From the Daily Record...
RAGING Scots soldiers last night told how morale had hit rock bottom after their summer break was being cancelled and replaced by Olympic guard duty.
Crack troops from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were already reeling at the regiment being downgraded to ceremonial duties in last week’s Government defence cuts.
Then they were paraded at their barracks and told leave had been cancelled as they were needed to make up the shortfall in security staff for the London games.
A source said: “You’ve got guys who were planning to go abroad, either with pals or families. There’s even folk getting married who may have to cancel honeymoons or switch them to the UK.”
The Argylls, also known as 5 Scots, have been hamstrung in getting leave as they are one of the key battalions in the Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade.
Since returning from Afghanistan the Argylls have been on standby because of the brigade’s rapid deployment role.
The source added: “There have already been people who’ve been unable to get away because of the battalion’s spearhead role as part of 16 Air Assault.
“They weren’t allowed to go abroad in case they had to be recalled at short notice for the airborne task force.”
Wednesday’s parade at their base in Canterbury also saw the men given details of changes that will happen when the battalion is downgraded to a ceremonial company.
The source said: “They’ve also been told that once they come off the task force in May next year, they will be disbanded as a serving battalion, and will basically have to break up camp in Canterbury.
“These guys are fighters, they were already aghast at the idea of standing guard outside Edinburgh Castle or whatever.
“So when you add this latest development, no summer leave thanks to being ordered to stand guard at the Olympics, you can imagine the mood.
“Morale, which was already bad, has now gone through the floor.
“One minute they are risking their lives in Helmand and the next they are glorified attendants checking handbags and rucksacks at the Olympics.”
Another Argylls source told the Record: “Having our leave cancelled would normally be regarded as all part and parcel of the rough and tumble of Army life, but in view of what happened last week it is a bitter pill to swallow.
“Some of the Jocks and officers were planning to spend their leave trying to sort out their futures but all that has gone tits up.”
The soldier added: “The boys are in shock, many of them devastated. This is seen by many of us as the final indignity, a useless uncaring Government rubbing our noses in it to save their faces.
“We have to go and dig them and a bunch of bungling civvies out of a hole and we’ll probably be working and living in conditions civvies wouldn’t tolerate and probably with fewer basic facilities than in an Afghan checkpoint.”
The soldier added: “Yes, we will do our duty, because that is what we have always done and we will do it to the best of our ability but just don’t expect us to enjoy it.”
The Argylls are among 3500 extra Army personnel drafted in to plug the chaotic shortfall in security firm G4S’s manpower.
Soliders used to taking on the Taliban will now mount guard posts and carry out bag searches for Olympic spectators.
Despite being awarded a £300million contract to supply ground staff, private security company G4S have been unable to reruit or train enough people.
The Government have been forced to bring in soldiers to guard up to 30 Olympic venues and hotel sites just 15 days before the games begin.
Jim Murphy, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said the chaotic arrangements should not hide the fact that the Government were treating troops with contempt.
He said: “Days after David Cameron said the Argylls were not needed, they have proved necessary. A battalion that was downgraded is now being deployed.
“A battalion that served in the Boer War, World War II and the Korean War was unceremoniously made a ceremonial force.
“Now their expertise, skill and dedication are essential for national security and a successful Olympic Games.”
The East Renfrewshire MP added that the Argylls would do their duty well but the shambles reflected badly on the Government and the games organisers.
He said: “The Argylls were told to guard Scottish castles, now they will be guarding the games.
“The Government have to secure the games, but people will worry that their cuts have created gaps in security capability.”
Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond said he had authorised the deployment of the 3500 military personnel. It brings the number of military personnel, from three services and including reservists, contributing to games security to 17,000.
Military personnel had already begun to be deployed to venues “to support the rolling search and lockdown process between now and the start of the Olympics”.
They will work alongside the police, G4S staff and volunteers.
Military personnel will carry out general security on venue gates and bag checks. Some 5000 personnel will be in specialist roles, such as bomb disposal squads, special forces and the London missile sites, with a further 1000 involved in logistical support.
Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday called for an investigation into how planning for Olympic security could have gone so badly wrong.
He said: “I am worried about it. I think it is very worrying we’ve got to this situation two weeks before the opening ceremony, and we suddenly discover that this has happened.
“We’re going to have to ask questions about who knew what about the problems that existed, but the most important thing is to sort the problem out.”
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)