My life in care began at seven years old. For the majority of my childhood, I thought that the more I lost the less I had to lose, but thankfully that mind-set began to change when I was placed on a farm. I loved working hard and being outdoors. But my life changed again when I was given a council flat in uptown Bromley; leaving the countryside, my family, and friends behind. I felt lost, had no job, and no money. You often hear people say that they’re “so broke”, so I guess I must have been on another level. Using food vouchers and nicking toilet roll was part of my daily routine, but definitely not my idea of ‘living’ let alone independence.
I was sent to Drive Forward with the expectation that they could help me improve my situation. I wasn’t in a place to be asking for ‘my dream job’. I wasn’t in a place to rock up to an interview in a smart suit. The place I was in was cold and lonely. But it’s the pure dedication of the people at Drive Forward that made wonderful things happen for me. I went to training sessions, listened to inspirational talks, and got interview prep. But the people at DFF continued to do more; including decking me out with a proper suit and tie and getting me a haircut. I liked that crisp and clean look. It gave me confidence and it made me feel like I had a reason to wake up. With Drive Forward, I got to go and work in places that were inspirational and amazing!
After a while of working with them and people constantly telling me how I can achieve more, I finally felt confident enough to reach for my dream job which was with the army.
The British Army
Even the name holds so much respect. I was holding off joining and thinking; ‘Am I actually able to be part of this? Doing one of the hardest jobs in the country; giving up not only my time, but maybe my life too?’.
Well, military life is different to what you may imagine. Keeping yourself clean and respectful at all times is key. What’s more is having the self-confidence to be shouted at and not say a word in return. This is easier if you want the career bad enough.
Let me tell you a brief story. I had just crawled under razor wire, ran two miles, then jumped in a chocolate river (less chocolate more mud if you ask me), when I was told that I had to work throughout the weekend because my roommate had left the room unlocked while I was out training. Despite the injustice and the fact that I had spent about £100 on a train ticket for that very weekend, I still had a smile on my face; because I was exactly where I wanted to be.
For me, all the hardship and sacrifice are worth it. I feel like nothing can bother me and I have everything I want: friends, family, days off… I’m even getting paid over Christmas when I’ll have a full month off work!
Obviously, there’re things you’ll learn along the way and the opportunities in the army are endless! No matter whether you want to be a sniper or drive lorries! All your training, tests, and qualifications will be provided and paid for by the army and you can get a proper education whilst you’re working with them.
But of course, life in the army is also dictated by order and discipline; after all, you’re given a lot of responsibility and have to be able to, physically and psychologically, live up to the expectation. Is it hard work? Yes, but the reward you get is invaluable: respect, friendships, training, and a stable job.
Personally, I’ve always had an interest in rifles and the frontline action side of things. I’ve gone on to join the Assault Pioneer Platoon in 5 Rifles Armoured Infantry Brigade. This means that my job consists of assault pioneers on the one hand and ceremonial buglers on the other. Assault pioneers are best used for anti-IED warfare (improvised explosive device) and mines; also, in wall breaching, or blowing bridges and railway tracks. But we also build assault bridges, water purification systems, and pyrotechnics for training troops.
The bugling side is an honourable role and we get the chance to play at prestigious places such as the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace or at funerals and other important events.
Again, what you’ll do within the army is up to you, your wishes and aspirations, but also what you’re willing to give of yourself, whether you’re able to perform the job role you want or whether there’s something else more suitable for you. People always think you have to be super fit to join the army. Trust me, it helps, but in the end it’s all in your head whether you succeed or drop short.
I’ve had an amazing life in the army so far and it’s only just the beginning. And this is thanks to Drive Forward and the team behind it!
Here are some of the memories I’ve made so far in my career.