The Army has long held a cherished notion: that the RN and RAF are platform-centric organisations that place people second to kit.
The Army feels very smug about this - our most senior Generals are often heard to use the phrase "our people are our vital ground" in recognition of the fact that armies need men and lots of them. It therefore helps to look after them up to the point where they're sent off to die. So - in the Army, our people are more important than anything else. An Army without people cannot exist.
Fairly simple stuff. And it also happens to be a load of tosh.
This week, our most senior Generals all gathered in London with the immensity that is General Sir Peter Wall (Chief of the General Staff or CGS) for an 'update' on various matters that were 'troubling him'. CGS has his own Briefing Team that roams the Army on his behalf and finds out what we - his people (his 'vital ground') think about everything. Are we happy? Are we getting paid? Do our boots fit and is the mail getting through?
Morale is sinking in the Army - fact. In virtually every single area one cares to look, the situation is dire and worsening. Pay, allowances, pensions are obvious sources of discontent and frankly most soldiers know how lucky they in that regard given what the country is going through. But our housing stock is appalling is many areas; and the lack of housing is creating real problems. Soldiers posted into the large Garrison areas from overseas - notably around Salisbury Plain - are having to leave their families behind. Hundreds of families are waiting for months, thousands of miles from their husbands and fathers. CGS tells us he is 'looking into it'. We aren't holding our breath, General.
So, we aren't paying our people and we're about to mess about with their pensions as well. We can't house them properly. We can't keep family units together. We can't feed them properly - the total disaster that is Pay As You Dine (PAYD) continues to be unrolled across the Army in spite of universal hatred. We can't clothe them in a uniform manner - delay after delay reported with deliveries of the new kit. It's good to hear that we are 'the vital ground'.
However, all this counts as nothing when measured against the monumental fuck up that is the Army 2020 announcement that will be made in the House by the SofS on Thursday. The Army's project leader (another General called Parker) 'inadvertently' let the cat out of the bag when he 'let slip' that an entire Gunner regiment (39th Regiment in Newcastle) was to scrapped - surely this should have been quietly briefed through the chain of command so that soldiers and families didn't worry? No - that would have been the right thing to do if we were 'the vital ground'. General Parker was an arrogant fuckwit who was warned not to release that information - and he did it anyway. Fuck you 39.
And this is the problem we have in the Army. We can cope with anything - soldiers are only happy when they're whinging about something. But this is different. The tone emanating from the very top of the Army is 'shut up and suck it up'. At every turn, critical information is being leaked by our Generals to the media. Once again, the Army is demonstrating that it's own worst enemy is itself.
So thank you CGS and your coterie of cowards who wear the uniform and draw the very handsome salaries that Generals require. You have all failed to even remotely do the one thing you are paid to do: PUT SOLDIERS FIRST.
Serve to lead? I don't think so. 'Vital ground'? The battle is lost.