National Armed Forces Day 2019 - We interviewed Lee, former Sergeant
Erica Boiano Thursday, 27 Jun 2019
Erica Boiano Thursday, 27 Jun 2019
As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility commitment, we are proud to work in partnership with the Armed Forces Covenant and ease ex-soldiers back into the civilian world. We have interviewed former members of the Armed Forces that are now part of the CIS family. Here’s what Lee, CIS Security Trainer, told us about his time in the British Army.
What made you join the Army?
After leaving school, I worked as a Chef for a few years. This job, however, did not suit my outgoing personality or give me any sort of social life and, while looking to make the most of myself, the Army seemed to hold the answer.
How old were you when you joined?
I was 17.
How was the Army in terms of gender balance back then?
In the late 80s the gender balance was one-sided. Back then the main roles held by women were clerical. The Teeth Arms (front line units/Battalions) were male and to some degree this hasn’t changed that much.
Which rank did you serve into and where were you based?
I was a Corporal and I was made Sergeant as I was leaving. I served in many different countries and war zones, such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan. My favourite place was Canada where I spent four months; this time was divided between training and leisure-pursuing activities such as kayaking and mountain climbing. Germany was a close second as I spent many years stationed there.
Tell us what you enjoyed the most about being part of the Army.
I enjoyed the whole package, the action, adventure and the friendships that were formed for life. There were many times however that I did question my own sanity, especially when your life and the lives of your friends and family were on the line.
I do miss the banter that you get within the Army as this is unique in the Forces and I feel you don’t really get this camaraderie in civilian life. Sometimes when you slip into it people often wonder what planet you are from.
Was it something you had always wanted to do or was it more an out of the blue decision?
Yes, from a young age I had always wanted to join the Army. I started with the Cadet force from the age of 12 up to leaving school. This gave me an insight on that type of life and what was involved. However, this was an illusion, it was completely different in real life. For me it was even better! Not the two hours on a Monday and Wednesday night ( the Cadet hours each week), life in the Army is 24 hours 365 days a year up to the point you leave.
What was your life like after the Army? Did you know what you wanted to do afterwards?
When I left the Army, I was suffering from mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. I took 6 months off to evaluate my life and only with the full and loving support from my wife Allison I took that big step. Leaving the Forces is a culture shock. One day you are a part of a massive organisation, the next day you are not. You go from having your life in place, knowing what you are doing hour to hour, day to day week to week, but once out there you’re on your own. Personally, I found that there was lack of support for Service leavers, so it can be quite hard to fit back into “normal civilian” life, especially for those who have been serving for a long time. Even today I find it hard to switch off. For example, when I’m out doing simple things, like shopping or going for a walk with my son, there are aspects, memories and flashbacks from my life in the Army that will never leave or be subdued.
Do you apply any skills you developed during your time in the Army in your role as Trainer at CIS?
The skills that I have gained from my time in the Army have been invaluable and are put to use every single day. My approach to teaching is a personal one, gained from years of instruction throughout my service. I feel that if you are not enjoying the Training, you’re not learning. So, with this in mind, my teaching style has adapted and evolved to one where my students enjoy the lessons and gain from that personal touch.
Would you do it again?
Without hesitation, I would do it all again.
What piece of advice would you give to those who are thinking about joining the Armed Forces?
My advice to anyone wishing to join the Armed Forces is, go for it and enjoy the life to the maximum.