Army 'Not Immune' To Racism, But Making 'Great Strides In Combatting It'

Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch has written an open letter, following the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

A senior British Army officer has told Forces News that the Army is making progress with inclusivity - but it is "not immune" to incidents of racism.

Commander Home Command, Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, has written an open letter about tackling racism, following the Black Lives Matter protests over the death of George Floyd.

"I felt very strongly about where we were," Lt Gen Urch told Forces News.

"Events unfolding around the world had come to a bit of a crucible and the British Army is not immune to incidents of racism.

"I wanted to put over our position, my position if you like, as a personal perspective and as a senior Army guy on the Army board, so I thought the best way to do that would be to write an open letter."

It comes as the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, has written to the chain of command to "ensure inclusivity is at the forefront" of what they do.

Gen Carter said recent events have brought issues of "racism and discrimination sharply into focus", adding that while the Armed Forces "talk a genuinely good game" over racism: "It is time to think about how fast we are making progress towards our ambition."

Outlining his "huge amount of sympathy" for victims of racist behaviour, Lt Gen Urch said: "I think we’re making great strides in combatting it."

Some of these strides, he said, were being made in the recruitment of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) personnel.

"We mirror society, we therefore recruit from all walks of life and every community and we are not immune to instances of racism," he said.

"But we have a fully inclusive programme, we want all talent from all parts of the country from every community to join the British Army and come and have a full career kind of with us and that’s what we’re getting after, and I think our statistics speak well for this.

“We were 101% recruited last year... and of that, 17% of the inflow into the British Army was from the BAME community.

"Nothing could be closer to my heart at this particular moment in time.

"As the guy on point for recruiting into the British Army, this is a passionate theme of mine," he added.

At the end of 2019, the independent Service Complaints Ombudsman called upon the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to do more to tackle racism in the Armed Forces.

A recent report indicated the redress system still needs fundamental structural changes to ensure that Armed Forces personnel have the confidence to raise a formal complaint.

Anonymous British soldier
(Picture: MOD).

"Where people are prepared to come forward and have the moral courage to do so... they know that if they come forward they have the courage to do so, I promise we will do something about it," Lt Gen Urch said.

He also added that each British Army soldier is given inclusivity and diversity training on a yearly basis, with "additional training" for senior members of personnel.

"We have created the conditions to give our people a voice, Lt Gen Urch said.

"I am the champion of the Army's BAME network, and I report directly to the Chief of the General Staff. 

"I will take their views directly to the boss."

The letter written by Lt Gen Urch has been welcomed by Major Javed Johl from the Royal Logistic Corps, who is on the committee of the Army's BAME Network.

Speaking to Forces News, Maj Johl said he is "pleased" to see a reaction from senior leadership in the British Army in response to recent events.

Watch: 'Some way to go' before conversation on military diversity isn't needed.

"The British Army is a meritocracy at its root, and therefore hard work is acknowledged and we’re able to progress based on that hard work," he said.

However, Maj Johl said: "The end state is that there isn’t a need for the conversation, and there isn’t necessarily a need for a BAME network.

"In terms of actual tangible changes, there are some very small policy changes that could be taken to improve the lived experience of BAME personnel, but those things are only highlighted once you start to open the conversation," he added.

The interview with Lt Gen Urch was originally done for BFBS Sitrep. You can hear the programme live on Thursdays on BFBS Radio 2 at 16:30 (UK time) and at 18:30 (UK time) BFBS via DAB+ across the UK. 

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