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EDITIONS
Monday, 28 October, 2002, 21:42 GMT
The toughest regime in the world?
Soldier training
Training "has to be tough because war is nasty"
The training regime in the armed forces is being reviewed after claims of excessive harshness, sexual harassment and bullying.

But military experts argue against any changes that could affect the fighting capabilities of the British Army.

The British Army's ethos is very different from other European armies.


You are taking people who may be something of a couch potato and making them very fit - it is tough

Major Charles Hayman
Jane's
In Germany, the culture within the army is of "citizens in uniform", a regime where long hair and other manifest signs of individualism are permitted.

Major Charles Hayman, editor of Jane's World Armies, said the difference in training culture in the British Army was reflected in its fighting ability.

"The training regime here is very, very different from what it is in the rest of Europe.

"In some countries - although France doesn't come into this - the training is very, very low standard. The soldiers are not fit for war. I've been appalled.

"There are very few armies that still train to fight a war. It has to be tough because wars are nasty and brutal.


[Bullying and sexual harassment] is much worse in the training establishments than it is in the units

Major Hayman
"That sort of training is completely at odds with the sort of society we actually live in."

The review comes at a time when the basic training period has risen for an infantryman in the British Army from 20 to 24 weeks, so there is more time to improve physical fitness standards.

Major Hayman continued: "I did my own basic training 40 years ago. It is far more involved and tough than it was then - eight weeks compared to 24 weeks.

"You are going to get very, very fit - generally the fitness standard of a minor athlete.

"You are taking people who may be something of a couch potato and making them very fit - it is tough. A lot of people - 25% - are not going to make it."

Reflection of society

Major Hayman said that much of the bullying and sexual harassment the Army was accused of was brought by recruits from civilian society.

"That behaviour has to be coaxed out of them, driven out of them.

"It isn't a product of military training. It is a reflection of society and it is much worse in the training establishments than it is in the units.


You have to have people who can act on their own when all the officers are dead and the sergeants are gone

Major Hayman
"Then the soldier falls into the army way of doing things. These people are maybe two or three weeks out of civilian life."

But he admitted there were a lot of improvements that could be made to training, and said it could be physically and psychologically daunting.

"The toughest thing a recruit will do is the battle camp there always is at the end of training.

"It is generally in places like Brecon, in the hills, with the rain and the cold.

"They live outside with no cover over their heads, they fight mock battles, and at the end they are totally exhausted.

'Horrendous'

"There is one physical task that everybody has to do that is really gut-wrenching.

"At the end of a 10-mile trek, with battle shooting exercises, you must pick someone up, both of you in full kit, and carry him and his rifle for 100 yards. That is horrendous.


If you can get through, you look back and think what a tough guy I am

Major Hayman
"The ones that come through it join an infantry battalion.

"If you can get through, you look back and think what a tough guy I am."

But the training is not conceived with the "breaking" of recruits in mind.

"You don't want to dehumanise them, because you want them to think. A dehumanised human being is no better than a robot.

"You have to have people who can act on their own when all the officers are dead and the sergeants are gone."


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