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MoD hit back at soldier over 'snowflake' career poster

A guardsman has reportedly threatened to quit after his image was used in a recruitment advert.

Recruitment: Guardsman Stephen McWhirter appears in the snowflake poster.
Recruitment: Guardsman Stephen McWhirter appears in the snowflake poster.

The Ministry of Defence has refuted the claims of a Scots soldier who has reportedly threatened to quit over a recruitment poster.

Guardsman Stephen McWhirter, 28, appears in an advert reminiscent of Lord Kitchener's "your country needs you" campaign, alongside the words: "Snowflakes your army needs you and your compassion".

Snowflakes is a derogatory term used to describe people who are over-sensitive, easily offended and unable to deal with opposing opinions.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the soldier, from Irvine in North Ayrshire, posted on Facebook that he agreed his photo could be used by the MoD, but that the wording was never mentioned and he now intends to resign at the earliest opportunity.

'The volunteers gave their permission to appear on TV and in the posters and were fully informed about the striking language and how it would resonate with young people with a wide variety of valuable skills'
Colonel Ben Wilde

In response, colonel Ben Wilde, assistant director of Army recruiting, claimed all those taking part in the campaign were told how the images would be used.

He said: "The soldiers who took part in this campaign were all volunteers who understand that the Army needs to reach out to all parts of society to find the best people for its ranks.

"The volunteers gave their permission to appear on TV and in the posters and were fully informed about the striking language and how it would resonate with young people with a wide variety of valuable skills."

Other posters in the campaign target "phone zombies" for their focus, "me, me, me millennials" for their self-belief, "class clowns" for their spirit, "selfie addicts" for their confidence, and "binge gamers" for their drive.

It comes as the Army has repeatedly failed to meet recruitment targets. The Defence Select Committee was told last October that it had 77,000 fully trained troops compared to the target of 82,500.

Colonel Bob Stewart, a former British Army officer and the current Conservative MP for Beckenham, said: "There will be people who just don't like this advertising, I understand that."

The 69-year-old added: "I'm a different generation to it - it's not meant to appeal to me; it's meant to appeal to the 18 to 25-year-olds."

Colonel Stewart, who highlighted that no one "takes the mickey out of the Scots Guards" because of their toughness, claimed that the campaign was a success due to the free publicity over the controversy.

'One of the golden rules of any such campaign, if you're trying to recruit people, is that you don't insult the people that you're trying to recruit'
Alex Barr, co-founder of BIG Partnership

However, Alex Barr, co-founder of PR agency BIG Partnership, told STV News that it was a mistake to use the word "snowflakes" within the advert.

He said: "One of the golden rules of any such campaign, if you're trying to recruit people, is that you don't insult the people that you're trying to recruit.

"So calling them snowflakes I didn't think was particularly the best idea.

"I think anyone serving in the Army is probably serving Queen and country, and therefore deserve some respect.

"I would suggest that asking them to take part in the campaign, without perhaps explaining to them fully what's involved, risks the type of backlash that you've had.

"I would've thought it would be a hygiene factor to make sure that they were fully aware of the treatment that this advertising campaign was going to give to their faces.

"You only have to look at the response from the soldier who's front and centre in this campaign to see that in this instance the Army has somewhat shot itself in the foot."

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