Belfast Telegraph

A new model Army as TA and regulars set to merge

By Anna Maguire

Northern Ireland Army reservists will play a major role in overseas conflicts as part of a shake-up of the armed forces by 2020.

A programme of reforms will see reservists absorbed into a completely integrated force within seven years.

Existing structures for full-time regular troops and reservists will be merged into one – with joint training and new equipment promised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Brigadier Rob Thomson (below), senior Army officer in Northern Ireland, added: "We see the reserves delivering much more in the future, providing general military and specialist capabilities, not only as individuals but also as formed groups."

There are 2,000 Army reservists in Northern Ireland, spread across 22 units. Reserves will now be re-located from Armagh to Portadown.

It will also see two Royal Irish headquarters move from Portadown to Lisburn's Thiepval Barracks. By 2020, reservists will be deployed on overseas missions ranging from six months to five years under the Total Force Concept plan.

The Territorial Army will be known as the Army Reserve, with part-time reserve troops eligible for paid leave when they are training or on operations. While part-time troops from Northern Ireland make up 4% of UK reserves, they already represent nearly a quarter of reserve personnel on overseas deployments.

The average reservist in Northern Ireland spends just under 12 years as a member, compared to a UK average of under four years. The MoD has attributed the raft of changes to financial constraints and global pressures.

Last month the MoD announced a cut of more than 4,000 Army personnel in the latest round of military cutbacks.

STORY SO FAR

Changes from the Ministry of Defence follow a series of cutbacks to the force. In July last year the Government announced the loss of 17 major Army units, with the axing of 20,000 regular full-time soldiers by 2020. Under the current savings drive, the Army will be about half the size it was during the Cold War era. In 1978 the Army had more than 163,000 troops.

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