2008, Age Seventeen
Seventeen months on, from walking through the gates of The Army Foundation College in Harrogate, as a young and naive sixteen-year-old, I was once again walking through a new set of gates. This time, however, these were the gates of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, and I had now completed the transition from ‘civi to soldier’.
I had learned a great deal in basic training and compared to the sixteen-year-old I was seventeen months ago, I had certainly come a long way. I was extremely proud of what I had already achieved and I was excited to finally be joining my regiment. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but remember the valuable lesson I had learned during the early stages of basic training (reference blog one, titled: Shock of Capture) and I noted, it would probably still be in my favour to keep my head down and play the grey man.
The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment had recently returned from an operational tour in Iraq known as ‘Op Telic 8’. So it was clear to me that I would be joining a company of experienced and battle hardened men. Although joining the regiment wasn’t really daunting, I did find the concept of joining a company of war-seasoned men, a little apprehensive. I didn’t quite know what to expect and I wasn’t sure how these men would welcome me into their company, but what I did know, was that I was the new guy and I had to prove myself.
Despite my apprehensions, it wasn’t long before the blokes took me under their wing and guided me onto the right path. One or two guys would tell me if I was doing something wrong before letting me get into trouble with the NCO’s (Non-Commissioned Officers) or they would give me hints and tips in order to keep me on track.
In comparison with this, when transitioning to civilian life, I felt like I had to stand on my own two feet and there was no one to take me under their wing. Being a fully grown adult, you would expect that adult to be able to stand independently. However, when that person has been in the Army since the day they have left school, for six or more years, that person may not know or understand anything other than the Army.
I would say, it took me at least two years to prevail after leaving the Army, In fact, I am still trying to find my feet four years on. I was unprepared and I was looking in all the wrong places for support and guidance. Through experimentation, innovation and through trial and error, I managed to crawl my way through the transition from soldier to civi (civilian). It wasn’t easy and I still have my highs and lows, but there are people out there, that will take you under their wing, you just have to find them.
When leaving the Armed Forces, you do have to steady your feet on the ground beneath you, but you don’t have to do this alone. There are organisations, support groups and resettlement schemes, which are there to assist you during the transition from soldier to civi. Once again, this comes down to you and the actions you carry out. I spoke about this in my previous blog titled, ‘Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail’.
You must plan your transition from soldier to civi well, which means it is essential that you conduct the relevant research, ask questions and read.
Having said this, I understand through experience, that it is not always so black and white, and your state of mind may not be thinking in clarity. This is where these organisations come in; The British Legion, SSAFA and Help for Heroes, the list is endless and all you have to do is type into google’s search engine, “soldiers leaving the forces” in order to find such organisations like this.
The question is, did I have too much pride to seek guidance?
Was asking for help a sign of weakness ?
How do you feel about seeking help from others?
Thank you for reading my blogs and I can’t thank you enough for the continued support. Join me next week, as I will be talking about Remembrance Day.
Jamie R Kennedy