Many of us will be familiar with the process of sending Junior Reserve Officers, namely Troop and Platoon Commanders, to Regular Regiments, usually prior to an operational tour. In 102 Logistic Brigade, however, something very different is happening.
Lieutenant Jonathan Kinahan, a subaltern in the RLC, is currently partaking in a pilot scheme within 102 Logistic Brigade, undertaking a six month attachment from 6 Theatre Logistic Regiment RLC in Germany to 159 Supply Regiment RLC, a Reserve Regiment in the West Midlands. Dropped in at the deep end, Lieutenant Kinahan was immediately exposed to the Reservist way of life; instructing on a ‘Soldier First’ weekend at the end of his first week was the best possible introduction to the cultural shift epitomised by service with the Army Reserve.
Whilst Operation FORTIFY is energising the Reserve proposition there remains a dearth of suitably qualified subalterns or interest from potential officers. The attachment, therefore, allows him an excellent opportunity for exposure to the Army Reserve, in advance of a future career that is likely to involve far greater integration. He is required to undertake a traditional Troop Commander’s role and, inter alia, lead on the training and selection for the Reserve Operation HERRICK 20b component that will support 6 Regiment’s deployment later this year. This will include all related assurance and Collective Training activities and should also optimise operational efficiency through closer interaction.
Having served as a Troop Commander and the Regimental Training Officer in Germany, Lieutenant Kinahan is based in the Headquarters’ Operations’ Room during the week, assisting the Regimental Technical Officer and at weekends and ‘drill nights’ he performs the duties of a Reservist Troop Commander with 243 Headquarters Squadron in Coventry. These roles allow Lieutenant Kinahan to add his training experience and leadership qualities at both Squadron and Regimental level. In the first month of his attachment he has been working closely with the Training Major, Adjutant and Regimental Operations Support Officer; his main focus has been on beginning to understand how a Reserve Regiment works and also what motivates ‘the Reservist’. Lieutenant Kinahan has begun in earnest, fervently getting to grips with his portfolio which includes Reserve Potential Officer recruiting and retention, support to Operation FORTIFY, Squadron level training and assisting in the planning of the Regiment’s Annual Deployment Exercise in May to Sennelager. The last serial is especially important as the Regiment will select its final cohort to deploy to Afghanistan. After providing a troop of Reservists for the last four iterations, this last opportunity for Reservists to deploy has a special importance to Lieutenant Kinahan, as the Reservists which he assist in training, mentoring and selecting, will deploy with his parent unit, 6 Regiment.
The pilot is also vital to improving relations between Regular and Reserve units, a key aspect of A2020, which sees units paired across the Army in order to support and improve integration. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Francis, said “…in order for integration to work successfully, the Regular Army needs to gain a greater understanding of the Reserves. This pilot, which we hope to expand further after this initial trial, will give Junior Officers the ability to improve their understanding of the Reserves and take that knowledge away with them for use throughout the remainder of their careers”. The long-term benefits to the individual and the Army Reserve are clear, greater understanding and ultimately greater operational capability being key amongst these.
There are already tangible benefits for 159 Regiment with Lieutenant Kinahan’s experience and leadership being put to great effect. Like many Reserve Regiments, 159 Regiment currently have no Reservist Subalterns so are missing a key layer of leadership. This lack of subalterns is also creating a capability gap downstream when sub-unit commanders will be required to deliver greater effect as part of the Army 2020 construct. As such rectifying this is the focus of much of the Regiment’s recruiting effort; Lieutenant Kinahan is already intimately involved in this process. He has already built upon the strong links with both Coventry University and Birmingham University Officer Training Corps, attending recruiting events and exploring opportunities which can incorporate the Officer Cadets, Reservists and Regulars from our paired Regiments. These joint events, from training through to Dinner Nights, provide the perfect tool for understanding and integrating different branches of Defence capability form both a regional and operational perspective.
When asked what he thinks he’ll get out of the scheme Lt Kinahan responded “Reserve integration is a hot topic at the moment and the Regular and Reserves will be working closer together in the future. I’m already gaining lots of knowledge about the Reserves and how they operate and I’m continuing to learn more each day. Working with the Reserves has its challenges and it can be a completely different environment at times. Working evenings and some weekends is a cultural change for me from life in Germany, but it is probably the same for all Regulars who come and work in the Reserve environment”.
Lieutenant Kinahan will complete his pilot attachment at the end of this summer and produce a report which will detail the benefits of the pilot and allow other units and cap-badges to consider whether it is something which may be of benefit for them. For now though, his focus remains on improving his understanding of the Reserves and identifying areas in which he can continue to be of benefit to 159 Supply Regiment and its soldiers.
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