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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



24 August 2017

The purpose of the Army Reserve

The Army is reshaping itself in response to the constantly evolving strategic challenges facing the UK - and the Army Reserve is changing with it, so that it can work alongside the Regulars when needed and also make a vital contribution to the safety and security of the nation in other ways.

While the Regular Army will now concentrate on the most demanding but least likely of scenarios – a major international conflict – the Army Reserve gives the Army as a whole the capacity and the flexibility to respond to a wide range of more common situations, at home and around the world.

The role of the Army Reserve can be summed up as making the Army overall more capable, flexible and resilient, and it does this by providing additional skills, trained manpower and collective capability when needed.

The Army Reserve has four main purposes:

a. It provides individuals, teams, sub units and even units - of nearly every capbadge - to round out the Army’s structures at all levels, bringing them up to strength or expanding them as necessary for operations and other commitments. In addition, it gives the Army easy access, when necessary, to certain skills and capabilities which are difficult to maintain on a full-time basis (like some medical specialties, specific technical or professional expertise and cultural and linguistic knowledge).

b. It is a key part of the support which the Armed Forces provide to the civil authorities and agencies to help them deal with emergencies within the UK, protecting the safety, security and wellbeing of local communities.

c. After or during operations, it would help to restore deployed Army units and formations to combat effectiveness by providing additional trained manpower or collective capability to fill gaps in their structures caused by casualties, fatigue or reassignment.

d. At a time of general or prolonged conflict it would provide the Army with a foundation for the recruitment, training and preparation of a greatly increased force drawing on the wider resources of the nation.

As well as these the Army Reserve brings other benefits to the Army as a whole. It is an economical way of maintaining the significant additional capacity (and the extra capabilities) which the Army would require to address the full range of possible operational demands, including the most challenging. It also provides the Army with one of its most important connections to civil society. Finally, the Army Reserve has the ability – still only partially developed – to open up sources of talent in the community which the Army would otherwise find difficult to access.

The nature of the reservist

The Army Reserve is a force of 30,000 part-time volunteers, recruited from across the nation and from all parts of our society. Reservists usually have full-time civilian jobs, and they often have families and other responsibilities and interests too. They therefore undertake most of their military training in their spare time – at weekends and in the evenings, or sometimes in their holidays or during leave given specially by their employers.

Reservists are expected to keep themselves physically fit, and to make themselves competent in their military roles by attending training regularly and undertaking additional qualifications and courses as necessary.

Reservists accept a legal liability to be called out, when required by HM Government, for full-time service at home or overseas, usually for periods up to 12 months. A reservist mobilised in this way has his or her civilian employment protected by law. Mobilisation is not at present a routine occurrence: in the past, it has happened when the Army was under significant pressure, and was finding it difficult to meet the demands of operations and other commitments from the Regular Army alone. Should these conditions recur, then the frequency and scale of mobilisation may again increase. In the meanwhile, because it is recognised that operational experience is good for the Army Reserve, reservists continue to have many opportunities for mobilised service.

Reservists are selected to Regular Army standards and are paid at Regular Army rates. As well as the pride that comes with doing something really worthwhile, they have unrivalled opportunity for personal development, adventure and comradeship – all without detracting from their civilian careers or family lives. Through their military service, reservists gain work, life and leadership skills which benefit them, their employers and society as a whole.

The organisation and status of the Army Reserve

Reservists generally spend most of their careers in Reserve units, which are typically divided into sub units, each based on one or two Army Reserve Centres. The sub unit is the focus of identity and loyalty for most reservists: it is where they train, socialise, conduct administration and in other ways interact with the Army. Some reservists serve in hybrid units, which combine Regular and Reserve sub units, and others hold individual appointments or work in small Reserve teams within Regular units, headquarters, establishments and formations.

The Army Reserve is organised and trained to be part of an integrated force. Most Reserve units are paired with Regular units, with which they partner for training and sometimes for operations. Training is high quality: well-planned and well-resourced, getting the best value from the limited time available, and using up-to-date facilities and methods and current equipment. Most reservists are trained to a good basic standard in a trade which is both achievable and useful, and collective training within units will be conducted regularly, up to and including at sub unit level.

Training for the Army Reserve is increasingly tailored to the nature of part-time soldiering, rather than simply being condensed or abridged versions of what the Regular Army does. There will be more emphasis on modular course design, availability at times that suit reservists, distributed delivery and greater use of digital technology.

Central to the success of the Army Reserve is the contribution of reservist officers, especially within sub units. Leadership in the Army Reserve must be an attractive and practicable proposition, to draw in and retain the very best talent. While selection criteria are – and should be - equivalent to those used by the Regular Army, routes through training to commissioning are being developed which will better accommodate the priorities and pressures faced by what will mostly be young men and women in the busy early stages of their civilian professional lives. Beyond that, command should provide opportunity for responsibility, initiative and creativity, while minimising the administrative burden. Officers (and NCOs) will increasingly be supported by excellent career management processes.

The terms of service for reservists reflect that the Army Reserve is a vital asset for the nation, contributing to its security, its safety and its place in the world. It is vital that the Reserve proposition comes across as a reasonable demand in terms of time and availability for the reservist, his family and employer, and gives him adequate flexibility to turn up or down commitment as life circumstances change, ranging from full time service to managed absence. Alongside that, the rewards should be commensurate, as much in terms of recognition and respect in the Army and wider society, as well as financial or developmental.