Last Updated; 23 February, 2015


The UK military, starting with the British Army, has had a long established tradition of offering training and education to its troops. Military education of some form has been in existence since the mid-seventeenth century, although the dawn of the nineteenth century would see education opened up to significant numbers and on an official footing to both soldiers and their children (Hadaway, 2004a).  The Duke of York, at the end of 1811, introduced the Regimental School system which was the first widespread, state funded education system in the UK (Hadaway, 2004a). Anyone interested in the history of military education should read the articles written by Stuart Hadaway (2004a, 2004b).

Training is the process of preparing men and women for their careers in the military. Training is progressive and continues all the way through an individual’s career; being a mixture of mandatory, optional, individual and collective training and educational programmes.

Although there have been criticisms of training, the military has sought hard to change the process and culture of training to more closely match its civilian brethren. As a result training methodologies and programmes, and military culture have been updated.

This article will provide a definition of military training and then look at governance and policy. The article will then discuss the structure of UK military training and the three phases of training, and their purpose. Finally the article will look at some of the criticisms of military training and highlight some of the responses to these criticisms.

Service Branches of the UK Military

The UK military is made up of three services (or service branches):

  • The British Army;
  • The Naval Service (comprising the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Marines (RM)); and
  • The Royal Air Force (RAF).

Each of the three service branches is made up of both Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks, known as soldiers (Army), ratings (RN), marines (RM) or airmen/airwomen (RAF).

Defining Military Training

According to the Collins online dictionary (2014), military training can be defined as “the training necessary to become a member of the army or military.”

This very broad definition of military training is particularly aimed at one element of the training methodology used by the armed forces of the United Kingdom, i.e. Basic Training. However, this definition does not recognise:

  • The heterogeneity of military training; and
  • The depth and breadth of training available for both the individual Service Branches (as employing organisations) and the individual personnel (as employees).

To put a better perspective on what military training is, I found an interesting paragraph by Fletcher & Chatelier (2002, p.I-1) of the Institute for Defense Analyses of Alexandria, Virginia.

“Military training means definite but very different things to different people. To the commander of a military unit, it means exercising troops in the field or sailors at sea so that they operate as an integrated, coordinated unit. To military personnel managers, it means preparing and certifying individuals across a full spectrum of occupational specialties that include cooks, dog handlers, tank turret repairers, radar technicians, and fighter pilots. To developers and providers of major military systems, it means exercises performed in simulators or on the systems themselves. To all concerned, it means preparing individuals from a civilian society to perform as professional military personnel. Military training is distinguished from other forms of training by its emphases on discipline, just-in-case preparation, and the training of collectives.”

A somewhat long-winded explanation but it does encapsulate all of the pertinent points regarding military training. So, after defining military training we can now turn our attention towards the structure (i.e. how and where it is delivered).

Governance and Policy of UK Military Training

Governance and Management of TrainingI Am Loving This...

The Joint Service Publication (JSP) 822 ‘Governance and Management of Defence Individual Training, Education and Skills is the Ministry of Defence (MOD, 2013) reference document for individual training management policy and its implementation across defence.

The purpose of JSP 822 is fourfold:

  1. Specify the governance, policy, processes and procedures that apply to all aspects of the management and delivery of Defence training and education.
  2. Provide policy and direction to those involved with setting and validating the requirement for training; course design, development and delivery; and all forms of assurance.
  3. Define the Quality Standard (QS) to which training is to be managed and form the basis for any outsourcing contracts for training functions.
  4. Provide recommended guidance to meet the QS to encourage a coherent approach across Defence and be a source of ‘good practice’ to optimise training across Defence.

Military training is divided into two categories, individual training and collective training. Individual training (the focus of this article) is typified by the education and training given to individual’s which results in a military and/or civilian qualification. Collective training can be one or more units (e.g. regiment, air squadron or ships) from a Single-Service, Tri-Service, NATO and/or in conjunction with Rest of World forces on field, air and/or naval exercises.

Policy and Strategy

Policy formulation and strategic overview of military training is undertaken at the MoD level through a number of committees, and the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) is the Defence Board lead for military personnel and training (including Reserves).

