Some 21 years since I left the Army, I was lucky enough to be offered a place on a 3 day field exercise run by the Army Reserve and specifically 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
I’ve always felt that my military career was unfinished business. Having gone through selection at 14 years old, joining the Army 6th Form College, Welbeck (now Ministry Of Defence 6th Form College and based in Loughborough), at 16 and then onto Royal Military Academy Sandhurst at 18, to be out just 3 short years afterwards due to a leg injury felt premature.
So when the offer to get involved came about I jumped at the chance and was relishing the challenge ahead. After all, I had a pretty good idea of the kinds of things that probably lay in store.
The format was a 3 day affair, with Day 1 being the welcome, form into teams then take on some challenges to get you working together cohesively.
Day 2 – more team based challenges, with the ante being upped and physicality also increasing. The day’s schedule concluded with a 3.5 mile cross country team run interspersed with running through rivers, over the haystack equivalent of Everest, carrying a stretcher, overcoming 2 very different mentally challenging tasks and doing so as a team.
The reward for Day 2 was an exceptional ‘Beating The Retreat’ by the band of the Royal Armoured Corp and a dinner served in the Warrant Officer and Sergeant’s Mess of the resident regular units based at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Strensall.
Day 3 was more gentile…………….sort of!
- 25 metre rifle range firing 10 rounds at static target from prone position using the SA80.
- Briefing on the role and rewards of the Reserve forces as well as the challenges faced.
- Assault Course
You’ll see from the pictures that this was a real mixed group of individuals, from a wide range of backgrounds, ages, civilian roles and physical ability.
For me, the key was teamwork. Working together, communicating clearly, supporting your nominated leader for each task and contributing to the best of your ability. This was not an exercise in being the fittest, strongest, fastest or loudest. It was about how well you formed and worked together with 8 or 9 other people who were in unfamiliar circumstances, didn’t know each other and were placed under pressure to perform.
And I loved it!!! The most glorious moment for me was when as a team, we started the 3.5mile cross country run and moved throughout every obstacle and every task as one, crossing the finishing line together. And to be the nominated leader for that challenge was an absolute privilege. To serve the team that had led all the other challenges bar one was an honour.
Despite the physical challenges and long days on the go, the part of my anatomy that hurt the most was my cheeks from laughing. Invariably on activities like this, there is always one ‘dick’ in every group. Well I didn’t notice that one in our group (let’s hope it wasn’t me in that case!!) and it was fantastic to be in such great company.
I cannot let this note pass without passing on the most sincerest of thanks to the Commanding Officer of 4 Yorks, Mark Yates, and his team who put on an absolutely superb exercise. They worked tirelessly to keep things moving and really demonstrated teamwork, leadership, problem solving and motivation throughout.
Group 8 was fortunate enough to have one of the great backbones of the British Army, the Warrant Officer Class 2, or Company Sgt Major, as our mentor. WO2 Si Buckley was outstanding and I can see easily why he commands respect.
I walked away from those 3 days with a respect for the Army Reserve and their professionalism. These are not the Territorial Army of yesteryear, they are professional, part-time soldiers who train to the same high standards as the regular army. In fact I am so impressed, I am considering whether or not to finish what I started some 28 years ago.
I close this post with a photo that leaves me brimming with pride. When I was in the Army all those years ago, I struggled physically with the demands and this hampered my decision making and leadership ability.
Attending this exercise, older, wiser and a lot fitter, I was able to concentrate mentally much more than before. As a result, I was presented with an award for Outstanding Personal Contribution.
It wasn’t the award itself that gives me pride, it was the words from my team mates and new friends, as well as WO2 Buckley.
Serve To Lead. It’s a privilege to be invited to help, lead and support others. Not a right.