British military top brass run force rife with sexism, report claims

British military top brass run force rife with sexism, report claims

Military chiefs are a ‘pack of white middle-aged men’ who run a force awash with sexism, racism and bullying and should be sent for diversity training, an explosive new report claims.

The study, the most in-depth the armed forces has ever commissioned, says ‘an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour persists’ across the RAF, Army and Navy.

It also describes its leaders as a ‘generation not used to having people from other diversity groups serving alongside them’ and their actions were ‘shaped by an armed forces of 20 years ago’.

And it recommends appointing a ‘culture and behaviour’ tsar to lead changes in the the system going forward.

The report was conducted by Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, the incoming Chief of the Air Staff who will assume the role later this year.

The report was conducted by Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, the incoming Chief of the Air Staff.

Air Chief Marshal Wigston started his career as a fighter pilot and rose through the ranks to command squadrons in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking over the RAF in Cyprus, where he performed the first same-sex marriage on an overseas British military base, pictured, in 2016

It was commissioned in April after accusations of sexual harassment were made against the Army.

After the allegations, Chief of the General Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith made an unprecedented three-minute film, in which he claimed behaviours were ‘wildly at odds’ with expected standards.

The paper said every senior officer from brigadier level and above should be sent on compulsory diversity training courses.

It also states a culture and behaviour tsar should be appointed to head a team of 50 personnel to manage the strategy of modernisation and manage complaints.

Reaction to the report has been mixed, with some former and current personnel claiming it was political correctness gone too far on an armed forces forum, claiming the UK had ‘lost its grit and realism’.

One user called ‘WhiskeyTango’ said: ‘I believe this is a result of soldiers acting the part and society changing so rapidly that as an armed forces we no longer represent what society (or at least the vocal part of society) consider to be it’s own values and standards.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston: Fighter pilot who presided over first same-sex marriage on overseas base 

Mike Wigston was born in February 1968 and grew up in Bangor, Wales, where he went to a comprehensive school before going on to study engineering science at Oxford.

He joined the Royal Air Force in 1986 as a fighter pilot and was promoted through the ranks, becoming a flight lieutenant by 1992. 

By 2000 he took over No.12 Squadron and its Tornado fighters, which he commanded during operations in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reaching the rank of wing commander by July 2003.

After continuing to lead the squadron and provide air support in Iraq, Wigston was promoted again in 2008 to take over No. 903 Expeditionary Air Wing which provided air support in Afghanistan from Camp Bastion.

His services to the forces were recognised with a CBE in 2013 and a promotion to air-vice marshal followed in 2015, giving him command of RAF forces in Cyprus.

During this time, he presided over the first same-sex marriage on an overseas forces’ base when he performed the ceremony for Army sergeant Alastair Smith and his civilian partner Aaron Weston. 

Wigston’s rise to the top continued with a promotion to assistant chief of the air staff in 2017 before taking over the strategic planning of RAF resources as deputy commander of capability in 2018.

Last December it was announced he would replace Sir Stephen Hillier as head of the RAF later this month. 

‘The level of political correctness in the last few years has outgrown its own utility: we’ve gone from campaigning for equal rights to demanding a bizarre censorship on humour, truth and pragmatism in the quest to create a utopian society of left wing clones. Whilst doing so, as a nation we’ve lost our collective grit and realism.’

Another user added: ‘Most of the complaints in the system are pointless/vexatious/extremely minor – these are the ones who should be fast-tracked/turned off immediately. 

‘The issue being that the complainers are normally extremely aggrieved and cannot see beyond the complaint to get any sense of perspective, the system enables them to continue to make complaints until it consumes them. 

‘A frank chat with a peer/near-peer mentor about what their issue is and what they realistically expect to get out of it would go a long way.’

But another user, who claimed to handle complaints within the forces, said they were often dealing with allegations of inappropriate behaviour, most of which was sexual. 

The user said: ‘I routinely have to deal with behaviour (male against female, some male-male and less female-female, almost no female-male) that just isn’t acceptable. 

‘Almost all of it is sexual, most of it is peer to peer (although some is immediate superior/subordinate), and all of it is about an abuse of power.’

The report says leaders are responsible for tackling inappropriate behaviour.

Out of all bullying, harassment and discrimination Service Complaints received in 2018, 39 per cent were from BAME personnel while 24 per cent were from white troops.

A third of LGBT Service personnel have faced negative comments or behaviour from colleagues because of their sexual orientation while at work.

The report says the way senior officers act towards their subordinates is ‘rarely considered to be malicious, rather perpetuated by a lack of understanding and education’.

It also says that while ‘microaggressions’, an indirect or subtle discrimination, may be unintentional they can still be insulting.

Major General Julian Thompson said the idea of a champion for culture and behaviour made him ‘wince’.

He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘He’s right to highlight a problem but surely it’s better to crack down on people who do it, although you don’t want to be too draconian. 

‘Recruits these days are less robust, but that’s our society and you’ve got to deal with what you’ve got.’

The paper uses figures from the latest Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey. It states that 12 per cent of those surveyed said they were the victim of bullying, harassment or discrimination in the last 12 months, but only six per cent made a formal complaint.

The majority of those who didn’t complain said they didn’t think any action would be taken. Half said speaking out could be a detriment to their career.

Penny Morduant, pictured outside Downing Street last week, said: ‘Whether it is crude comments, discriminatory treatment, or even offences of a sexual nature, inappropriate behaviour has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces’

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt told The Daily Telegraph: ‘Whether it is crude comments, discriminatory treatment, or even offences of a sexual nature, inappropriate behaviour has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces.’

Air Chief Marshal Wigston said most armed forces personnel are above board but his report ‘found an unacceptable and persistent level of inappropriate behaviour’ which ‘harms people, damages our reputation and almost certainly impacts our ability to attract and retain the talent we need.’

Campaign group Liberty said more should be done to figure out why minority personnel are complaining of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

A spokesman said: ‘Air Marshall Wigston has covered a lot of ground and made some important recommendations. But this review does nothing to help victims of sexual crime in the armed forces.’

 

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