In June 2011 Lord Levene published his report ‘Defence Reform: An Independent Report into the Structure and Management of the Ministry of Defence’ which recommended that the MoD undergo a period of rationalisation and remove, merge or transform a number of civil service and military posts.

As such it is difficult to give an accurate description of the current education and training hierarchy within the MoD, but the picture should become clearer during the course of 2014 as lines of responsibility and the new Joint Force Command formation settle.

The Structure of UK Military Training

The structure of military training within the UK is fairly complicated due to a number of historical factors and current defence reforms aimed at rationalising the armed forces. Figure 1, below, presents an abridged version of the ‘current’ military training picture (January 2014).

Figure 1, Abridged version of UK military training structure

Figure 1: Abridged version of UK military training structure.

Outlines of the senior military officers (MOD-level, British Army, Royal Navy & RAF) with a direct and indirect impact on the British Military’s training curriculum can be found by clicking on the relevant heading (Royal Navy & RAF being written).

 The 3 Phases of UK Military Training

UK military training is conducted at a number of training centres around the country (colloquially known as defence training establishments (DTE)). DTEs typically have a number of centres or schools co-located and utilise either a Joint Force (Tri-Service) or Federated model. The centre which delivers an individual’s training is dependent on a number of factors, which include:

  • Age;
  • Officer or Other Rank;
  • Service Branch;
  • Job/role; and
  • Stage of career (personnel require certain mandatory trade and educational qualifications for rank advancement).

Although the location, composition and duration of initial training programmes is Service Branch and role specific, there are three (soon to be four) distinct phases that each individual will pass through, with each phase having a specific purpose as highlighted below.

  • Phase 0: Specialist training prior to entry into the services, part of the Army 2020 reforms (British Army, 2013).
  • Phase 1: Initial training (converts civilian recruits into partly trained military personnel). Training programmes follow a common military syllabus (CMS) to ensure consistency across the board. This phase is ubiquitously known as ‘boot camp’.
  • Phase 2: Specialist training (also known as special-to-arms and professional training which provides military personnel with the skills, knowledge and qualifications required for their specific job/role).
    • Phase 2a: generic specialist training (e.g. combat engineer training)
    • Phase 2b: artisan training (e.g. electrician training)
  • Phase 3: Career training (also known as trained soldier training and in-service training) is a mixture of career, promotion and specialist trade and non-trade courses.

Overviews of the individual Service Branches training can be viewed through the following links:

Casualty Evacuation DrillsPhase 1: Initial Training

After a recruit (Officer or Other Ranks) meets the eligibility requirements and passes all of the elements in the selection process, they will be sworn into the military and attend initial training, aka “basic training”, for a period of 10 to 44 weeks, depending on the service branch and role.

Basic training is an intense period of indoctrination and instruction in military skills, rules and customs, including saluting, proper wearing of the uniform, physical fitness, marksmanship, and some combat procedures. Recruits also learn to work together for the success of the group.

Emphasis is placed on obeying the operational hierarchy, following the direction of instructors and other superiors, and executing orders efficiently and (to some degree) without question.

The training period can be physically and emotionally demanding and is designed to imbue new service members with the physical stamina, discipline and respect for authority necessary to succeed in the military.

Basic training is considered a rite of passage for the individual and many will credit their experience at basic training for instilling their military identity.

The initial training by service branch is highlighted in figure 2 below.

Figure 2, Initial training by service branch

Figure 2: Initial training by service branch

Phase 2: Specialist Training

Following the successful completion of basic training, individuals enter a second phase of training in order to develop skills and knowledge in a specific job/role. Each branch (during the recruitment phase) uses the results of the psychometric tests, the individual’s preference and the service’s needs to determine in what job/role a recruit will train.

Certain jobs/roles also require particularly stringent physical and/or psychological qualifications. For example, women are currently not allowed to serve in combat troops roles.

Specialist training is given different names, depending on the service and can encompass one or more schools or centres. The length of this training can range from several weeks to several months depending on the requirements of the job/role.

On completion of specialist training, individuals graduate with a military class three trade qualification which can be upgraded to a class 2 and then class 1 with promotion and/or requisite length of service.

