Why are we in Afghanistan?
British forces are in Afghanistan to protect British National Security. Helping the Afghans to control their own security by building up the Afghan National Security Forces capability means that they can prevent terrorist organisations, including Al' Qaeda from returning and posing a threat to the UK and our allies around the world.
Will Afghanistan return to Taliban rule when British troops are no longer conducting combat operations in 2015?
Transition for security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces is already well underway. Soon around 50 percent of the Afghan population will be living in transitioned areas where the security is provided by the Afghan National Security Forces. Although British troops will no longer be conducting combat operations after 2014, UK and international support for Afghanistan will not end. We and our allies will go on having a strong relationship with Afghanistan based on diplomacy, trade, aid and development. We shall also continue to support the development of the ANSF through training provided by the new officer training academy.
Are we recklessly risking the lives of our soldiers by mentoring the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police?
Mentoring is an essential part of developing Afghan National Security Forces so that they can take responsibility for the future security of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, a tiny proportion of the Afghan National Security Forces have abused the trust placed in them. We will not let these rare incidents undermine the valuable work being done by British Army mentors with the Afghan National Security Forces.
What will the Army do when it is no longer involved in combat operations in Afghanistan?
The Army will return to contingency, which means planning, reorganising and training so that we are ready to deploy wherever and whenever we are called upon. We live in an uncertain world – who would have predicted events in Libya? So the Army needs to be ready to act across a full spectrum of operations from peacetime military support including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief right through to warfighting.
Who decides where the Army deploys?
The Government decides where and when the Army deploys.
Why did it take so long to get the right kit?
Our kit and equipment is developed to meet the perceived threat. In the past, our equipment programme has focussed on preparing for war against another country as well as for operations in Northern Ireland. As the threat has evolved, such as the more widespread use of improvised explosive devices, so has our equipment. As technology develops we need to upgrade our equipment but this cannot happen instantaneously.
Why is the Army still recruiting if you are making people redundant?
The Army depends on high-quality young people wanting to join for rewarding and exciting careers. Despite the reduction in the overall numbers of personnel, the Army is still recruiting and training to replace those personnel who leave the Services at the end of their contracts.
Is there still a career for people in the Army?
In short - yes. The Army is a young person's organisation so the current redundancies are thinning people out at the top, specifically so there is still space at the bottom. For those joining the Army now there is every opportunity to enjoy a full career.
Why would I want to employ a reservist?
Army Reserve soldiers gain valuable qualifications such as driving licences and NVQs as well as developing team working, leadership and management skills.
What support do we give our soldiers who suffer from mental stress?
All soldiers on operations are given information about help available to them and our Trauma Risk Management training allows people to identify others within their Unit who need additional help. For serving soldiers who need it, mental healthcare is provided through our 15 military Departments of Community Mental Health across the UK (plus centres overseas), which provide out-patient treatment. In-patient care, when necessary, is provided in specialised psychiatric units under contract with the NHS.
Veterans' healthcare is provided by the NHS, with priority treatment for Service-related conditions. The Ministry of Defence also gives £3m annual funding to mental health charity Combat Stress to assist their work with war pensioners with mental health conditions caused by service.
What are you doing to help soldiers who are injured?
Soldiers are given excellent attention from the moment they receive battlefield first aid. They are rapidly evacuated by a helicopter which has a medical team including an anaesthetist on board and stabilised in a world-class trauma hospital at Camp Bastion. The high quality of care continues throughout any time they may spend at the Queen Elizabeth NHS Hospital in Birmingham as well as at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court. The new Army Recovery Capability gives excellent support to injured personnel either to help them to return to full service, or to prepare them for civilian life.
The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme provides a tax-free lump sum from £1,200 to £570,000 for pain and suffering depending on the severity of injury or illness that has been sustained. For serious injuries and illness, the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme also provides an income stream known as the Guaranteed Income Payment, which is an enhancement to an individual's ill-health pension.
Why do we discharge some soldiers who have been injured on operations?
We are extremely lucky that the phenomenal medical care that our soldiers now receive on operations means that some soldiers who would not have previously survived their injuries, are now being saved. However, in our smaller, professional Army, there is pressure to ensure that as many people as possible can deploy on operations, which means that there are not many posts for those who are permanently medically downgraded.
For those who can no longer continue to serve, we do all that we can to ensure that their transition to civilian life is as smooth as possible. This includes providing retraining for a second career and helping soldiers to find and adapt housing.
Why do we still have troops based in Germany?
We have had soldiers based in Germany since the end of the Second World War. During the Cold War years they were an essential part of our National Defence but more recently they have benefitted from access to the substantial training areas in mainland Europe. Now that there is no operational reason to maintain bases in Germany, plans are well underway to move all of the approximately 19,000 soldiers and their families back to the UK by 2020 where they will move to bases in Scotland and the Midlands.
What has been done to address the poor state of service families' accommodation?
There has been a great deal of investment in recent years into providing good quality accommodation and this work is continuing despite the current financial challenges. While a 3 year pause to upgrades to Service Families Accommodation will take effect from 2013, some upgrades to bathrooms and kitchens are still programmed.
For those wanting to buy their own homes, there is access to a shared equity scheme known as the Armed Forces Home Ownership Scheme (Pilot), alternatively soldiers have been allocated the highest priority for access to the new FirstBuy scheme.
How much do Army Reserve soldiers get paid?
Army Reserve soldiers get paid the same amount as their regular counterparts. So as a new soldier recruit, you get £35.04 for a full day, but this rises to £43.54 when you finish basic training. And if you're a graduate officer cadet, you'll get £62.07 a day.
Is increasing the number of reservists, defence on the cheap?
The current debt crisis is the greatest strategic threat to the UK's security and so it is only right that, along with other departments in the Public Sector, our budget should be reduced. This has forced the Army to look at how we can work more efficiently and maximising the effectiveness of our reserve forces is one of the ways of achieving this.
It has been recognised that merely increasing the number of reservists is not enough and that is why we are increasing the amount of money that is spent on training them and incorporating them into our Whole Force concept. This will allow reserve forces to take on additional routine and operational tasks. It will also bring us more into line with our allies in the US, Australia and Canada who routinely use their reserve forces.