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Start of a post at Thin Pinstriped Line--example for RCAF (and other services)?
The Royal Air Force has recently publicised the details of its scheme designed to attract former service members to re-join the RAF. The scheme is intended to provide an opportunity for people who have left to consider applying to re-enter the military and resume their career. (Full details can be found HERE https://www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment/how-to-apply/rejoiners-and-inter-service-transfer/).
To some serving personnel the process is controversial since rejoiners can be considered for promotion into a higher rank, depending on the experience they have accrued while outside. To some this is seen as ‘an insult’ to serving personnel in that it rewards those who have left, while not addressing the root cause of what is causing people to leave in the first place. To Humphrey this scheme is a very welcome and common sense idea that has the potential to bring a real infusion of people back into the system to fill gaps which would otherwise be empty.
The reality of life is that everyone who joins the armed forces will one day leave or retire. The career model for decades has been based on the notion of joining aged about 16-20 and then serving a full career of about 22 years or to 55 depending on your service. Should you choose to leave before this point, then there is usually no easy way back in – to the extent that Humphrey has met naval officers who have passed out of BRNC Dartmouth twice because they were made to redo the AIB when rejoining the Service a few years after leaving.
While attrition is expected and inevitable (and is reflected in part in the thinning of posts at more senior levels as manpower numbers drop), there is still a problem with too many people leaving at the wrong points, for example a high outflow of JNCO’s – causing not only gaps in that rank, but then creating a ‘black hole’ of manpower shortages that will take years to work through the system.
The lack of direct entry means that should a Flight Sergeant with 15 years’ experience leave, then the only real way to replace them is to recruit someone and wait many years for them to be promoted to the same rank and be appointable to fill those SNCO posts.
The challenge is particularly pronounced because the armed forces are not a homogenous block of people. There may be (for example) 2000 Chief Petty Officers in the Royal Navy, but that doesn’t mean you can appoint them interchangeably. A CPO Logistician in the Fleet Air Arm is not realistically able to do the job of a CPO Nuclear Watchkeeper on a submarine. With an enormous range of trades and specialisations in the system, the numbers of personnel in any branch is often relatively small, along with the career opportunities.
If people leave early, the posts still need to be filled, meaning that hard pressed areas (for example nuclear engineers) will see people posted to the operationally essential roles like being at sea, and get far less downtime on other less intense roles, such as working ashore. If a branch has a plot of 40 SNCO posts and only 25 personnel qualified to fill it, then the pressure on those 25 will be ridiculous and cause a cycle of further retention challenges.
People leave for different reasons – many have tired of the peculiar demands of the military lifestyle, while others want more certainty in their career postings. Family demands such as school needs or caregiving responsibilities may force someone to leave to be in a specific geographic area, or people just want a change in circumstances. Some leave because the relentless pace of operational deployments has exhausted them and is causing family rifts. Others leave because having done an operational tour, life in barracks and exercises holds no appeal at all. There is no coherent rhyme or reason why people walk away and it is impossible to create a package of retention measures that will address all of these concerns.
The move to consider re-entry then is important because it recognises two things. Firstly that people who leave may want to come back in at a later date when their life circumstances make it possible to do so. Secondly, that the system is recognising that in some specific cases they have gained relevant experience that warrants recognition, and in turn could help solve wider manpower problems...