Sympathy for soldiers risks putting off Army recruits – General Sir Nick Carter
Sir Nick welcomed the “massive and almost overwhelming” public support following the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Public sympathy for the Army risks discouraging people from joining up, the Chief of the General Staff has said.
General Sir Nick Carter said support from the public needed to be based on “empathy” and an understanding of what the Army does, rather than viewing soldiers as victims.
Speaking to the Telegraph as he visited troops deployed in Estonia, Sir Nick also said he believed suggestions that ground troops were obsolete as a result of technology such as drones were “fallacies”.
The Army faces a recruitment challenge as Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon acknowledged last month troop numbers had fallen below its previously planned level of 82,000 troops to 78,400.
Sir Nick said he welcomed the “massive and almost overwhelming” public support following the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
But he said: “I think that there’s a risk that that public support is very much based on sympathy and not necessarily on empathy and I think if we wish to sustain our numbers and indeed the sort of attitude that you would want your army to have, then I think it’s important that the cursor swings more towards empathy than sympathy.
“So that people understand about what an army does and why you need an army and therefore what it’s final task might be.
“The first risk is that people don’t necessarily want to join up, or rather their parents, teachers, the so-called gatekeepers perhaps don’t want to encourage them to join up, because the young that I engage with absolutely still do want to be soldiers.”
Sir Nick told the paper a reluctance to put boots on the ground could also harm recruitment efforts and he believed suggestions that infantry troops were obsolete as a result of technology such as drones were “fallacies”.
“The bottom line is that in the final analysis, people live on land, and it is the land component that ultimately has to mix with where people live,” he said.