  • Class Three course: entry-level qualification equipping personnel with the basic skills to carry out their job/role.
  • Class Two course: intermediate-level qualification equipping personnel with additional skills to carry out their job/role.
  • Class One course: advanced-level qualification.

Large proportions of military qualifications, in over 300 specialist employment areas, now encompass and/or lead to (with some or no additional work) recognised civilian qualifications. The MoD hosts the largest apprenticeship programme in the UK delivering about 13,000 completed apprenticeships per year, of which some 2,000 are advanced apprenticeships (MoD, 2014).

Examples of Phase 2 training include:

  • British Army: Logistic Supply Specialist, Weapons System Engineer, Aviation Crewman and Artillery IT Systems Operator.
  • RM: Mountain Leader, Stores Accountant, Heavy Weapons Mortar and Combat Intelligence.
  • RN: Engineering Technician, Marine Engineering (Submariner), Mine Clearance Diver, Aircraft Controller and Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Specialist.
  • RAF: Human Resources, RAF Regiment Gunner, Weapon Systems Operator (Linguist) and Survival Equipment Specialist.

Phase 3: Career Training

Military personnel can spend as much as one third of their military career attending training courses. After individuals have completed both phase 1 and 2 training they will be posted to their first unit and progressive training is then carried out on a continual basis. Training is geared towards individual, sub-unit and formation level, and may occur inside or outside of the UK.

As such, on-the-job training and more formalised instruction through hands-on, simulation, classroom and field modalities occur in all specialties. For most members of the military, their job training is short-term, job/role-specific and conducted within the military.

Some skills are highly military-specific, though skills in fields such as vehicle maintenance or engineering are easily applicable in the civilian world. Certain career fields require long-term, highly specialised education, and the military supports such education both at military sites and through civilian partnerships.

Other training is specifically aimed at career development. Following the successful completion of their initial training, personnel embark on a series of programmes that develop leadership and additional skills. Such programmes are intended to prepare the individual for higher rank and higher responsibility. In addition to training specific to their day-to-day military work, individuals are encouraged to further their education (for example through the learning credits scheme).

The Standard Learning Credit Scheme, which is available to everyone, provides individuals with up to £175 every year for all kinds of training courses. The Enhanced Learning Credit Scheme, which is open after a minimum period of service, provides funding of up to £6,000 over three years, which can be used for training for up to 10 years after leaving the military.

Examples of Phase 3 training include:

Criticisms of Military Training

Criticisms of UK military training have predominantly been directed towards Phase 1 initial training. Since 2005 there have been six Ofsted reports published with regards to recruit training. The first report in 2005 identified issues in 16 broad areas and made 53 recommendations. In the follow-up report in 2007 David Sherlock, the Chief Inspector, states (2007, p.2):

“This report, Better Training, necessarily describes work in progress, but it also reveals that things are much more right than they were two years ago. Marked and continuing improvement is the overall verdict, but with still more to achieve.”

However, despite this rosy picture, David Sherlock later states (2007, p.3) “In some areas, I am not yet satisfied that enough progress has been made.” Subsequent reports (Ofsted, 2009a; 2010; 2011; 2013a) identify a steady improvement across the DTEs, if somewhat undulating in manner.

In addition to implementing the recommendations of Ofsted the British Army also set-up Independent Advisory Panels at the initial training establishments. These panels engage both recruits and management, and then periodically publish their results with recommendations for action (IAP, 2007; 2010). Ofsted also carries out work-based learning inspections across the services (Ofsted, 2009b; 2009c; 2013b).

Other criticisms included the standards of literacy and numeracy in the UK military and in response the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the MoD, commissioned the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) to conduct a study into Basic Skills in the Armed Forces published in two parts (BIS, 2012a; 2012b).

The two-part report identified wide variation between the Service Branches which influenced the implementation and scale of investment. The report also demonstrated the importance of literacy and numeracy skills for professional development and operational effectiveness. However, it stated that management information systems could be improved and was concerned about a sustainable development of knowledge and skills. The report presented 28 recommendations.

