On 23 October 2003, I stood at the Army reserve centre gates with a feeling that I had never felt before. I was both nervous and excited, especially as I had heard all my friends telling me how good it was, not just the social side but great for gaining civilian qualifications too. I had no idea what to expect, even though my father had been a serving soldier with the Army throughout my time growing up.
My first day was mainly just getting sized up for all my kit and preparing for three weekends of basic training; now I was truly terrified standing around with 30 other recruits waiting for the next instruction.
The order came for us to get into sports kit for our PFA (personnel fitness assessment), which consisted of mile-and-a-half run that needed to be completed in 10 minutes 30 seconds. Knowing my fitness was not what it should have been and being slightly overweight scared me, but during the PFA both instructors and other recruits encouraged you. At this point I knew that I had made a new family, many of whom I am still in contact with to this day; the bond you gain over the years is amazing.
As my time progressed I found it hard to balance work and life. Being a single parent to three children with a Reserve career was challenging but with the help from my immediate family I managed to overcome the difficulties.
Amazing opportunities and great adventures
I have had so many opportunities to experience so much, from adventure training in Wales to spending three weeks in Cyprus working with a regular unit. The latter enabled me to understand my trade training in practice. I am trained as a Clerk in the Adjutant General’s Corps, and it was fascinating to see how regular units operate on an everyday basis in comparison to my one-night-a week, two-weekend a month and a two-week annual camp. Not only was the working environment excellent, but so was the social side of regular camp. I managed to travel round Cyprus seeing different parts of the country, memories that will stay with me forever.
My last great adventure was going away to annual camp earlier this month to Oakhampton in Devon, where I spent two full weeks on the ranges helping other members of the reservists improve their shooting skills with both rifles and pistols. We also had the chance to look at and try different types of new weaponry that we would not normally get to see, let alone play with.
This wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t walked through those gates 18 years ago with the support of a family friend and, most of all, the comradeship that I have from my extended family that has grown with me over the years.
It is well worth the dedicated time I give to the Reservists; four Tuesday nights and two weekends a month enjoying either basic soldiering, shooting, trade training or in the field doing skills based work.
The VOA has been a great support. Having the time off required for my compulsory training helps balance my time and I am able to give a 100% to both aspects of my day to day life.