CGS: "Operational success is down to the efforts of our people"

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CGS: "Operational success is down to the efforts of our people"

Post by Guest on Wed 19 Mar 2008, 9:04 am


Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, is fiercely proud of the men and women he commands and of their amazing work in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an exclusive interview for Soldier magazine, he talks about this work, public support for the Armed Forces and about being a father. Report by John Elliott.

On a table in his office on the fifth floor of the MOD's Main Building stand framed photographs of soldiers killed in action, sent to him by their families. He wears the distinctive wristband of the Help for Heroes charity.

"I think one has to say, first and foremost, that success on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is really our top line and our bottom line," said the Chief of the General Staff.

"I believe that in both theatres we have been enormously successful and it's almost entirely down to the tremendous efforts of our soldiers and all our people in both those operational theatres."

His admiration for those he commands is never far from the surface,
whatever topic he touches: combat equipment, Goverment and public
support, care for Service personnel and their families, prisoner abuse, bullying.

"To do the job well we've got to have the right equipment and the right training in our hands, and I think a couple of years ago we weren't as well placed as we are now."

But, he said, a lot of people at the MOD, the Procurement Agency and elsewhere had "worked jolly hard" to make sure the Army had the weapons, the vehicles, access to intelligence-gathering technology, unmanned aerial vehicles and the personal kit it needed.

"If you line up a dismounted close combat unit today with the
equivalent unit two years ago, they hardly bear comparison in terms of the equipment they have got.
"I think through a lot of people's efforts we have made a lot of progress," he added.

"We've got to keep the movement going. We need more volume of equipment in our hands so we've got more equipment for pre-deployment training so our people are familiar with the kit before they deploy, so that on operations they hit the ground running to give themselves the best chance of doing what they've got to do."

General Dannatt linked the improvement in equipment to when insurgents began to use sophisticated explosive devices against the Army in mid-2005, which "exposed some of the equipment we had".

He said the whole campaign had moved to a higher level and the Army had had to respond very quickly.

"I believe that in both theatres we have been enormously successful and it's almost entirely down to the tremendous efforts of our soldiers and all our people in both those operational theatres."

Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt

"We made the argument [to the Government] and the new equipments have started to come through."

CGS singled out the procurement of Mastiff, the heavily armoured and
weaponed troop carrier now in service in Iraq and Afghanistan and in which soldiers had great confidence, as a good example of the process.

"You can't click your fingers to produce a vehicle like that, but we effectively went from not even knowing the name Mastiff to having it in service in less than a year, and I think that's really agile."

Public support
The astonishing upturn in public support for the Army came after CGS made what he described as a "pretty boring" and uncontroversial speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies last October.

He dropped in the thought to his audience that there was a disconnect between the nation and its military and suggested that perhaps, a bit like the Americans, there should be a greater demonstration of support by people at large for soldiers. The remark was picked up by the media and ricocheted around the news bulletins for a day or two.

"Yes, I am a little surprised by the way people up and down the country have picked it up but on thinking about it I shouldn't be because the Army and the Armed Forces have always been held in fairly high regard."

His words had helped people "connect their latent support for the Army" by separating the reasons "behind why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan to focus much more on the fact that soldiers are doing their duty in difficult circumstances.

"That is something that can be celebrated and supported. I think once people understood that, it unlocked this wall of support, which has been really quite fantastic."

As a direct result, 10,000 people crowded on to the streets of Norwich when the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment marched through, many thousands turned out in Cardiff to acclaim The Royal Welsh and the pavements of Salisbury and Winchester were lined for the return of The Rifles from their operational tour. The story was the same throughout the Midlands, where there was a heartfelt welcome for the men of the Mercians.

"Having started this campaign, my tactics now are that whenever I hear that a particular town or organisation has done something I just write and say thank you. It's hugely appreciated by me and I know it makes our people feel good. People like to be shown respect and feel valued for what they are doing."

Respect for others

The abuse of prisoners in Iraq had been completely unacceptable, said General Dannatt. He pointed out that the proven cases had taken place in the second half of 2003 and early 2004, when, as the Aitken Report had concluded, waves of troops were prepared for warfighting but actually found themselves in an aggravated peace support situation.

"The training we gave them was probably not entirely appropriate to the circumstances they found themselves in. Most were able to adjust their behaviour but, as with any large group, there were some who found it difficult to make the change or were prone to behave poorly. I think it was a relatively time-constrained period.

"We've looked at it very closely, we've analysed what went wrong and I believe in terms of training, doctrinal changes and education we have put that right.

"It was inexcusable. Be in no doubt that those who do carry out such things will be exposed and punished. I won't flinch from doing so and I don't think right-minded people in the Army will disagree with me.

"We need, bearing in mind that one of our core values is respect for others, to properly put value on this.

"Whether you are recruiting, training or an instructor giving training, or you are in a unit whatever your position, be it senior or junior you need to act in such a way that you respect other people's rights.

"That doesn't mean that our systems of discipline become in any way watered down or ineffective, but everybody has a right to be treated as an individual and respected.

"Wherever you are in the chain of command, wherever you are in the training process, it is absolutely incumbent on each and every one of us that we do respect other people for who they are.

"It gets down to racial recognition, it gets down to getting away from sexual harassment, which I think is still a problem for us.

"I have huge pride in not just what my son does but what everyone's sons and daughters and loved ones do because it is an important job. It is important work and I think the nation has now found a way of showing its appreciation and gratitude."

Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt

"I think we all need to be very conscious of that and bear down on it because it is another dimension of respecting others."

Being a dad
Asked whether the fact that he was the father of a soldier had made his job as head of the Army more or less difficult, CGS responded:

"I am very grateful for the constant support of our families and because I am the Chief of the General Staff and a dad, I think I can see both ends of that.

"I'm concerned about all and every one of our Servicemen who are in harm's way. Inevitably it's sharpened for oneself when a member of one's own family is away, and my son has done two tours in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan.

"Like any father, I am relieved when he comes home safe and sound, and therefore on that basis I share that emotion with all our families.

"I have huge pride in not just what my son does but what everyone's sons and daughters and loved ones do because it is an important job. It is important work and I think the nation has now found a way of showing its appreciation and gratitude."

Service charities

CGS said he was hugely grateful to the Service charities for the support they provided.

"I'm talking particularly about the Royal British Legion, SSAFA Forces Help, the Army Benevolent Fund, and the new charity Help for Heroes.

"Yes, the Government must do its part, but I think the charitable side of it can channel people's enthusiasm, channel people's desire to support their troops into practical projects.

"For example, the project SSAFA is running to provide a home-from-home for families of wounded soldiers visiting them at Selly Oak and also the rehabilitation centre at Headley Court is really good. It's a 5 million project and they're about 3.5 million into that. And I think the Help for Heroes project for a swimming pool and refurbished gym at Headley Court again is also very good."

Source: MOD - http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/DefencePolicyAndBusiness/CgsoperationalSuccessIsDownToTheEffortsOfOurPeople.htm

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