UK Armed Forces Recruitment Criticised
posted by Mark Broadbent | 06.11.2009
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refuted claims that it is glamourising war in order to help recruitment to the armed forces.
In a report released on 7th January 2008, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust argues that the material used to promote armed forces careers is "misleading". It says life in the military is depicted as "glamorous and exciting", and warfare is shown to be "game-like and enjoyable".
It also accuses the MoD of targeting children and young teenagers at a time when they are unable to make an informed choice about whether they would like to pursue a military career.
The report's author, David Gee, told the BBC that the risks of a military career are being downplayed. He said: "The risks [of a military career] are not included in much of the information given out about armed forces careers. At the moment there is no effort to introduce the downside of armed forces life. I'm not saying their recruitment literature needs to show the full horrors of war. But I think they need to reflect a more balanced picture."
Gee added that the MoD target young people who are unable to make an informed decision about enlisting in the services. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said that the MoD targets teenagers as young as 13 and that these people "are at a stage when they are not yet able to fully balance risks [of a career] against benefits".
Report Says MoD Gloss Over Negatives of Service Life
The report, titled "Informed Choice? Armed Forces and Recruitment Practice in the UK", said that recruitment literature for the forces emphasises the benefits of a military career - such as combradeship and travel opportunities - but does not present the negative side of life in the forces.
It said that literature "omits to mention or obscures the radical change from a civilian to military lifestyle, ethical issues involved in killing, risks to physical and mental health... and the right of conscientious objection".
The report also contains several claims which the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust believe prove that the MoD's approach to armed forces careers is misleading to those who enlist.
The Trust allege that many young recruits leave the services when they discover the reality of life in the military. The study says that for every two 16-to-22 year olds joining the army, one is leaving.
The report accuses the MoD of failing to tell new personnel of their legal obligations. It says that the MoD does not tell recruits that unless they leave the services within six months of enlisting, they have no legal right to leave for four years.
The Trust says that the MoD should review its recruitment literature and change its recruitment policies, and also introduce a charter setting out rights and responsibilities for recruits.
The MoD strongly refuted the Trust's claims
In a statement, it said the claims were "out of date, incorrect and ill-informed".
It added: "The services do not target people under the age of 16. The recruiting process is designed to protect the interests of the applicants at every stage, regardless of age".
Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, told Radio 4's Today: "We spell [the risks] out in a straightforward and professional way. I don't think it would be in our interests to glamourise war".
Meanwhile, Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth said: "We do not want people joining the armed forces who are not motivated, who are not capable of undertaking the training that we want them to undertake and doing the job that we ask of them at the end of the day.
He added: "We try to be factual and we try to give them a rounded picture."
Armed Forces International's Political Correspondent
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