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Case Study: Tom

Personal details
Degree:Master of Letters Terrorism Studies Profile picture
School(s): School of International Relations
Year of Graduation:Jun-2014
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: British Army
Job title: 2nd Lieutenant in the British Army Reserves
Occupational Sector: Armed Forces
What has been your route to getting your current position?
In November 2013, my final year of my undergraduate degree, I decided to apply online to become an Officer in the Army Reserves (having joined Tayforth Universities Officer Training Corps (TUOTC) in September 2013).

The application process was rigorous but rewarding: I had my initial interview in February 2014 in Dundee, followed by a Medical in Edinburgh in March, and then I progressed to attend a 24 hour selection at the Army Officer Selection Board (Briefing) in Westbury, Wiltshire at the end of March. Following this, I passed onto the final AOSB (Mainboard) in May which consisted of four days of assessment focused on my potential as a leader. Throughout this process I was extremely well supported by Tayforth UOTC, both in preparing for the selection boards, and in aiding my progression through the system. In all, the process from applying to being accepted onto Officer training took six months which is fairly swift for any application.

Once I had passed the selection boards I attended an 8 week Reserve Officer Commissioning Course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). The course was intense, but enjoyable, and focuses upon improving leadership ability through infantry training.

Training included: physical training; planning for scenarios, including writing, delivering, and carrying out orders; the ethics and theory of leadership; field craft; navigation; team exercises; communication training; drill, and basic infantry training. Our ability to lead groups ranging from sections of eight Officer Cadets, to platoons of 30, was constantly tested. In particular, we were assessed through field exercises which increased in length, complexity, and difficulty, culminating in a final exercise lasting 8 days.

Whilst RMAS was immensely challenging, the quality of the teaching and the experience you gain is second to none. This combined with the good rapport you build with your fellow cadets, means the course will be something I will never forget and will always be grateful for. Indeed, attending the course is the most rewarding experience I have had to date. Upon completion of the course we marched up the famous 'Old College steps' and successfully commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenants into the Army Reserves.
What does your job involve ?
Officer training consists of two 'Phases'. Phase I culminates with passing out at RMAS, and now I am about to start preparation for my Phase II training. This is known as 'Special-to-Arms' training and varies depending on which Corps or Unit in the Army you join. The job of all officers however is leading others. As a junior officer I can typically expect to command a platoon of 30 individuals, and use my judgement to make decisions, both practical and moral, for those under my command.

Training for the Army Reserves is extremely flexible, with a minimum of 27 days per year preferred. These include a two-week annual training camp, and training weekends which occur once every three weeks on average. Aside from this, it is expected that you try to attend a Training Evening (one evening per week) whenever possible.
What are the best bits of your job ?
Leading others, the primary job of an officer is to lead, and you would not want to take on the demands and responsibility that comes with this, if you did not enjoy nor want to lead. The Army is a rare organisation as it trains people to lead, and then gives them a huge level of responsibility – at a far younger age than would occur in civilian jobs – over a diverse variety of individuals. Leadership is a challenge, but a most rewarding one, and alongside this, the close friendships you form with those around you (along with the excellent social side to the Army) are certainly a highlight.
Why were you successful?
RMAS does not ask anything 'super-human' from you; the training and the instructors, are the best in the Army. With perseverance and a will to learn, anyone is capable of joining the Army Reserves as an Officer, and they will find themselves become far more capable and confident as a result of the training.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
Apply now! The application process can take a while, so start now and you will have plenty of time to think over your decision of whether you want to become an Officer in the Army Reserves.

Any prior experience at leading others would help, as would being involved in sports teams, and previous experience at living outdoors (for example, the Duke of Edinburgh Award). However the Army looks for potential to lead, not the finished product; their history of selecting those they think can cope with the training Officers receive means that if you have that potential, they will identify it.

Fitness is, however, a basic requirement for the Army, so it is expected that you should be physically fit before you attend any Officer Selection Boards. Fitness helps with your ability to lead and make decisions under stress, so the fitter, the better!