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All that glitters is not gold! One has to admit that the recruiting publicity for the British Army are some of the best adverts on the telly; they should be the bill for them runs in to the millions.
My opinion of the British Army is based on 21 years service and still serving. Anyone contemplating a career would be best suited to finding out more about the job and what it offers you and more importantly expects of you from people who have experienced it rather than rely on the glitz of the TV ads and posters.
First of all the good stuff:
Skills: The Army can provide you with opportunities, the likes never heard of in any other job. Want to be a train driver, police constable, chef? The list of trades in the Army currently stands at about 160; from the ridiculous to the sublime and they are there for the taking almost!
Travel: You can still get away to those places that you have always dreamed of visiting: Cyprus, Africa, USA, Canada and many more and it doesn’t cost you a penny.
Security: For a maximum of 22 years you will never be homeless, starving or without a salary at the end of the month.
Medical: Your medical needs will be met quicker than those depending on the NHS as will your dental treatment, neither of which will cost you a penny.
Emotional: Even your emotional needs are catered for; got relationship problems, experiencing bereavement or financial concerns and you want help to deal with them, yep there is help available and it won’t cost you a penny.
Religious: Padre’s are employed to care for your spiritual needs. We even have our own churches and chapels.
The British Army is a macro society that provides everything a person needs to have a fulfilling and enjoyable career, or does it?
Now for the not so good stuff:
Skills: Okay so there are loads of trades to opt for but remember, like any other job they are quota based. There aren’t always going to be vacancies in the trade you may wish to enlist in to. Beware of the recruiter who will tell you ‘If you join this or that you will be able to transfer in to your chosen career at a later date.’ You may not be qualified for the job you want to do; some trades require specific academic qualifications. Don’t go for second best in any event; you will never be happy.
Remember that the Army is a fighting force and that the majority of soldiers are ‘front line’ troops. Most recruiters come from ‘teeth arm’ units and they have a quota to fill and will often use very aggressive and misleading tactics to get the unwary would-be soldier to sign the dotted line to get them enlisted into their own regiment or corps. These tactics are responsible for the largest number of dissatisfied soldiers currently serving.
Security/Medical/Emotional/Spiritual: Whilst on the surface these aspects of the Service might seem fantastic there is a tendency for people to become wholly dependent on the Army and when it comes to them leaving; as we all must in the end, they are lost in the real world. A third of people currently living on the streets are ex-servicemen and women. Something like 25% of people leaving the Army after a ‘long’ career will commit suicide within 5 years of leaving the Service. I have personally known several who have!
There is very little that is glamorous about the British Army unless of course you are a very good sports person such as Kelly Holmes, Chris Akabusi and the like; they are far removed from the Army as one can be whilst still serving in it.
Don’t expect to be doing worthwhile things every day, every week or even every month. Much of the time for the more junior ranks is sitting around doing nothing or, sweeping up leaves or, clearing snow around the camp.
In summary: It’s a good job if you get the one you want, don’t mind loosing your freedom to leave the job if it doesn’t suit you, don’t mind loosing your independence, don’t mind spending months at a time away from family and friends, being bullied, decent wages and a reasonably good pension at the end of 22 years. Whatever you do though, don’t take the recruiter at face value, ask questions, and demand to see evidence that what he/she is offering you, as an alternative to your chosen trade is true; I doubt that it would be possible.