Whatever happened to the Military Covenent

This weekend I had a very interesting conversation with a Royal Navy officer who had just returned from the Middle East where he had been for 6 months. His tone was one of someone who was desperate for a Government to start treating the Armed Forces with the understanding and respect it deserves.
Firstly he made the point that virtually no one in the Labour Party understands the armed forces because less than a handful have ever served, and indeed the Defence Secretary is only part time. Because they have no background, they have to take the advice they are given by the heads of the armed forces and here lies the problem.

This problem is twofold. Firstly you have the heads of the Army, Navy and RAF all competing to be head of the armed forces. These people aren’t going to want to be outspoken and risk not being seen as sound for the top job. This leads to the conspiracy of silence whereby when a Minister visits, troops are told not to say anything about equipment shortages. Secondly, the heads of the services experience of war and combat is very different to the challenges faced today.

Then of course there is the equipment issue. We’ve all heard tales about white Elephants like the Eurofighter, but while we’ve undertaken such excessive capital expenditure on projects like that, we’re putting our troops on risk by not providing the most basic of lifesaving equipment. An example of which being the officer’s tale of being given a stab proof but not a bullet proof vest. This is on a ship within a stones throw of both Iraq and Iran. It seems a warped sense of priority that the Government is currently spending £12 billion on what will in all probability be an ineffective central computer system, but can’t find the money for £200 bullet proof vests.

Then there is the hospital facilities. Again the officer told me how when he was hospitalised with a broken collar bone, that there was a soldier in desert combats who had been flown back to Brize Norton and taken up to the Selly Oak Hospital. He had his leg blown off and was sitting waiting in casualty. The hospital must have been aware he was on his way, yet with that severe injury bought about serving his Country is left to sit in casualty amongst civilians. This is not right.
So what can we do to put things right. Well here’s a few ideas to ponder: 
A dedicated military Hospital in it’s own right. Not one welded onto an existed Hospital.

A body of serving lower and middle ranking soldiers advising the Government on what is really happening on the ground. With steps taken to see there are no reprisals from above for telling the truth.
All our troops to be given proper equipment. This should be a given but is simply not happening. Serious money will have to be spent. Maybe savings from not indulging in so many white elephant projects in areas such as Government IT.
A review into our Armed Services Structures. The officer told me of a Navy Lieutenant who had to fill in for an army officer behind a machine gun in Afghanistan without a clue of how to handle it. While the Army is at total overstretch, the Navy and particularly the RAF are having to think about their role in war zones like landlocked Afghanistan.
It most be the moral duty of a Conservative Government to sort out the crisis that Labour are plunging our Armed Services into. Many people in the services are relying on us and we most not fail them.

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