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Bridging The Gap
New 'softer' Army recruitment ad 'neglects the main group of people who are interested in joining', says former Army commander.
  Wednesday 10 January, 2018
New \'softer\' Army recruitment ad \'neglects the main group of people who are interested in joining\', says former Army commander.

An Army advertising campaign promoting the emotional support available to recruits has been criticised for failing to target those most interested in joining the forces.

The recruitment drive includes a series of films which ask "Can I be gay in the Army?" and "What if I get emotional in the Army?", in a bid to appeal to potential soldiers from different backgrounds.

It comes just weeks after Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson halted plans to scrap the Army's "Be the Best" slogan and historic crest following a public outcry.

The re-branding exercise was reportedly based on market research which found the slogan was considered "dated, elitist and non-inclusive" by key audiences.

The latest campaign, which will be broadcast on television, radio and digital platforms, seeks to address concerns recruits may have about issues including religion, gender and sexuality in the forces.

Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said it was "neglecting the main group of people who are interested in joining" and will not solve the "recruiting crisis".

"But once you are in, you realise no-one is a machine. The Army is family. I've probably told them things I wouldn't tell my own family. There's always someone there to talk to."

Other videos trailed on YouTube, focusing on "Army belonging" and inclusivity, ask "Can I practise my faith in the Army?", "Will I be listened to in the Army?" and "Do I have to be a superhero to join the Army?".

Colonel Kemp told BBC Breakfast: "The main group of people who are interested in joining aren't worrying so much about whether they are going to be listened to or if there's an emotional issue.

He added: "This also reflects the fact that the Army, like the rest of Government, is being forced down a route of political correctness.

"What is most important is that the Army recruits and is full of soldiers. It's of secondary importance that they reflect the composition of society."

The campaign comes amid growing concern over recruitment to the armed forces.

In the year to April 2017, 12,950 recruits joined the regular armed forces, but 14,970 service personnel left in the same period.

Retired Army officer Major General Tim Cross said he supported recruiting from a broader base to boost numbers, but stressed they must be able to deliver high-intensity fighting power capable of "duffing up the Queen's enemies".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The concern, I think, for a lot of people - and it's an understandable concern and to some degree I have some concern as well - is that you end up with an Army that's not capable of doing what you want to do and when you send it away on operations it's not able to deliver.

"So we must ensure that we reach out to people, we must ensure that everybody knows that they have an opportunity of joining the British armed forces and joining the Army in particular, but we are not going to be soft and we are not going to be nice to people."

Maj Gen Cross warned against discouraging Christians or people from other faiths amid reports that one advert was focused on showing Muslims they could practise their religion while serving as a soldier.

"It happens to focus on the Muslim community; my point is we have Gurkhas, we have Sikhs, all faiths represented in the British Army, and what we don't want to be doing is isolating other people by focusing on these particular communities," he said.


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