"I joined the Royal Air Force back in 2000 as a mechanical transport technician, did my basic training and took an apprenticeship to achieve a really good qualification. I was 22 when I joined up which was relatively late but my father was a Warrant Officer of 22years service and I was at a military boarding school from the age 11 until 18. I came out of school and worked but after getting married I needed a better job and it was a no brainer to think of going, to what I saw as back into the Armed Forces.
When I left I used to just put my head down and get on with it, go for it, keep running around, you get anxious when you stand still. Although when you come to leave you can have money to use for training I was of the view that I just wanted to get out and I relied on my confidence to help me get sorted. It was in this transitional period that I met some interesting people who gave good advice.
I was told it is not what your skills are it is how you adapt those skills to what you want to do. It was this mind set that gave me the confidence to realise I could make my own way in the world. I know what I can do but I am not just a mechanic I have knowledge of mechanical training, I could go back on the spanners but I could be a teacher or an assessor and that’s what happened. I came out and I went to work on buses but within 10 weeks of being there, I was head hunted to become an assessment engineer maintenance and repair contracts. It was the meeting people and networking that was the most influential impact on my success for moving forward. Don’t get me wrong you often think ‘what am I doing?’.
Living the moment
I think some people do have that desire for adrenaline to live on the edge, they throw themselves off cliffs so whilst some turn to alcohol, others turn to extreme sports or buy fast cars or bikes to get that buzz. I used to love my mountain biking, my shooting, I wanted to be focused to make the most of life. I could see some of my colleagues going around like rabbits in headlights they were totally startled. I think you can be reckless, I can be… I don’t necessarily think of the consequences I just go ahead and do it, you can get into a lot of trouble for it, you have to have a very understanding partner that’s for certain. You can end up doing silly things. I love my motorbike and I’ve built a few mean pieces of machinery over the years, that if you’re not careful could kill you.
Change of Pace
I interview people who have evidently coming out of the Forces and they will open with I was here or there and I have to say to them, that isn’t important in civvy street. What is important is that you can take comments and feedback from your subordinates, so if you are in a management role you have to listen to the people you are managing and take what’s coming up as well as what coming down the hierarchy. What happens for a lot of people when they come out is that can be told what’s happening by senior members of staff but they can’t handle being told what to do when it its coming up from below them.
Civvys don’t tend to get what the ex-services person is saying they often see you as warped so my advice is to stand back and observe what’s going on and see how things are in civvy street before speaking out. It can be done and its good when you get it but it does take time.
Putting down roots
I’ve started to slow down, get better jobs, better house, I feel happier about my life so I don’t need to run around on my bikes, spend a load of money on things. I am at an age now when I am okay with looking like an idiot riding around on an old lawn mower. Its good now its nice and easy, life is what it is. At the moment I’m restoring a 1943 ride on lawn mower, I thought lets have some fun so now I can ride around cutting the lawn to my hearts content looking like a buffoon and yes I do where silly hat while I’m doing it.
Being a veteran
I don’t regard myself as a veteran I left the Forces in 2006 and at that time the Iraq war was at the forefront of peoples’ minds and I felt uncomfortable wearing my medal. I think public awareness has improved since then so I am now more likely to admit I had been there but to me a Veterans is someone in their seventies who did their full term of 26years and those who experienced war, I fixed trucks and swept the place…a lot, so I don’t consider myself a veteran.
As a vehicle mechanic I didn’t actually see action, yes I took a few shots at people and we got missiled and rocketed regularly at Basra, you sort of sit there in abject fear really at the time its happening and yes you can regress when you come out. Certain sounds can set me off, for example for me, the sound when a BMW 5series door shuts, that is like the sound of a mortar when it hits the sand.
I am happy to be on my own, its nice to be part of something and you can’t get out of it. I like having links to ex Service people but I am not someone who needs to be locked into a community. If you’ve spent your life conforming, I think as a civilian you need to question things, so whilst I like the veteran community spirit, I prefer to be on the fringe of things."