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Bringing diversity to the armed forces

PICTURED: Sir Michael Fallon

DEFENCE SECRETARY Sir Michael Fallon has highlighted the importance of diversity in the British Armed Forces and acknowledged the contribution of African and Caribbean soldiers during WW1 and WW2, in celebration of Black History Month.

Speaking to The Voice, he said: “The contribution of troops from Africa and the West Indies who served in both world wars deserve to be known, and reminds us of the ongoing contribution of African and Caribbean communities to this country.”

Fallon also discussed the importance of pushing for a higher number of ethnic minorities enlisting for service. He said: “We’re committed to making sure our forces better represent the society they serve and promoting our national prosperity.”

These comments echoed his plans to increase at least 10 per cent of all new joiners who must come from a non-white background - which would represent a 2% increase on the current number. “We’re currently at 8% and we are increasing but we still have work to do. I ask my senior chiefs to provide me with updates on how we’re doing and what we’re doing to get there and this is of the utmost importance.”

He also revealed that the army has already reached that 10% figure, while the RAF and royal navy are working hard to reach their quota. “We want people to join the military based completely on their ability, and the armed forces is open to people from all backgrounds.”

Fallon said he wants to see a marked improvement by the end of 2020, and denied that this could be targeted as “tokenism”.

MEMORIAL: Sir Michael Fallon at the launch of the African and Caribbean War Memorial at Windrush Square in Brixton

“This isn’t about tokenism, it’s about attracting the brightest and the best for all.” He also discussed the steady increase of recruiting those from BME backgrounds, and the importance of introducing schemes to improve minority representation at the most senior ranks. “I want to see people from BME backgrounds take up senior positions. Why should we not see someone from the BME community become Chief of the Air staff or Chief of Defence Staff? There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to achieve that. Addressing diversity at every level is something we are working towards, and we aim to see this increase by 2020.”

While diversity continues to remain at the forefront, he also celebrated modern-day war hero Johnson Beharry for his contribution to the British Armed Forces. Grenadian-born Beharry became the first solider to join the new Armed Forces credit union, and was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2005 after saving the lives of 30 soldiers in Iraq.

Promoting diversity across the British Armed Forces continues to be of importance, as Fallon attended the launch of the African and Caribbean War Memorial at Windrush Square in Brixton. The memorial, which was unveiled in June further solidified Fallon’s his longstanding commitment to celebrating the contribution of troops from all backgrounds.

Ahead of the launch, he said: “The UK is indebted to all those servicemen and women from Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to serve with Britain during the First and Second World Wars. It is thanks to their bravery and sacrifice that we are able to enjoy our freedoms today. We should also congratulate those who have worked tirelessly to place this memorial in the heart of Brixton.”

To conclude, Fallon noted the 30th anniversary of Black History Month with message for The Voice readers. “Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of BME people in the UK, and remember not only how far we’ve come, but why we must continue to move forward.”

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