2006, Age sixteen
Standing alone in a twelve man room, shortly after my parents ditched me at the gates of Harrogate Army Foundation College, kicking up dust as they wheel-span back down the road south towards the Isle of Wight.
I had only been sixteen years old for a matter of weeks and now I was standing in this room with my suitcase at my side and a s**tty name badge pinned to my chest, innocently printed with the words ‘JS Kennedy’ in a black bold font. Of course, at the age of sixteen and my initials actually being “JR Kennedy” you may understand how my young and naive mind was wondering about the possible misprint on this particular name badge.
A Scottish Corporal entered the room, displaying his authority. The first words that came out from my mouth were“Excuse me, the name on my name tag is wrong”. This short but terrifying corporal looked at me as if he wanted to punch me before letting me continue. Hesitantly, I continued with
“ The name tag says JS Kennedy when in actual fact my initials are JR Kennedy”.
Simple mistake right? Negative, I give you f**k up number one.
The angry jock Corporal replied with “The JS stands for Junior Soldier, you f**king mong”. It was at this point, that I knew it would probably be in my favour to just keep my head down and play the grey man.
Now after embarrassing myself not only to the scary jock Corporal, I had also managed to embarrass myself in front of eleven other blokes standing in the room with me. These eleven young lads were to be my section (team) for the next fifty-two weeks of basic training. I was already feeling nervous and apprehensive but now I had to shrug off the embarrassment. Of course, it’s completely natural to feel like this when walking into an alienated environment with eleven other blokes that you don’t know. However, the important thing to remember, is that these blokes or girls are all feeling the exact same feelings as you at this current moment in time. This feeling is referred to as Shock of Capture. You may be used to sleeping in your own double bed, in a room all to yourself. However, now you’re sleeping in a single bed with an “itchy scratchy” blanket and a complete stranger living directly opposite you.
Joining the Armed Forces can be rather daunting at first. Especially at the age of sixteen when only three or four months ago you was in school, pissing around with your mates. It may not be the case for all blokes or birds who join the forces, as we come from all over and from different backgrounds. However, this is my experience and my take on the experience. What you need to remember at this moment of being outside your comfort zone, is that hundreds and thousands of other men and woman who have served or are still serving within the Armed Forces, have all been in this moment and felt the Shock of Capture.
I have now been a civi (civilian) for four years and there are so many questions that remain unanswered or unexplained. One of these thought-provoking questions which I still can’t seem to answer or understand, is this:
Why is leaving the Armed forces nowhere near as daunting as joining the Armed Forces, when it should be if not more daunting?