Territorial Army In Live Recruitment Drive

Alistair Bunkall, Defence Correspondent

The first of a series of live television adverts will be broadcast today to help recruitment to the Territorial Army.

The advert will go out on ITV just after midday, broadcast from Afghanistan and real TA soldiers will take part, not actors.

There will be 17 live adverts over the next two weekends, each lasting around one minute, demonstrating how TA soldiers work alongside their regular Army colleagues.

It will be complimented by a series of events in London, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Newcastle and Glasgow, showcasing the wide range of careers available including chefs, drivers, medics and engineers.

Major General Ranald Munro, the Deputy Commander of Land Forces and senior officer in the TA, said: "My vision is to have a Territorial Army that is well trained.

"Clearly not to the standards of the regular soldier in peacetime, but sufficiently high so that when we top the training up before operations they're ready to cross a line of departure with total assurance and confidence between the regular and the TA operating together."

On a bitterly cold Salisbury Plain this week, TA soldiers have been on final exercise alongside their regular colleagues before deploying to Afghanistan in April.

One of those is Lieutenant Rob Whittle, a TA soldier and security consultant in civilian life.

"Joining the Reservists is no different I think to joining the regular Army," he told Sky News.

"You still want to join to do jobs on operations, but it gives you the freedom to pursue a civilian career if that’s what you want as well so effectively you are going to get the best of both worlds."

The recruitment drive is indicative of the Government’s need to fulfil its pledge to double the number of TA soldiers from 15,000 to 30,000 by 2018.

Under the plans the Territorial Army will be known instead as the Reservists. This is intended to reflect their expanding role and increased importance. The Ministry of Defence is investing an extra £1.8bn over the next ten years to improve TA equipment and training.

"It’s a huge challenge but one that I think we can achieve," Major Gen Munro predicts confidently. "If you look at other countries, America, Australia, Canada, it is do-able."

But the larger reserve force will compensate for massive cuts in the regular Army. By 2020 the size of the service will have shrunk to 82,000 from a current level of around 105,000. It will be the smallest UK army since the 18th century.

Critics of the redundancies point out the threat of Islamic extremism in North Africa and argue that demands on the British Army are unlikely to diminish significantly even once the Afghan mission is over post 2014.

Business leaders also question the wisdom of a larger TA force because of the strains it can put on small business forced to release employees for military duties.