A message from Lt Gen James Everard CBE
What makes the men and women of the Army different from every other group of committed public servants? This is easy. Irrespective of background or belief we are all volunteers. We are all duty bound to serve where we are told to serve, accepting friction, hardship and risk to life and limb. And we all need to show the self-discipline and commitment to get the job done.
We are also united by our Values. These should be engraved in the soul of everyone that calls themselves a soldier – Selfless Commitment, Courage, Discipline, Integrity, Loyalty and Respect for Others. The benchmark is deliberately high, but these Values are designed to guide and develop us all over time, so that we become the sort of people we need to be to succeed at all times.
So, when it comes to judging an individual this is where it starts – and this is where it ends. From these Values flow moral and physical courage, personal example, trust, friendship and fighting spirit. Deliver these and nobody should care if you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
There is nothing new here. They did not know it, but my first Regiment (the 17th/21st Lancers) were pragmatically light-years ahead in the Equality and Diversity agenda. I joined in 1983 and even then it was all about your individual contribution to the excellence of the whole. It was this that was seen to be important, and absolutely nothing else. By today’s standards the Commanding Officers of the day were politically incorrect but they were by instinct good straight allies (not that they would have understood the term). Unit cohesion and fighting spirit were their driving motivation, and for that the Regiment needed to be at peace with itself. This drove a policy of inclusiveness. The message was simple – ‘we are all of one company’. And as to sexual orientation they were neutral. And because of this example so was everyone else. This is how it should be. Human relationships are always complex. Fighting is always complex. But love is love, passion is passion, death is death and so long as you are prepared to stand with me on the battlefield, then whatever you do in your personal time is up to you. Nobody cared, unless you were apathetic or prejudiced or dishonest or forgot the importance of the ‘greater good’. Then they cared – a lot, and they kept on caring until harmony and operational effectiveness was restored.
So, I am delighted to become the Army representative for the LGBT Forum. I know the type of Army I want to serve in, and it is one where we are ‘all of one company’. We all need to care deeply about LGBT issues, until we reach the point where nobody cares about LGBT issues. This demands equality in the workplace, fairness and absolute commitment to our core Values. It is an Army where we all contribute to the greater good and are encouraged to do so to the best of our abilities. It also requires leadership, and leaders who by word and deed show their absolute refusal to accept discrimination.