Reservists’ deaths come at a time when ministers are trying to significantly increase number and role of volunteer force
The deaths of the two Territorial Army members comes at a time when the government is trying to significantly increase the number of reservists and revamp the role of the volunteer force.
Over the next 10 years it is aiming to boost the number of TA members from 19,000 to 30,000 in order to make up for the loss of regular service personnel forced by defence cuts.
TA soldiers have to commit to a minimum of 19 or 27 days a year depending on their role. Most training takes place at evenings and weekends, and there is a two-week annual camp.
A new recruit receives £35.04 for a full day, rising to £43.54 after basic training. In addition TA members receive an annual tax-free sum known as a bounty, which starts at £424 for the first year and increases annually after that. Travel to units and food is subsidised, while kit is free.
Like regular soldiers, TA members learn how to handle and fire a weapon. They are instructed on how to live and look after themselves while living in the outdoors for extended periods.
Each unit has its own physical training instructor who advises on fitness, sport and general health and nutrition.
The SAS (Special Air Service) Reserves comprises two regiments: 21 SAS(R) and 23 SAS(R), formed in 1947 and 1959 respectively.
It accepts male volunteers with no previous military experience between the ages of 18 and 33, and those who have been in the regular or reserve forces up to the age of 35.
The selection course for potential SAS reservists takes place twice a year. It has two stages: aptitude and continuation.
Aptitude is described as a “progressively arduous phase”. To stand any chance of success candidates must be very fit at the start of the course.
The selection course is designed to pinpoint candidates who are physically and mentally robust, self-confident, self-disciplined, able to work alone and able to assimilate information and new skills.
The aptitude test is understood to culminate with a 40-mile (64km) march carrying a pack weighing around 60lb (27kg). Sources who have knowledge of the test say that though it is carefully planned, candidates are given more autonomy and less guidance than they would in regular units. Only around one in 10 are thought to pass the test.
If candidates pass the aptitude stage they are required to undertake “continuation training”, an intensive period of instruction and assessment on special forces tactics and techniques. They are expected to learn new skills while being placed under physical and mental pressure.
The commitment is huge. Continuation takes place over a series of weekends and blocks of training totalling around 80 days over 12 months.
Within 12 months of completing selection, candidates enter a period of probation that requires the completion of parachute and communication courses, after which those …read more