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Padre’s Pulpit


Recruiting, Retention and Re-Enlistment by Maj A


Cox MBE The 3rd Battalion packages Recruiting, Retention and Re-enlistment (R3) into one additional task for a Company Commander. Having taken over from Maj Neil Richardson in October 2008, there will be no surprise that things were very much up and running! He had pushed ahead with R3 matters for The Mercian Regiment and had just signed off on the Battalion R3 policy (now the draft Regimental policy) prior to my taking over the rôle. Regimental policy and allocation of resources now happily sit with CO 4 MERCIAN and the Regimental Adjutant thus allowing the three OC R3s to focus upon the execution of that policy at Battalion level.


In 3 MERCIAN, re-enlistment and most retention issues are dealt with by the RCMO and his 2ic thus allowing me to focus upon recruiting. Since the Regiment’s formation in 2007, recruiting figures have increased to a level greater than the accumulated numbers of the antecedent Regiments. The Recruiting Offices’ trend for the last year is positive on the whole and this is very much a result of high quality individuals who are proactive and who have the ability to make a difference on being posted to the offices. We are currently experiencing a recruiting bounce as a result of the economic downturn and our recruiters and RSTs are working hard to capitalise. The RST has proved its worth this year. Under the steadfast command of Sgt (Flash) Gordon, RST 3 has pioneered the Ex Where Eagles Dare and delivered outstanding support to the 3 MERCIAN KAPE. Similarly, and despite the busy period of LWC BG commitments, the Battalion has continued to provide additional resources to support the Recruiters, such as Satisfied Soldiers and, more recently, a very successful recruiting surge in support of KAPE. Retention is a fusion of nurturing, leadership and good training. Our nurturing effect starts with the Recruiting Offices and swiftly transitions to Cpl Palmer, our 3rd Battalion shepherd at ITC(C). Cpl Palmer has achieved decisive and ground- breaking results, setting the standard at ITC and contributing over 100 new recruits arriving at the Battalion with the lowest wastage rate in P of W Div. So what for the year ahead? A follow- up KAPE tour and a sustained mini recruiting surge to exploit the opportunity of the recession and deliver effect prior to the move to Germany. Beyond the move, we look to a reinforced RST and the added dimension of the exciting life of an Armoured Infantryman in Germany drawing new recruits and holding the attention of those we have.


by Capt Dr D Middlemiss My name is David Middlemiss and I’m the new Padre of 3 MERCIAN. When I say new, I mean it as I have only just finished my initial training and this is my first appointment. I have no military background at all so, although I normally avoid clichés like the plague, it’s been a steep learning curve.


Padres train at Amport House, a stunning stately home with listed gardens. Eight of us from a variety of denominations started in September 2008. We did three weeks of lectures followed by a tortuous month at Sandhurst where we trained with Doctors, Lawyers, Physiotherapists, vets, nurses and so on. This course was originally designed by our own CO, Lt Col Spiby, and the aim was to give us a taste of a wide sample of Army life. It was relentless and exhausting but it did the job it was intended to do. I’m glad to have done the course but I wouldn’t want to do it again – I’m far too old to be crawling through drain pipes full of water! The next phase of training was a week of driving Landrovers at Leconfield. This was like being at a holiday camp in comparison with Sandhurst and involved such tasks as driving to Whitby and getting chips but with a Landrover and trailer.


All eight Padres got on well as a group and sustained morale with a constant stream of what we liked to call “witty banter”. In reality though, it was mostly abuse, accusing each other of such things as being Welsh, a git, Scottish, Catholic, proddy, ugly, having a stupid voice etc, etc. Out of this sea of sarcasm emerged the occasional gem. The question “Did you see that deer?” was answered by “See what, darling?” One lecturer unwisely told us that “…there’s no such thing as a stupid question”, so I asked him “Why do mirrors reverse things from side to side, but not top to bottom?” The last three weeks were back at Amport House with more lectures and a deeply sobering and interesting battlefield tour of the Somme. We were then set loose on an unsuspecting Army.


As a newcomer, there are a number of things that strike me.


1. It’s nothing like I imagined it to be. In the past, all I ever heard about the Army would have come from the papers and those were stories about bullying, suicides, beating up prisoners, and unpopular wars. The reality is a great deal more civilised but it is striking to me how the Army is misunderstood by the rest of British culture.


2. If I’d seen a recruiting van a couple of years ago, I’d have thought “They’re just looking for cannon fodder”. I would have had no sympathy at all. Now, I have the enthusiasm of a convert; the Army can take a person with limited prospects and give him/her the chance to make something of life.


3. It surprises me what a caring organisation the Army is. I didn’t expect this as, when it comes down to it, the Army kills people. There is, however, a huge sense of family in The Mercians. Perhaps it’s this regiment in particular, I don’t know yet. I do know that, for example, all sick at home soldiers will be visited by someone from the Regiment every week or two and that the CO himself regularly goes over the names of every soldier to keep on top of any welfare issues.


4. There are huge privileges in the form of subsidised housing, food, travel and so on. It’s certainly good to be in the Army at a time when the country has been hit with such a financial storm. It is a much more secure life than most people have.


5. Some things are bewildering. The huge amount of TLAs, or “Three Letter Abbreviations, can be thoroughly confusing. Why should I be called “Captain” on my first day in the Army when I know less about the Army than the average Private and am certainly not as fit or young? Above all, why do people wear camouflage combat 95s, along with high visibility vests? Do they want to hide or not?


So, I find myself in a job where no two days are the same. There is a mass of new things to learn. I’ve just been tasked with taking half a dozen solders sailing - something I love doing. The Regiment could not have been more welcoming or patient with my ignorance of Army ways. Joining the Army has been a great decision.


84 October 2009 The Mercian Eagle


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