Paul Hutchinson is an ex-Regular, now a Reservist with 32 Signals Regiment, a Royal Signals Reserve unit based in Glasgow. As a Reservist, Paul is currently undertaking his basic training – Phase One Alpha. Completing that will enable him to undergo the next phase of training. This is his personal account of that process.
I have recently passed my Phase 1 Alpha course, which is the first step to becoming a trained soldier with the Army Reserves; the next stage being Phase 1 Bravo. Whilst commendable, it is to a degree unremarkable as thousands of men and women attend and pass this course on an annual basis. Having served as a regular soldier in the past, I could be excused military service having ‘done my time’ and the fact that I’m 44 years of age, married with two young children and a third on the way and with a full time job, one could certainly compose a compelling argument to take things a little easier.
What I have discovered in just a short space of time, is that the Army has changed since I left 20 years ago, and that the Army Reserves is extremely versatile and therefore complimentary to the most hectic of lives. Phase 1 Alpha as an example, can be completed over four weekends or as a consolidated seven day programme.
I chose the consolidated option and subsequently found myself in a dormitory with nine other guys on a Friday evening, none of us quite sure what to expect, but armed with enough equipment and clothing to cater for most eventualities.
Staring across the room, we sized each other up and gingerly asked questions on how the week might unfold. Introductions led to friendships and the birth of teamwork and camaraderie for our section. Like an old pair of slippers, there was a comforting familiarity with the language from the Directing Staff (DS), accommodation and overall setup that comes from previous military service. Not everything has changed you see.
Alpha is about getting a recruit prepared for the more intensive and longer Bravo course and serves as an introduction to the Army. All Reserve recruits pass through this course regardless of the regiment or corps they intend to join. It focuses on Skill-At-Arms (weapon handling), Drill (marching), Physical Development (PT) and a multitude of lessons covering Military Law, Nutrition, Health & Well-being and the Values and Standards of the British Army.
The drill and weapon handling drills have not changed and despite not using these skills since leaving the Army, it didn’t take long to be reacquainted. This is testament to the training I received all those years ago, the thoroughness in how it was provided and the professionalism of the instructors. What has changed are the more thought provoking aspects to the course – the emphasis on receiving the right nutrients, ensuring that everyone was hydrated and linking a soldier’s actions to a common set of shared values.
Even the PT lessons were more educational in explaining the different types of exercises, running regimes and training techniques.
I also feel that the army is genuinely interested in the skills and experiences that you can bring to it and not just from previous military experience. As a Manager leading a team of telecoms engineers for Atkins, the Army appreciates both the technical and leadership capability I have developed in ‘civvy street’ and is eager to make best use of those attributes.
Overall, the course is packed from start to finish, is very informative and educational and provides a great insight into the expectations of Army life. The instructors, most of whom are Reservists themselves, are experienced and supportive and have a real passion for developing a person’s career – they really want you to succeed and be the best you can. It’s hard at times both mentally and physically, but those challenges also make it enjoyable. In only a matter of hours of being there, any hesitations on whether I had done the right thing in re-joining were quickly dispelled.
Bravo is booked and I can’t wait to get going!