RAF Halton BadgeMilitary Instructional Qualifications

In response to issues highlighted during phase 1 and 2 training the MOD introduced the Defence Train the Trainer (DTTT) course. The purpose of the DTTT course is to develop the behavioural skills required by instructors to facilitate maximum learning by students in a modern learning environment.

The DTTT course is for instructors involved in Phase 1 or 2 training to ensure they are properly trained to carry out their instructor and supervisory care responsibilities. The course, which last 13 days, matches the first five days of the Defence Instructional Techniques (DIT) course, delivering the hard instructional skill sets required by all instructors. These skills are then contextualised and integrated in a further eight days of training on softer skills. Therefore the qualifications required by instructors for each phase of training are:

  • Phase 1 (Initial Training):  Defence Trainer the Trainer (DTTT) Course (note).
  • Phase 2 (Specialist Training): Defence Train the Trainer (DTTT) Course (note).
  • Phase 3 (Career Training): Defence Instructional Techniques (DIT) Course.

Note: instructors who have completed the DIT and DTTT Consolidation course (DTTT(C)) can instruct at phase 1 and 2 defence training establishments. Also, for the British Army, the above courses have been superseded by the Army Instructor Capability programme.

Finally, in March 2012 a group of 18 Officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) – from across the Service Branches – formed the new Initial Military Training forum. Lieutenant Commander Dave Cunningham (RN, 2012) stated: “…the aim is to promote best practice across core military training by promoting a circle of excellence.” Initiatives like these help to raise the status of, and standards, within training.

Useful Links

Listed are some links which the reader may find useful:


Adult Learning Inspectorate (2005) Safer Training: Managing Risks to the Welfare of Recruits in the British Armed Services. Available from World Wide Web: <; [Accessed: 13 November, 2012].

Adult Learning Inspectorate (2007) Better Training: Managing Risks to the Welfare of Recruits in the British Armed Services: Two Years of Progress. Available from World Wide Web: <; [Accessed: 13 November, 2012].

BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (2012) Armed Forces Basic Skills Longitudinal Study: Part 1. BIS Research Paper Number 78. London: BIS.

BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (2012) Armed Forces Basic Skills Longitudinal Study: Part 2. BIS Research Paper Number 79. London: BIS.

British Army (2013) Transforming the British Army: An Update – July 2013. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 15 December, 2013].

Collins Dictionary (2014) Military Training. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 23 January, 2014].

Fletcher, J.D. & Chatelier, P.R. (2002) An Overview of Military Training. Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses. Available from World Wide Web:‎. [Accessed: 23 January, 2014].

Hadaway, S. (2004a) The Regimental School System and Education in the British Army in the Napoleonic Era. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 28 January, 2014].

Hadaway, S. (2004b) The Regimental School System and Education in the British Army in the Napoleonic Era Part II: Regimental Schools. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 28 January, 2014].

IAP (Independent Advisory Panel) (2007) Independent Advisory Panel 2007 Report on Infantry Training Centre Catterick. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 12 January, 2014].

IAP (Independent Advisory Panel) (2010) Army Training Centre Pirbright Independent Advisory Panel Report 2010. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 12 January, 2014].

MoD (Ministry of Defence) (2013) Governance and Management of Defence Individual Training, Education and Skills (JSP 822). Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 24 January, 2014].

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2009a) Quality of Welfare & Duty of Care for Recruits & Trainees in the Armed Forces. London: Ofsted.

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2009b) Learning & Skills Inspection Report: The Royal Air Force. London: Ofsted.

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2009c) Learning & Skills Inspection Report: The Royal Naval Service. London: Ofsted.

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2010) Welfare & Duty of Care in Armed Forces Initial Training. London: Ofsted.

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2011) Welfare & Duty of Care in Armed Forces Initial Training. London: Ofsted.

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2013a) Welfare & Duty of Care in Armed Forces Initial Training. London: Ofsted.

Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (2013b) Learning & Skills Inspection Report: Directorate of Educational and Training Services (Army) (DETS (A) ) Army Apprenticeships. London: Ofsted.

Royal Navy (2012) Armed Forces Share Best Practice on Recruit Training. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 29 November, 2013].


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