I joined my local University Officer Training Corps in the late 1980s, then in the early 90s transferred to my local Territorial Army infantry battalion. For six years, until I joined the Regular Army, I put in close to – sometimes over – a hundred training days every year. Many of those days were unit admin tasks; painting vehicles, driving weapons to the local REME depot for refurbishment or even working the bar at an Officer’s Mess function were all worth doing for some extra money. The bulk of it was training though. I did annual camps, weekend exercises and the weekly drill night. I went on courses or spent a few days with another unit that needed to make up the numbers. I did a lot of training, but that wasn’t a problem. We had an annual allowance of 70 days a man and the CO could sign off on an extension to 100 days. Anything above that needed permission from brigade, but there was never a shortage of extra days so extensions to 120, 150 and even 180 days were easy to get.
Then, a few years later, I spent a year as part of the Regular cadre at a unit that was mostly manned by TA and reservists. Much to my surprise, I found that the annual allocation had been cut to a mere 13 days. That wasn’t enough to cover the mandatory summer camp – 14 days – that soldiers had to do to get their annual training bounty, never mind any other training through the year. The unit’s solution was to authorize Category C training but, being unpaid, that wasn’t very popular. Most of the reservists would grudgingly do one unpaid day so they could get their bounty (which was about $1,500) but there wasn’t much change of getting them to turn up for weekend training or exercises. Put bluntly, the reduction in authorized days – a simplistic attempt to cut costs – was crippling the unit’s ability to deploy teams to Iraq and Afghanistan. There just weren’t enough days available to keep people at the necessary standard.
So I had slightly mixed feelings when I read a discussion from US National Guard members on their own training allocation. No doubt about it 39 days a year is a lot better than 13; but, is it enough to keep reserve troops effective? My personal feeling is yes, but only barely. There’s no slack at all and units are going to have to work really hard to fit enough training within that limit. In fact it’s beyond the ability of most Guard or reserve units. That’s no reflection on the units; it’s just very hard to get a hold of resources – training areas, specialist instructors and so on – with the perfect efficiency that’s needed. Realistically, more time is needed to accommodate the realities of reservist life.
My own experience as a volunteer reservist isn’t a great guide; 120 days a year is pretty excessive- especially when so much of it was spent on work parties or non-essential exercises. Other factors come into play as well – in the UK most people get around 30 days paid leave a year, so it’s much easier to fit in training camps and still manage a family vacation. With that in mind, even 70 days is probably unrealistic for most Guardsmen or reservists. The 39 day allowance just isn’t adequate though, and increasing it to about 50 would be a huge help. Shaving off training days is a false economy if the result is less effective reserves.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.