Army closes ranks on jobs and bullying

Claims that the Army is suffering a recruitment crisis due to the Iraq war and reports of bullying are “quite wrong”, according to senior Army personnel.

New figures show that the infantry, the main source of soldiers for Iraq, needs another 1,723 people to hit its targets for the 12 months to April 2006, leading to reports of a recruitment crisis. But colonel David Allfrey, second in command for Army recruitment, said the total target was 4,154, meaning that 59% of troops had already been recruited with five months still to go until the deadline.

He told Personnel Today that while there were shortages, the way these had been portrayed in the media had been “inappropriate” and “inflammatory”.

Allfrey said the war in Iraq had polarised opinion of the Army; pushing some would-be recruits away, but drawing others in.

“I’d be lying if I said pictures from Iraq of soldiers having a hard time were good for recruitment,” he said. “But we are not wringing our hands here. We are only 11 soldiers different than we had [recruited] this time last year. There is no crisis, just business as normal.”

Despite his optimism, Allfrey said a new infantry recruitment campaign was in the pipeline and would be launched in January.

Allfrey did admit it was likely the Army would miss its target of recruiting 12,689 across the service “by a squeak”. But he said this stemmed more from the number of people staying in full-time education after school and the buoyant employment market, rather than the impact of bullying and the Iraq war.

A new campaign to recruit officers, which has a strong focus on female recruits, has raised recruitment to 60% of the total needed to fill the year’s quotas, he added.

“It is a substantial challenge to appeal to the girls as well as the boys,” Allfrey said.

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