Army 'must not lose banter' in harassment crackdown

“Soldier’s spend most of their time taking the p*** out of each other and that’s got to continue."

A new Army crackdown on bullying, harassment and “conduct that offends others” must not be allowed to outlaw military banter and mickey-taking, a former commander has said.

The Army’s fighting spirit and effectiveness will be undermined if it is turned into a “sterile and humourless place”, it was claimed.

The Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir Nick Carter, has unveiled a new leadership code trying to make the Army more “inclusive” and a “modern employer” and as it tries to recruit more women and ethnic minorities.

The new code, launched this week at Sandhurst, says: “When building tightly knit teams it is important to acknowledge the need for mutual respect and the requirement to avoid conduct that offends others.

“Unacceptable behaviour undermines trust and cohesion, directly impacting operational effectiveness.”

Soldier’s spend most of their time taking the p*** out of each other and that’s got to continue.  Col Richard Kemp.

Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said he welcomed any attempt to crack down on bullying, but said “it will be very dangerous to take it too far”.

“The very nature of Army work is high pressure and dangerous, either on operations or training. One of the most important qualities is a sense of humour. There’s got to be banter, there’s got to be jousting between the soldiers.

“Soldier’s spend most of their time taking the p*** out of each other and that’s got to continue.

“There’s a real risk of undermining the cohesion, the effectiveness, the team spirit and the fighting spirit of the Armed Forces trying to turn it into a sterile and humourless place. Other places can be like that, but not the Army.”

Gen Carter said a new code was being introduced to ensure all staff are accepted "in an inclusive way".

It is also designed to boost leadership now most troops are now not on operations in Afghanistan, but largely back in barracks where it can be more difficult to keep soldiers motivated and disciplined.

General Carter has said it was "unacceptable" an internal survey found almost 40 per cent of servicewomen had received unwanted comments about their looks or sexually in the past year.

The survey from earlier this year found that more than one in ten (13 per cent) of women had suffered a “particularly upsetting experience”.

He said: "I'm not arguing for political correctness. What I'm arguing for is to live by our values and standards and to accept everyone in an inclusive way.

"I think there is a risk we will lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is to close with and kill the Queen's enemies, and we have to have that at the forefront of our mind, but equally we cannot accept unacceptable behaviour."

WO1 Glenn Haughton, the Army’s top sergeant major, said: “The problem with the Army is we do have a laddish culture, we are British and we have a lot of people from working class backgrounds. A young soldier that joins the Army only knows what he’s been taught by his family and the people who have brought him up.

“I think we are who we are and what we are. The world has moved on, society changes and the Army has got to move with it. That’s why the Chief of the General staff wants us to become a modern employer and move with everybody else.”

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