Belfast Telegraph

Pro-diversity ad doesn't show reality of Army life, says Beattie

By Allan Preston

An Army recruitment campaign criticised for being too politically correct has received a mixed response from a highly decorated former soldier and Assembly member.

The £1.6m 'Belonging' campaign launched by the Army aims to appeal to a broader range of society - stressing a welcoming environment to women and those of different sexual orientations, faiths, ethnic and social backgrounds.

A series of animated adverts voiced by serving soldiers ask if you can be emotional in the army, gay, practice your faith or be listened to as a woman.

Doug Beattie joined the army in 1982 at a time when soldiers could not be gay and women were discharged for being pregnant.

He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery after serving in Afghanistan with the Royal Irish Regiment.

He welcomed the new campaign's inclusive message but said it failed to address the tough role soldiers face.

"I understand what they're all about, the army does have to represent society," he said.

"These are times to reach out to all corners of society and say you can belong regardless of your sexuality, religion or the colour of your skin, ethnic or social background."

"So I think that's very positive and reaching out to people who wouldn't normally look to the army for a career."

His disappointment, however, was that the adverts showed little about the reality of army life.

"It's not just about friendship and belonging, there's a real job to be done. It involves war fighting, war security. There's hardship and danger as well as excitement," he said.

Mr Beattie said it was a strong military tradition in his family that first encouraged him to join in 1982 rather than a recruitment campaign.

"There's people out there and their whole thing in life is to join the Armed Forces regardless and an ad campaign won't make a difference," he said.

"But for people outside the military it can look like a closed shop, but this opens it up and that has to be welcomed."

Criticising the campaign was retired soldier, Major General Tim Cross who said it would distract from the main aim of protecting the country.

"The concern I think for a lot of people... is that you end up with an army that's not capable of doing what you want it to do," he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

"You send it away on operations and it's not able to deliver."

General Sir Nick Carter, head of the Army, denied the campaign showed it had gone soft.

"The plain fact is that combat ethos and fighting power remain the British Army's highest priority post Iraq and Afghanistan," he told the BBC.

"I can't remember a time in my career when we've had a more combat hardened army. But what this campaign is about frankly is that we don't have a fully manned army at the moment, that the demography of our country has changed and that we need to reach out to a broader community in order to man that army with the right talent."

He said the traditional recruitment demographic, of white males aged 16-25, had shrunk by 25% in the past 15 years.

"Our society is changing, therefore, it's entirely appropriate to reach out to a much broader base to get the talent we need in order to sustain that effectiveness," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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