Morale: The Proud Paras Sent Packing


June 9, 2011: Britain is, in effect, eliminating most of its parachute force. This process actually  began five years ago when the British Army had to choose between supplying its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and providing aircraft for its paratroopers to complete their training. In 2004, only about 25 percent of paratroop trainees were able to make the required jumps, to become qualified parachutists. In 2003, 93 percent were able to successfully make their jumps. Britain's fifty C-130 transports, that are used for the parachute qualification jumps, have been too busy carrying personnel and supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. Since paratroopers rarely make combat jumps anymore, and the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan need the air cargo support the C-130s provide, the parachute training lost out. Troops are still going through jump school training, they just don't get the practice jumps, or the winged insignia that indicates they are now paratroopers, and eligible for the monthly bonus pay.

Now Britain is planning to eliminate the $3,000 a year "hazardous duty" pay that most of the 4,700 paratroopers get, and cut the force of "jump qualified troops" to about 700. The other 4,000 will remain as lowered paid infantry, and will still be part of the 16 Air Assault Brigade. There is a case to be made for eliminating parachute training, as parachutes are rarely used anymore by anyone except special operations troops, and then not very often. But the parachute training, and extra pay, was part of what made the paratroopers a more effective combat force.

The paratroopers are not being singled out. Britain is addressing the same kinds of debt problem the U.S. is having by making large cuts in the armed forces. This includes halting weapons purchases and dismissing troops from the service. This, however, has sometimes been handled poorly, as in telling troops serving in Afghanistan, via email, that they will be losing their jobs (leaving the army) when they return home.




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