Brigadier Gerhard Wheeler CBE, Head of Reserves at the Ministry of Defence, provides his reflections on the launch of our research findings, which took place on Reserves Day 2018.
As the Head of the Reserves Directorate in the Ministry of Defence, Reserves Day is the busiest day of my year. Reserves Day 2018 was no exception as I hotfooted it across Whitehall from a breakfast reception in the scented Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street to the august lecture theatre of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
The breakfast reception was in honour of the growing cohort of civil servants who serve as Reservists and now make up almost 5% of the Reserve Forces. It was a real privilege to meet and chat to such a diverse group of professionals from across government, all proud to be wearing their military uniforms for the day.
I made it to RUSI just in time to introduce the Future Reserves Research Programme (FRRP) end of programme conference. The product of over four years of research, the FRRP has been a ground-breaking collaboration between academics of several universities into understanding the lives of our Reservists. Set up as part of the Future Reserves 2020 programme it has conducted in-depth interviews with Reservists across the country on subjects ranging in scope from family support to employer attitudes. The purpose of the RUSI event was to expose the key findings of the programme to an audience of Reserve policy makers from the MOD and the Services as well as Reservists, Regulars and representatives from the families federations.
Following four excellent presentations from the academic teams there was a spirited debate on the issues raised. Brilliantly chaired by General Robin Brims (the BBC need look no further for a new chair for Question Time), I thought the discussion quickly got to the meat of the issues and generated some great ideas on what policies need to be reviewed to improve our support for Reservists. I was particularly struck by the difficult balance the Reservist needs to make between civilian employment, family life and reserve service. Helping him or her to maintain that balance will clearly need fresh thinking that will require policies that are quite different from those we use for their Regular counterparts. It was also encouraging to see each of the Services coming together to see how they can make best use of the research.
Inevitably the debate continued over lunch, after which I was off to the next event, a Reserve recruiting display at Waterloo Station. As ever, a busy day, which was hugely enriched by the excellent work of the FRRP team, whose research will add excellent academic rigour to the future work of Reserve policy makers.
To download the FRRP Research Briefings please visit our Publications page.