Army will welcome firm statement of intent from new chief, says former senior officer

The new Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Sir Patrick Sanders, has been quickly making his mark as the new head of the Army.

He removed 3 Para from the roster to deploy to Kosovo this summer after an explicit video emerged from inside their Merville Barracks in Colchester.

He also sent a letter to UK troops, telling them they must be capable of fighting in Europe alongside allies, with Russia's invasion of Ukraine underlining the military's core purpose to protect the United Kingdom.

Retired Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall, who has held many senior military roles, including Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (operations) from 2009 to 2011, spoke to Forces News about the CGS' first days in his new role.

Sir Simon told us he brings a lot to the table: "I know the CGS extremely well. He was my Brigade Major when I was a Brigade Commander and he's a very fine soldier and a very fine commander, excellent staff officer with a very, very credible operational and staff track record.

"He's a very good communicator, the new CGS, and he's also very, very clear about the purpose of the Armed Forces – which is, of course, to defend the nation and if necessary, fight our nation’s wars and win them.

"He brings a lot of operational experience – he has a distinguished service order, command responsibilities and, as I say, a very, very firm understanding of what the military is in its wider sense, but obviously the Army in particular in his case, are required to deliver on behalf of the nation."

Sir Simon stressed how General Sir Patrick must ensure combat capabilities remain the priority.

Referencing the letter to Army personnel about fighting in Europe, Sir Simon added: "I think he has taken full advantage, if I may say that, of the current grisly situation in Ukraine, to remind everybody from top to bottom, that warfighting is our core business.

"We do all sorts of other things which are fantastic around the world – humanitarian assistance, defence engagement, training."

The new CGS will also understand how the nature of warfighting, and indeed the Army's other responsibilities and threats, are changing in our modern world, according to Sir Simon.

He explained: "He [CGS] has come on from being commander of Strategic Command, he's operated at the very highest levels within the Ministry of Defence.

"He understands all the concepts of cyber and hybrid conflict etc. He's a very open-minded commander, he embraces change, he embraces new technology, and he looks at ways to integrate those with the more conventional warfighting elements that we see deployed on the battlefields of Ukraine."

"The Army will not be surprised at this message; they will welcome a really firm statement of intent from the man at the top."

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