A MESSAGE FROM THE LIEUTENANT COLONEL - BRIGADIER ROLAND WALKER, DSO
I took post as our 106th Regimental Lieutenant Colonel in June this year, understandably with a great sense of responsibility. As a consequence I thought it appropriate to write a letter of introduction to the Regiment – and also because I may be a bit of an unknown quantity to many since I came to the Grenadiers rather late. Be reassured, though, I had such a tremendous experience commanding the 1st Battalion from 2009-2011, a truly formative period of my military career, that my loyalty to the Regiment is no less than that of officers who had their Blue Forms filled out at birth. I am genuinely humbled by this appointment.
I can see, in my current role as Head Strategy in the Army Headquarters, the regimental system is, and will remain, the organising principle around which the Army is built. It works extremely well for some, like us, but by no means for all – so I can also see it needs to be worked and actively nurtured all the time if we want to stay in good ‘institutional’ health. It is with that responsibility in mind that I look forward to the next five years or so, seeing to it that all of us – serving or retired, young or old – play a role in keeping our Regiment as healthy as possible; and, by extension, that of the Foot Guards and the broader Household Division too.
Five years within which the Army will continue to adapt its ways of operating, its spending priorities, its blending of manpower, equipment, training and supply into useful fighting power, and the careful balancing act of investing in being ready to act now and in being prepared for action in the future. The hallmark of a forward-thinking and agile force is being able to adapt quickly and responsibly to emergent threats and conditions, and that is precisely what Britain’s armed forces and security agencies need to do right now because the stability of the international order, and therefore our national security interests, is being challenged by hostile state actors and violent extremist organisations.
These are threats which Grenadiers will be ‘on point’ against, once again. The 1st Battalion is the framework around which a multi-national battle group has formed this year at NATO request, to reassure allies and deter encroachments on NATO territory. Next year they are scheduled to deploy troops to support NATO operations in Afghanistan, United Nations operations in Africa, and coalition operations in Iraq. Nijmegen Company will rotate in and out of periods held at extremely high readiness to support the police in mainland UK, should they need to respond to a major terrorist attack. They will also, alongside the Regimental Band, sustain visible state ceremonial and public duties; sustaining our national traditions – which in febrile times are a source of reassuring continuity. Many Grenadiers are also supporting operations extra-regimentally as individual augmentees in coalition formations, on secondment to Special Forces, in overseas liaison or exchange appointments, and in critical operational staff appointments. There is, therefore, no absence of opportunity for meaningful soldiering at all levels, in all guises.
As a Regiment we need to carry on supporting Grenadiers on the frontline and those who need our continued support following their service, but I also feel we need to make the most of the moment to play to the long game of strong and sustainable recruiting and retention; if ever there was a strategic responsibility it is this.
The Association, with its extensive national and international footprint, its active membership within the geographical branches as well as the equally popular and accessible online communities, is a fantastic network to support both these objectives. It is also the network I hope we will be able to activate for the Regiment to play its part in the Army’s nascent regeneration and reconstitution contingency plans to grow in the event of national need. It would be well worth those liable for Regular Reserve service refreshing their understanding of their potential obligations, and for Regimental Headquarters to anticipate playing a role in recall plans in due course. There may also be scope for some annual training for the Regular Reserve, which might helpfully prompt a few rejoins.
For my part, I intend to use my influence to promote and represent the Regiment's interests within the Army and with our network of affiliated units and bonds of friendship. I will take an active role in selecting officers to join the Regiment, and offering whatever support I can to Guards Company. At the request of the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Officer Commanding Nijmegen Company or the Director of Music, I will support their junior leadership development initiatives. Through the collective of the Regimental Council and the Trustees of the Regimental Charities, we will support both serving and retired with grants and welfare provision, and act as stewards for the considerable sums of money bequeathed to the Regiment or accumulated through shrewd investment over many years. There is enough to do, and plenty of success to build upon.
For that foundation, and on behalf of the Regiment, I must thank Lieutenant General Sir George Norton and Regimental Lieutenant Colonels before him, the staff in Regimental Headquarters, the past and present members of the Regimental Council, the Regimental Trustees, and the Association Branches, for wise leadership, long-term thinking and selfless commitment to the Regiment over many years. A commitment matched by the continued support we enjoy from our Colonel-in-Chief and Colonel.
Our Regiment is only as good as the people in it make it, and since it is a widely quoted truth that "once a Grenadier, always a Grenadier”, the call to action is simple: could the young and old, the serving and retired, do whatever they can to help the Regiment attract, recruit, support, retain, and look after Grenadiers past, present and future?
With my very best wishes,