Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our forces can't carry on like this

General Sir Richard Dannatt, our forces can't carry on like this, says General Sir Richard Dannatt
General Dannatt describes his report as an accurate and vivid picture of Army life
Read the attached article.

This is an absolute disgrace and it is not as if there have been no warning to the Government or the MOD. Combined with this story it is no wonder that recruitment is struggling and our service personnel are leaving the forces at an alarming rate.

When will this government understand that you cannot keep underfunding its Armed Services and then demand that they fight on ever more fronts with ever decreasing resources. This is a national disgrace and yet we have a part-time Defence Minister who appears disinterested with the plight of our armed services. We also have a leadership that is disintegrating into chaos and is more committed to trying to get itself liked rather than governing this country.

General Sir Richard Dannatt has warned, in the Sunday Telegraph, that years of Government under-funding and overstretch have left troops feeling
devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue
He also says in a top-level report that the present level of operations is "unsustainable", the Army is "under-manned" and increasing numbers of troops are "disillusioned" with service life, states that the "military covenant is clearly out of kilter", and the chain of command needs to improve standards of pay, accommodation and medical care.

The report also ays that operations on the two fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan are putting soldiers and their families under "great pressure", and that the long-term impact of operations is "damaging" and is "mortgaging the goodwill of our people". In terms of "overstretch", the report says, "the tank of goodwill now runs on vapour; many experienced staff are talking of leaving".

The report adds:

• Delays to military inquests are a disgrace

• Military housing estates are unsafe and being overrun by immigrant families

• Poor food quality is creating a "pot-noodle and sandwich" culture among junior soldiers

• Work-life balance is an increasing concern

• Soldiers are "going sick" to get out of the Army

• Leave is often cancelled or constrained because of operational overstretch

• Harmony guidelines - the time between operational tours - are becoming meaningless

• The Army is no longer fun

• Fitness in the Army is tailing off and more soldiers are medically downgraded

Last week, Lt Col Stuart Tootal, 42, who commanded the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, resigned from the Army over the "shoddy" treatment of injured troops. In a letter to defence chiefs, he was reported to have criticised levels of pay, a lack of training equipment and the appalling housing - all issues raised in Gen Dannatt's report.

Our forces can't carry on like this, says General Sir Richard Dannatt - Telegraph

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Time of Sadness

Today is a very sad day for my family and in particular for one of my nephews and his family.

Yesterday as reported by the media the 255th soldier was killed in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This brings the total of personnel killed in the the current conflicts up to the same total as the Falklands War.

It also brings the conflicts so much closer to home as the soldier killed was part of our extended family.

Captain John McDermid had only recently been posted to Afghanistan, was not known personally to me, but he was the step-father to my nephew, husband to Gill and father of two more boys.

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of Captain John McDermid of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland yesterday, Wednesday 14 November 2007, in southern Afghanistan.

Captain McDermid, who was serving with 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, was leading a joint UK and Afghan National Army patrol to the south of the district centre of Sangin in Helmand Province, during which he was also mentoring an Afghan National Army officer in the leadership and infantry skills that platoon commanders need.

At approximately 1130 hours local time an Improvised Explosive Device detonated, which sadly resulted in the death of Captain McDermid and serious injury to the Afghan interpreter who was accompanying him.

Captain John McDermid

Captain John McDermid, aged 43 and born in Glasgow joined 1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers in 1983 and served 21 years as a soldier and 3 years as an officer. In a distinguished career, he served in Berlin, Canada, Kenya, Cyprus and Belize, conducting two tours in Bosnia as part of the UNPROFOR mission and one in Kosovo as part of the NATO deployment. He completed four Northern Ireland tours and a further tour in Iraq cemented his standing as a hugely experienced, skilled, knowledgeable and capable soldier.

His quality was identified early on and he rose quickly through the ranks. As a first-rate Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, he was selected to instruct officers at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he excelled. On return to the Battalion he served as Company Quarter Master Sergeant, Company Sergeant Major and Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant before promotion to Warrant Officer 1st Class as Regimental Sergeant Major of The Royal Highland Fusiliers in 2002. His performance there was typically outstanding.

He was commissioned in June 2004 and, initially, led the Regimental Recruiting Team based in Glasgow. His energetic and engaging approach overhauled recruitment. His subsequent appointment was as Unit Welfare Officer where he oversaw the move of the Battalion (now The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) from Cyprus to Glencorse Barracks, Edinburgh.

Captain McDermid was posted to a staff appointment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in early 2007. Always a field soldier, he volunteered for operational service in Afghanistan. In September 2007, he was attached to 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as a member of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, tasked with training the Afghan National Army. As a mentor, he was responsible for developing the leadership and infantry skills of platoon or company commanders.

