I’m sitting here in my clean and bare room in Victory Building at Sandhurst. Most things have been packed up now and put in the car and the only things of note that remain are my shiny boots and ceremonial ‘No. 1’ uniform for the Commissioning Parade tomorrow. This is my last night as an Officer Cadet, as someone training to become as Officer and not someone striving to be a good one. It is said here that Sandhurst and early Junior Officer life is rather like preparing to pass your driving test – only to actually learn to drive afterwards. I don’t know how much truth there is to that, but, given the nature of the job, it’ll certainly feel like a very precious car we’re all stepping into tomorrow.
For a long time that car felt a long, long way away. It’s only with Mod D that I realise my hand is now within reaching distance of the door. The past fortnight has been good honest hard work. Arriving at the final exercise I surprised myself with how nervous I was, how little I slept and how poorly I felt (it was only sometime afterwards that a few others confided in me the same story). You really do see time and time again just how imaginary your limits are, just how much stronger you can be and how potent adrenaline can become.
For me, final ex was about staying in the game, having good drills to be able to support others and gripping the team and situation when needed. I’ll be the first to admit that I found that hard at times and took leanings from it. At its worst, the relatively unstructured and chaotic nature of the course can leave you feeling like you slipped through rather than earned it, certainly this was something discussed in my cohort. However, by the time you finish final ex, you won’t feel like you didn’t work for it – and with some sleep recovery, you’ll soon realise that you were probably being watched more than you thought. The end of the course plays a vital part in making you realise that you’ve actually got this immense responsibility, not by some freak workings of the system but because you’ve hit the standard required. No mean feat, not all do. Throughout this process I’ve been surprised and saddened by some of the characters deemed not to meet the standard and it’s hard not to be humbled by that.
I started this journey, hopefully the first leg of many with the Army, in November 2015 when my application went in. I don’t tend to look back but I have been for the past few hours. The Army is a great institution and, admittedly in the capacity as a limited Reservist, I feel part of something phenomenal. It’s made me a different person, even in just a pure physical sense (I’ve never been more muscular). It has changed my outlook on the world, how things work and my own confidence. My first night on a weekend away on Alpha training began with us managing to lock ourselves out of our accommodation within about 20 minutes of arriving; a great start by all accounts! From there, I remember spring days learning to live in the field, eating rations, learning about camouflage and watching comically old – but, still interesting – educational videos. It’s not even that long ago but I just remember the novelty of it all – the laughter (so much laughter), the characters and the physical exercise. One of my strongest early memories was the moment it really hit me that I belong here and was a member of a team I really admired: we were all sitting outside weapons cleaning ready to get the coach back to base but I had arranged to have my car so I could drive straight to my Briefing, upon getting ready to leave I was barraged with wishes of luck, tips and offers to help out. I left for briefing with more wind in my sails than I could ever have mustered myself. Bravo was just such good fun, using the radios for the first time, basic fighting techniques, getting lost as we improved our navigation and, of course, my failure to throw a smoke grenade without the pin as I got overly excited in an attack. Charlie was notable for a cohort that had all passed AOSB, something that really stood out and was the first time it was inescapably clear all this was training for a job. And now, here we are. The training kicked in, the friends helped me sustain morale, the teaching gave me confidence. It has happened.
This is my last entry in this blog. I’ve tried at all times to weave tips into these entries because I know that’s what I’d be skim reading something like this for, so I’ll leave you with the below final few points. I hope the blog has been of some use and wish you all the best of luck in your efforts to get a Commission, go for it with all you’ve got;
Closing tips for Reserve Officer training:
Many Reservists will do their training over a long period of time, make really good notes that translate Army language into your own so you can refresh on what certain things are and arrive prepared.Stay fit: run a couple of times a week, join BMF (which I fully recommend), train with your Unit and head to the gym. Phys really does make a huge difference to what you can do and how you can help in the team. Think to yourself ‘I don’t want to be the weakest person at AOSB or on Mod whatever’ aim for well above the standard.It’s a team game in and outside of training. I’ve made first-rate friends already and some immensely impressive characters, keep those friendships going and keep helping people out or staying in touch outside of training. Paths generally cross sooner or later: in my final ex I was with someone from a Project Champion and my AOSB I knew.Take it seriously, really think about the people you want to lead and the institution you want to join, treat people with respect, soak it in and admire it.Preparation is key: a lot of the things you’ll be asked to do will be out of your comfort zone, adjust and buy the kit you need, ask for tips and prep everything you can beforehand.Never get angry or take it personally when someone tries to help you. There have been many times a comment has come across in a smarmy or put-down way, always think ‘even if I hate that they’ve said that, they’re doing it because they want to improve me and I shouldn’t give people the chance to make such comments anyway’. Always smile, say thank you and adjust it if it should be adjusted, modified, corrected etc.Get stuck in: give whatever you’re doing effort, work hard when tasked on things, march like you mean it, run so it hurts, study and ready around your course.Enjoy it: enjoy that fact that the Reserves allow you to lead two lives, to squeeze two lives into one, to do meaningful things for your country, your people and yourself.
Into the car I go, I hope to see you on the road soon.
Reserve OCdt Goode