I joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 2009 and I'm based at HMS President in London. I’m a Leading Seaman in the Warfare Branch where our primary role is Force Protection (FP) but it is now evolving to incorporate more seamanship skills alongside the FP role to give us more flexibility to integrate with the regular Navy. I was keen on joining the Royal Navy full time when I left school, but life got in the way and I took a different path. I wasn’t aware that the Navy had a Reserve unit until I was 25 so, when I found out, I went along to a recruitment evening to get some more information and signed up there and then! I have a family history of sailors, with my Dad and maternal Grandad both having served in the Royal Navy. Their influence plus my adventurous spirit and love for the sea made it a no-brainer to choose the Navy over the other Reserve forces.
RN Reservists benefit from a variety of training including a lot of leadership, team building and fitness. My branch specialist training is weapons, and I am fully qualified in using the SA80 rifle, General Purpose Machine Gun, Mini Gun, Glock Pistol and Baton. We also do boat drills which means learning to coxswain a Pac 22 and Pac 24 RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and all the rope work that goes with it. Everyone also receives First Aid, Firefighting and emergency procedure training. Having been mobilised, I also received additional Team Medic training in catastrophic wounds. I have completed a Leading Rate Leadership Course where I achieved a Level 3 Certificate in First Line Management from the Chartered Management Institute.
Before joining the reserves, I was quite shy and it has massively improved my confidence and the way in which I can communicate with people on all different levels. It teaches you the importance of respect, organisation and teamwork which are beneficial in day to day life.
For me, the best things about being a reservist are getting the opportunity to be part of something worthwhile and gaining life changing experiences at the same time; the friendships and bonds made with oppos (opposite numbers); and getting paid to spend time doing something I love.
I have had so many excellent experiences during my time as a reservist that it's hard to choose a favourite. I love the fact that I get to spend time on ranges doing target shooting and competitions both home and abroad and I get to race around the water in RIBs! My mobilisation in 2013 was probably the highlight of my time so far. I spent several weeks at sea on an Anti-Piracy mission – sailing through the Suez Canal to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, putting all of my training into a real situation.
Being based in London we get excellent opportunities to represent the Royal Navy and the Reserves for ceremonial purposes, and I have been part of a Royal Guard for the late Queen Elizabeth II. I have also taken part in the Lord Mayor's Show and the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, and I appeared in the TV show “Ade in Britain” which features traditions throughout the UK.
Leonardo has been very supportive of my reserve commitment and give extra days leave for training, which is a big help, otherwise it could take an extremely long time to achieve trained strength. When I was mobilised, HR helped me sort all the paperwork, and my boss was very supportive. On my return I came back to the same role and a catch up session was organised to make it a smooth transition back in to the business. I would encourage anyone with an interest in joining a Reserve Force to go along to a recruiting event, you have nothing to lose!