Armed forces stand to gain recognition
20 May 2008
Cadet training classes in secondary schools, a new Bank Holiday and more civic parades to honour armed forces personnel are just some of the 40 key initiatives the government is promoting from a review into how to improve the public’s perception of the military.
MP Quentin Davies’ long awaited review " National Recognition of the Armed Forces" was excepted almost in full by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. However armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth was forced to admit to MPs that some of the recommendations would require "detailed consideration."
Perhaps the most notable recommendation would be a new law making it illegal to discriminate against someone for wearing a military uniform. Personnel will be allowed and encouraged to wear their uniforms in public. The government aims to institute new laws that will make discrimination or verbal or physical abuse against someone for wearing their military uniform illegal. This follows an incident in March when staff at RAF Wittering were banned from wearing their uniforms off duty due to hostile responses from the public. Last night Ainsworth said the government would have to review how to institute such a law.
Despite a testy relationship between the armed forces and state schools across the country, Davies recommended that cadet training be available for students in secondary schools in order to develop a clear understanding of the military. Independent schools are often renowned for their cadet corps, but state schools have seen a decline in cadet programmes. Last year only 60 state schools had them.
There would also be a cadet ambassador who would liaise with state schools.
Officials believe that the training will restore discipline among teenagers and improve physical fitness. Davies sidestepped accusations that the cadets served as little more than a grass roots recruiting tool for the armed forces.
The children, schools and families secretary, Ed Balls has thrown his support behind the initiative, saying it was important for young people to understand what the armed forces represented.
"It is about encouraging young people to volunteer, to develop a service ethos, as well as keeping fit and doing activities out of doors," Balls said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Davies has called for a new Bank Holiday to follow Remembrance Sunday. The day will honour the armed forces and see a number of parades and tattoos around the country.
The government warmly welcomed the report in full.
"This report provides firm foundations to ensure that the work of our Armed Forces is better understood and recognised by the nation they serve," Ainsworth said.
General Timothy Granville-Chapman, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff said the report highlighted the huge debt of gratitude owed to personnel.
"Every week people see just what being on operations means - they see people, many of them young, giving real meaning to the idea of service and sacrifice, enduring hardship and often displaying remarkable bravery," he stated.
Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey, a staunch defender of the military covenant and troops’ rights, welcomed the report, saying most of the recommendations were " good commonsense." Harvey cautioned however that the report could overlook many other problems confronting personnel.
"We must never let pageantry obscure the hard facts about the way the current Government treats our Armed Forces.
"An Armed Forces Day is welcome, but it will ring hollow for those forces families who still have to put up with substandard housing," Harvey stated.
Davies’ report is part of a wider programme by the government to bridge the gap between the public and the armed forces. In America one cannot travel far without seeing "support our troops" signs and yellow ribbons honouring those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Personnel are given a wide range of discounts and recognitions for their service in the military. In some towns, local roads have been named after soldiers killed in Iraq.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army said last year that the public no longer understood or appreciated the armed forces for the job they do. Both he and Brown have said they would like to see recognition of military personnel on par with America.