October 14, 2009:
Recently, Britain decided to suspend training for its Territorial Army, for six months, as a way to save money so that more resources could be devoted to the effort in Afghanistan. This has caused an uproar in Britain, where there is much popular support for the Territorial Army, even though it is a relatively small force, with only 34,000 troops.
Cutting training was widely seen as false economy, since the average Territorial only gets 4-5 weeks of training a year. The government saw it differently, noting that many non-combat jobs in the Territorial Army are held by people who do the same kind of work in their civilian job. This is particularly true of people with communications, maintenance or medical jobs in the Territorial Army. But Territorials only get two weeks of additional training before being sent off to a combat zone, and the feeling is that they need all the training they can get if they want to survive overseas.
Aside from being volunteers and technically good at their jobs, what the Territorials have going for them is tradition. Some of the Territorial units trace their lineage back centuries. The Territorial Army evolved from tribal and feudal militias that came to be before there was a written record to note it. In 1907, various voluntary militia organizations were organized into the Territorial Army. After World War I, and the proven usefulness of this organized reserve, the Territorial Army became an accepted component of the armed forces. There is also an Army Reserve, which consists of soldiers who have completed their service contract, but then have to remain in the reserves for six years. However, the Territorial Army has come to provide a wide variety of technical specialists who, since the 1990s, are regularly called up as individuals, to fill in where the regular army needs help. Otherwise, platoon and company size Territorial Army units are most often sent.
The Territorial Army troops get more regular training than the Army Reserve soldiers, and are welcome additions when they show up in a combat zone. The Territorials also tend to be older and more mature. They don't expect much from the government, and generally don't get much. But the ban on funding for most of their training over six months is seen as a bit much.