I know lots of soldiers who completed their tour in Iraq and then left the TA, many were under a lot of pressure from their families to re-introduce some stability into their lives. Others felt that they needed to throw themselves into their work, getting back onto a career ladder disrupted by 9 months away.
I have already written about the psychological effects that TA soldiers have to deal with, often alone.
Please don’t think that this is moaning, the vast majority of TA soldiers are dedicated and professional and are happy, eager even, to do their duty. However when the national mood is so against the war TA soldier often find that their friends, family and employers do not fully support what they are doing. Giving up a large amount of your free time for an activity which increasingly puts you at adds with the very people around you is hard.
Civilian deaths and court-martials hit the news, the nation building and reconstruction, the policing and security work, the winning of hearts and minds goes unreported. So little good news comes back from Iraq that it is a wonder that anyone is in the TA at the moment. And the TA is close to breaking point.
Because of the part time nature of the TA it takes between 18 months and 2 years to train a soldier to a basic proficient level, a qualified parachute trained gunner takes about 5 years. Almost everyone that I know who can realistically be called up (not junior soldiers under training) has been.
Like so many of the other public services it is clear that Labour does not value the professionalism of the armed forces and is trying to conduct warfare on the cheap. A 25% reduction in defence spending linked to a huge increase in commitments is a recipe for disaster.
I hope I am wrong, because if I am not it will be my friends, my colleagues and possibly even me who pay the ultimate price.