Captain McDermid leaves behind his wife Gill, and three children.

Captain McDermid's family said:

"John's family and friends are devastated by this loss. John was such an important part of their lives and his death has left a void that can never be filled. Every one who knew John knew how loving, dedicated, strong, hilarious and truly wonderful he was. Although very much a family man, John's sense of duty and responsibility were never overlooked."

Captain McDermid's family appreciate the overwhelming support they have received from both the Army and friends alike. They would like to be given the time to grieve privately at this difficult time.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Harkness MBE, Commanding Officer of The Royal Highland Fusiliers, The 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, said:

"Captain John McDermid represented everything that is special about both the Army and The Royal Highland Fusiliers. From Fusilier to Regimental Sergeant Major, his 21 years service as a soldier was notable for its professionalism, commitment and loyalty. His exceptional qualities led to him being commissioned into the Regiment that he loved and into which he had devoted so much of his time and energy. Since his commissioning in 2004 he had continued to serve with the Battalion in both Cyprus and Scotland, where his exceptional talents remained evident amongst the Regimental family.

"Captain John McDermid was a friend and mentor to everyone. He loved the Army and everything that it represented. It came as no surprise to those who knew him that he had volunteered to go to Afghanistan as soldiering was in his blood. Held in the highest regard by all ranks, he occupied a unique place in everyone's hearts and minds. His death will leave a gap in all our lives that will never be filled. Today we have lost a friend and colleague, but his memory will live on within the Battalion and amongst those fortunate enough to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, now and always."

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Downey MBE, Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment said:

"Captain John McDermid was an exceptional soldier, officer and man. Deeply able, hugely energetic, and an accomplished, compassionate and encouraging leader, he rose rapidly through the ranks from private soldier to captain, excelling at every stage. Attached to 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment as a member of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, he made an immediate and thoroughly positive impact. Good natured, good company but with an inner steel, he was a very popular and key member of the mentoring team.

"Whether it was training the Afghans or commanding on operations, he was always at the forefront – seeking the best, encouraging and re-assuring those around him and leading by example. His command in Sangin was simply inspirational. Captain John McDermid's loss is a heavy blow to us all. We have lost, in John, a good comrade and an outstanding officer. He will be sorely missed, but we take great strength from his friendship, his example and his determination to make a difference for the people of Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family – his wife Gill and his three children."

Major Barrie Terry, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, Officer Commanding Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team said:

"Captain John McDermid was a first rate officer. He was a charismatic leader, who had vast experience and a real flair for command. He was a loving husband to Gill and father to his children. Typically, he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan and join the Combat Support Operational Mentoring Liaison Team. A highly qualified Late Entry Commissioned Officer and exceptional instructor; he was ideally placed to mentor the Afghan National Army and prepare the less experienced members of his mentoring team.

"Deployed to Sangin, John was energetic in taking forward operations against the Taliban. Characteristically, he was always at the forefront of everything his team did, leading by example. A professional and committed soldier, he had already achieved so much, as a Colour Sergeant Instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Regimental Sergeant Major of 1st Battalion The Royal Highland Fusiliers, and he had a bright future ahead of him.

"With his quick sense of humour and a warm but no-nonsense approach, he was extremely popular; he will be very much missed by all who knew him. The British Army has lost an able and devoted servant. My thoughts are with his family as they cope with this tragic and devastating news."

His close friend, Captain Ekbahadur ‘Ek' Gurung, of 36 Engineer Regiment, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, said:

"He was a Scot who was professional and committed to his job. He was absolutely dedicated to his family and children. His pictures and stories reflected his love for his family. His knowledge of the infantry role and tactics was first class and this knowledge has been responsible for the safety of the whole Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team. We will miss the compassion that he showed to every one regardless of rank."

Captain John ‘Dud' Southam, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, Queens Royal Lancers said:

"I first met Captain John McDermid just prior to the deployment and was immediately struck by his warmth and good humour and with his ability to make friends very quickly. During the deployment it became very clear that his professionalism and drive were immense and that he was an inspiration to all who worked with him. The fact that even after almost 25 years of service he continued to set standards for others to follow speaks volumes for the kind of soldier he was. Sadly, John ultimately lost his life doing the one job he had always excelled at: being an exceptional soldier who knew only one way, that of leading from the front.

"The loss of Captain John McDermid I know will leave a large hole in people's lives across the Army, but our thoughts are with his family. Their loss is immeasurably more than ours can ever be. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time."

Captain James Manchip, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, 26 Regiment Royal Artillery said

"Captain John McDermid was a softly spoken and very likeable character. He was a consummate professional and took a keen interest in his soldiers well being. He always led from the front and would do everything he expected his soldiers to do, often putting himself in harms way ahead of his soldiers. All found him approachable and easy to talk to. He always showed a genuine interest in other people's lives and in getting to know them. He will be much missed."

