A recruitment drive as part of plans to change the face of the British Army is beginning to turn the corner despite a slow start, it has been claimed.
Under the Government’s Army 2020 plan, personnel numbers of regular soldiers will be cut from 102,000 to 82,000, with a doubling of reservist numbers..
The number of part-time soldiers, or reservists, is to be increased from 15,000 to 30,000.
However, the Army is still a long way off from meeting its targets and the overhaul has come in for criticism from some corners, amid fears it could be left short of personnel.
But Captain Chris Hall, speaking on behalf of North East-based 5RRF (the Fifth Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers), which has been out over the last week or so on an exercise in Croatia, believes that the situation is improving.
While admitting that Army 2020 did get off to a ‘difficult’ start, he is confident that the situation is changing, especially at a local level.
He told the Gazette that 5RRF, which has centres throughout the region, including Alnwick, went from a low number of recruits last year to more than 20 in a matter of months recently. He said: “We have had our problems with getting bigger and at one point we did become smaller.
“However, we have overcome that barrier and we are back up at good numbers and we are now getting a good number of recruits and we are expanding.”
Captain Hall said that one of the main aims for reservist centres is to develop and build on individual specialisms.
And 5RRF is doing exactly that, including in Alnwick. Here, Captain John Marcon, from Pegswood, is heading up a new recce (formation reconnaissance) platoon; a highly-skilled process which involves gathering information by stealth without being seen.
The Lisburn Terrace-based centre, renamed the Duke of Northumberland Barracks, is also a base for assault pioneers, who are responsible for a number of duties, including the construction of tools for infantry soldiers to cross natural and man-made obstacles as well as breaching enemy fortifications.
The reservists at Alnwick meet on Tuesday nights, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.
Captain Hall believes that reservists are being trained to such a degree, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between part-time and regular soldiers.
l See next week’s Northumberland Gazette for a special feature from 5RRF’s exercise in Croatia.