Army failing to attract young recruits


The Army has failed to attract enough young recruits in 9 of the last 10 years, and is looking to change this by emphasising the Army’s non-combat work. ForcesWatch are concerned this could lead to the further overlooking of the fact that combat is the raison d’être of the armed forces.

The BBC has reported that the Army has failed to attract enough young recruits in 9 out of the last 10 years. Major General Chris Tickell, the Army’s head of recruitment, said they need to “change their message…The generation we are trying to recruit has a different view on life than previous generations…We need to explain to the young men and women that the army is actually much more than just about combat.”

ForcesWatch would certainly not deny that the armed forces carry out important humanitarian work, a very recent example being the deployment of the Army to help those affected by Storm Desmond over the last few days. However, as the Army has previously said, ‘The fundamental and perhaps only difference of significance, between military service and other legitimate professions and occupations is that servicemen and women must be prepared, at any time…to participate in protracted and sometimes wholesale destruction and violence, to kill and be killed…’

Combat, such as the RAF’s current bombing in Syria, is the primary role of the armed forces. We would be concerned if this primacy of combat were to be underplayed in Army recruitment practice, particularly given the Army’s continuing dependence on 16 and 17 year-old recruits, often from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The BBC’s short documentary on youth recruitment shows the rigour of initial Army training, and the aggression of some of the trainers, but doesn’t show any discussion of the risks, legal restrictions and ethical dilemmas faced in the Army, and human-like targets are only used in the recruits’ final exercise.

The Army’s new approach to recruitment includes getting prospective recruits to wear virtual reality headsets that allow you to try driving a tank, parachuting out of a plane, and raiding the house of (suspected) insurgents. ForcesWatch and others have raised concerns as to whether the headsets show the harsh reality and ethical dilemmas of war combat. The headsets are part of majorly-revamped Army recruitment centres, which emphasise the fun, travel, sports, adventure, and pay on offer. Major General Tickell, head of Army recruitment, has said: “People are looking for an exciting high street experience. We want them to come in, play with the gadgets, take a look at the kit and get a real feel for what life in the Army could be like for them.”

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