Putting People First
In his inaugural month as Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps embarked on a mission to underscore the pivotal role of personnel within the British Armed Forces. Emphasizing the enduring significance of servicemen and women, Shapps conducted his maiden visits to the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force, reiterating his unwavering commitment to supporting serving personnel and their families.
Prioritizing Personnel Engagement
During these visits, Shapps prioritized meetings with Armed Forces personnel, seeking to gain insight into their experiences and concerns. His primary objective was to assure them that they remained at the core of the nation’s defense efforts.
Shapps’ Pledge of Support
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps expressed his gratitude for the dedication and expertise of each member of the Armed Forces. He affirmed his pride in leading this remarkable organization, stressing his dedication to safeguarding the nation’s security and prosperity. Simultaneously, he vowed to enhance the experiences of personnel and their families, addressing various aspects, from childcare and accommodation to compensation and equipment.
A Day Aboard the Royal Navy in Portsmouth
One leg of Shapps’ tour took him to the bustling naval base in Portsmouth, where he engaged with serving Navy personnel. Here, he delved into their experiences and the opportunities the service provides.
Shapps had the privilege of touring the Type 45 HMS Defender, a vessel that has recently played a central role in joint operations alongside the UK’s allies. Notably, the ship had completed four operations and four exercises in the year preceding its refit, including the pivotal Exercise Formidable Shield. The Defence Secretary received briefings on Navy priorities and held discussions with representatives from BAE Systems, a vital defense partner supporting numerous jobs and livelihoods across the UK.
A Visit to Salisbury Plain: Meeting the Army
Journeying to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, Shapps, accompanied by Chief of the General Staff General Sir Patrick Sanders, met with British soldiers at the heart of a UK-led training program. This initiative has successfully trained more than 26,500 Ukrainian recruits to date. Shapps heard inspiring stories from these soldiers and observed world-leading training practices before receiving briefings on the Army’s priorities, particularly its modernization efforts.
Taking to the Skies with the Royal Air Force
At RAF Waddington, Shapps, accompanied by Chief of the Air Staff, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, actively engaged with personnel serving at the station. This included those from 51 and XIII Squadrons, who are responsible for operating Rivet Joint and Reaper Aircraft, respectively. During this visit, the Defence Secretary listened attentively to their experiences and took note of the recent accomplishments of the Royal Air Force.
Additionally, he received briefings on the RAF’s intelligence-gathering roles crucial for national defense.
Unseen Guardians of Defense: Strategic Command
Strategic Command, headquartered at Northwood, London, and under the leadership of General Sir Jim Hockenhull, plays a pivotal role in providing often-unnoticed elements of defense. During his meeting with General Jim, the Defence Secretary was briefed on the work carried out by specialists within the organization, including cyber operators, intelligence analysts, medics, and logisticians.
Strategic Command’s integration of capabilities across defense ensures that the Armed Forces stand ready to respond at any time and in any place. Shapps discussed the multitude of ongoing initiatives aimed at attracting, upskilling, and retaining individuals, particularly those with expertise in science, digital, and technical fields.
A Visit to Kyiv: Reinforcing Support for Ukraine
This week, in a significant development, the Defence Secretary extended his reach beyond the UK, embarking on a journey to Kyiv alongside Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin. The primary purpose of this noteworthy visit was to emphatically reiterate the UK’s steadfast and unwavering support for Ukraine during these challenging times.
Chief of the Defence Staff’s Perspective
Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, expressed his satisfaction with the Secretary of State’s visit, underscoring its significance in the context of the evolving global security landscape. Furthermore, he highlighted the UK’s substantial investments in its Army, Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy, clearly outlining plans for increased lethality and strength within NATO.
Admiral Radakin also touched upon the transition to fifth-generation aircraft in the Royal Air Force and advancements in space capabilities. Ultimately, he credited the commitment and skill of the Armed Forces, as well as their international and industry partnerships, for safeguarding the nation.
In conclusion, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps’ initial month in office has been characterized by a strong emphasis on personnel and their importance in the broader defense strategy. As he tours military bases and engages with servicemen and women, Shapps leaves no doubt about his dedication to ensuring their well-being.