Sergeant Whelan, Combat Support Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, 26 Regiment Royal Artillery said:

"Foremost we knew him as a strong soldier who enjoyed commanding us. He believed what we were doing in Afghanistan was right and gave up his desk job to be here. He spoke a lot about his family and was most proud last week that his son was in a military cadet parade in his kit and couldn't wait to see the photos. He had a strong bond with his men and with the Afghan National Army, who like us, are heartbroken at the events."

Defence Secretary, Des Browne said:

"Captain McDermid's death is terribly sad, and at this difficult time my thoughts are with his friends and family. An enormously capable and clearly popular officer, I am sure he will be sadly missed by all who knew him. We owe Captain McDermid a debt of gratitude, both for the important work he volunteered to do in Afghanistan and for his many years of service in The Royal Highland Fusiliers."

My sympathies go out today to John and Gill's families, you are all in our thoughts today.

Our thoughts are also with all members of the armed services and their families who are serving or are about to serve in areas of conflict around the world. May you return safely.

Expectant mothers to get £190 to spend on Fruit

Expectant mothers are to be given £190 to spend on fruit and vegetables to help ensure their child is born healthy.

The handout, which will be paid from April 2009, was originally announced in September - when it was said it would be worth £120. I didn't realise that Food prices had gone up that quickly.

Unfortunately this will be paid direct to the expectant mother after her 25th week of pregnancy when it will be of no use to the health of the mother.

In this age of welfare I can just see the average Kylie or Sharon popping down the green grocer for a pound of apples or a half-dozen of oranges. More likely it will be to the local Asda for some Booze and Fags. The new motto will be "A fruit grant a day keeps the shakes away"

So, as per normal, those of us who can afford to have kids will be subsidising those who can't. Meanwhile the government keeps giving them more money for fags and booze if they do. It is the usual "Joined Up Government".

Don't worry this will only cost about £100m of our money. Money that would be much better spent on improving maternity units which are currently desperately short of money.

Expectant mothers to get £190 fruit money sparks 'gimmick' row | the Daily Mail

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Brown's New Conviction Politics

A new definition of Conviction Politics is emerging as Gordon Brown brings out the 'Clunking Fist' variety of Conviction Politics. This involves Ministers changing their Convictions within 1-2 hours after a quick fisting from Gordon. As the Guardian says

The government was plunged into disarray today over its proposed terror laws as security minister Lord West retracted his statement that he was not "totally convinced" about the need to extend detention of terror suspects for more than 28 days without charge.

The security minister "clarified" his remarks following a pre-planned meeting with Gordon Brown.

In a statement released less than two hours after his comments on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the minister said he was "convinced that we need to legislate now so that we have the necessary powers when we need them".

Brown just cannot stand having anyone disagreeing with him.

Minister backtracks over detention limit | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics

Alcohol 'shouldn't be sold like tattie scones'

I see Kenny MacAskill can't tell the difference between lingerie and wine, a barbecue and beer or tattie scones and vodka. In case he hasn't noticed you actually have to be at least eighteen to buy alcohol and you can't buy it at certain times so it is already more than just slightly different to the rest of the produce.

Perhaps he would prefer if alcohol was only available from licensed shops as in Norway, of course they have no alcohol problems!

If Kenny wants to stop people drinking then he should start applying the laws he already has properly to ensure Pub's /Supermarkets/shops sell responsibly rather than bothering with the fine details.

He would be better off making sure the corner shops stopped selling to underage drinkers rather than this sort of tactic. News - Politics - Alcohol 'shouldn't be sold like tattie scones'

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tartan Army launch chart assault

Combine Aviemore, 50,000 of the Tartan Army, The Scotland Football Team, Runrig and Children in Need and what do you get - A potential No 1.

Loch Lomond (The Hampden Remix) is now available, as they say, from all good record stores, iTunes and a variety of other sources.

Let's also hope it helps Scotland win against Italy on Saturday.

Now I remember when Runrig were a Ceilidh band and later when I did a bit of flyposting for them round Aberdeen on a number of occasions.

Tartan Army launch chart assault - Strathspey and Badenoch Herald

Misleading Information

Jacqui Smith denies a cover-up saying

My approach was that the responsible thing to do was to establish the full nature and scale of the problem and take appropriate action to deal with it, rather than immediately to put incomplete and potentially misleading information in to the public domain
My arse, "responsible", Labour wouldn't know what that was if it was shoved down their throats with a security guard attached to it to ensure they choked.

She hoped that it would not be found out whilst doing as little as possible. It was only in October that they started properly trying to sort this out. Unlucky for her she has been caught out like other recent Labour Ministers who have tried to stop embarrassing information leaking out.