Afghanistan veteran rejects 'ridiculous' claims over 'soft and cuddly' Army ads

Suggestions that new recruitment adverts portray the Army as "soft" are "completely ridiculous", a former soldier and academic has said.

The Army has faced criticism over the campaign, which is centred on the concept of inclusivity and seeks to address concerns recruits may have about issues including religion, gender and sexuality.

But Dr David Martin, a former officer and Afghanistan veteran, said both old and new campaigns shared status and belonging as motivations for signing up.

He said: "What Karmarama (the company behind the adverts) is trying to do is tap into the two things that subconsciously motivate people to fight, even when there is a risk of dying. Those two things are status and belonging.

"Even the war-fighting adverts are doing that because they focus on belonging, as often the activities shown are done in teams, and status as well, as for young people there's that sense of cool.

"I don't see these new adverts as a particular diversion from that, but a lot of people have painted these adverts as 'Well, what we did before was war-fighting and now it's all soft and cuddly and about belonging'."

Dr Martin, who is also a visiting research fellow at King's College London's War Studies Department, said his personal experience, particularly in Afghanistan, was that the Army was "100% a place where you could belong because you had teams working under pressure".

He said: "People only cared about whether you were able to keep your people alive, or whether you were able to deliver whatever your job was, not what particular flavour of human you were."

He added: "I find that the criticism from outside of the Army is often unknowing of the realities (of Army life)."

Questioning the "non-argument" of a "soft" Army, Dr Martin pointed to the thousands of troops currently deployed in places like Somalia and Nigeria as well as the Army's 15-year role in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He said: "Even people who criticise this approach because it's soft would accept that the most important part of fighting power is the teams that you generate to deliver that fighting power.

"That's what military training is all about. It's about creating robust teams that don't fall apart when they are under extreme pressure."

Speaking about the drop in enlisting numbers, Dr Martin said: "It's pretty simple. If you look at the economy and the employment rate in the UK over the last 30 years and peg that against Army recruitment, you'll see a very close relationship.

"Secondly, we're not fighting any wars at the moment.

"Young people ... want to fight in wars. So when Iraq and Afghanistan were on, people joined the Army because they wanted to fight.

"That's why I joined the Army. I wouldn't have joined a peacetime Army. I joined because I wanted to go to Afghanistan. That's really why recruitment is suffering at the moment."

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