Midland Mad, Sad, or Hungry for War? Hundreds of Volunteer Midland Soldiers Left Their Civvy Jobs Behind to Travel to Germany for a Two-Week NATO Peacekeeping Exercise Last Week. Campbell Docherty Travelled with Them and Found Highly Professional Men and Women in an Organisation Losing a Recruitment War at the Very Time Its Country Needs It the Most

The Birmingham Post (England), September 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Midland Mad, Sad, or Hungry for War? Hundreds of Volunteer Midland Soldiers Left Their Civvy Jobs Behind to Travel to Germany for a Two-Week NATO Peacekeeping Exercise Last Week. Campbell Docherty Travelled with Them and Found Highly Professional Men and Women in an Organisation Losing a Recruitment War at the Very Time Its Country Needs It the Most


Byline: Campbell Docherty

The enmity between the various peoples who make up the seething, spitting stew that is Calaban and neighbouring Zagros has been simmering for 2,000 years at least.

Whether lumped together heedlessly in an artificially constructed republic, or as enemy tribes with only the slice of eastern Europe they live upon in common, this is a land of intractable hatreds and chains of right and wrong that have tangled into a ball no one could ever definitively unravel and define.

And it is in meltdown once again, with the aggressively nationalist Zagrosians ethnically cleansing the Muslim population in an enclave situated between them and their major enemy Calaban.

When the peace needs to be kept in situations like this, it is not just commandos or shadowy SAS operatives that answer the call.

It's telecom engineers, truck drivers and Doctors of Chemistry from Birmingham, it's warehouse managers from Rugby, it's high-flying component industry managers from Worcestershire.

The Territorial Army is being squeezed from both sides. Conflicts like the exercise scenario described above are now regular tours for TA soldiers.

They are being called up more and more and, much to the bitter but offthe-record consternation of many TA and regular Army personnel, are becoming a gap-plugging reserve for an Army which has been increasingly depleted by cuts.

But the TA itself is going through a recruitment crisis.

The reasons are unclear. Is it the image problem caused by the popular perception of 'stabs' (or 'sad TA bastards') as a drinking club for strange military obsessives?

Perhaps it is simply a matter of sociology, about dwindling support for the UK's military endeavours.

What is clear is that the TA has succeeded in becoming a very professional 'reserve' army in the face of new demands being placed upon it.

The 35 (South Midland) Signal Regiment came to Germany the weekend before I met them and will spend another week out in the field or sleeping under canvas after I leave. Their journey had involved leaving TA bases in Sparkbrook in Birmingham, Coventry, Shrewsbury, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Rugby at some ungodly hour on the Saturday, travelling en mass to the north east to catch ferries to Belgium, from where they had to drive up and along the northern coast of Germany and then down into Westphalia. …

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Midland Mad, Sad, or Hungry for War? Hundreds of Volunteer Midland Soldiers Left Their Civvy Jobs Behind to Travel to Germany for a Two-Week NATO Peacekeeping Exercise Last Week. Campbell Docherty Travelled with Them and Found Highly Professional Men and Women in an Organisation Losing a Recruitment War at the Very Time Its Country Needs It the Most
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