between schools and the military.

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Cadet forces scheme: £10.85m to encourage young people to join

Scheme coinciding with Armed Forces Day aims to create 100 new cadet units in English state schools

Secondary state schools across England have been invited to take part in a £10.85m scheme launched to coincide with Armed Forces Day to encourage young people to join the Cadet Forces.

Championed by both the Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the aim is to create 100 new cadet units based in English state funded schools by 2015 to help teach teamwork, discipline and essential life skills. Currently there are 324 cadet units in state schools across England.… Read more

Judge rejects bid to stop Olympic rooftop missiles

The clear implication of today’s judgment was that “the MoD now has power to militarise the private homes of any person” even when there was no war on, or state of emergency declared.

Alarmed residents have lost their High Court battle to prevent surface-to-air missiles being stationed on the roof of a 17-storey residential tower block during the Olympics.

A judge ruled today residents at the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, east London, did not have an arguable case.

The tenants fear the missile base above their heads could make them the focus for a terrorist attack.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), security service and police say there is “no credible threat” and the siting of the missiles is both “legitimate and proportionate”.

The block is one of six sites in the capital where missiles, including rapier and high-velocity systems, will be deployed to protect Games venues.

The Fred Wigg residents applied for permission to seek judicial review, protesting there has been a “disproportionate interference” with their human rights, and they were not consulted fairly and properly over the siting of the ground-based air defence system.

Their lawyers argued during a one-day hearing yesterday that those who wanted to move out should at least be relocated in hotels by the MoD for the duration of the Games, or a gantry should be erected away from the block to take the missile system.

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