OLD SCHOOL THINKING, FROM MY OLD SCHOOL DAYS AS A BRITISH SOLDIER:
Cap badge, arm badges, pride, discipline, integrity, camaraderie…and the will to always punch above our weight.
Yes, that would be my description of the British Army, yesterday, today and hopefully tomorrow too.
When I joined the SAS back in the mid 70s from the RAF Regiment, I was welcomed into a group of young men from all military backgrounds, but mainly from the army’s infantry and corps.
As a member of Amphibious Troop following down our boat (1980s).
It wasn’t really until the first Remembrance Day at the now famous SAS clock tower, that I got to see the myriad of units that lads in the Regiment had come from. Wearing number 2 dress uniform, with an SAS beret and SAS wings, but differences in that uniform dependent upon their parent units, was a give away. Always great to see, and of course, always a good old lighthearted piss take of each other…even if the annual occasion was an overall somber one.
Every unit in the army had it’s outstanding soldiers, with many around the right side of the middle marker. Yet the odd one or two, unfortunately hanging on, that really shouldn’t be there.
Well, the SAS was no different to any other unit from that respect way back then. However, to get in, you had to be extremely fit, fairly clever, show good soldiering skills in the roughest of conditions…and blend. Blend into a small but highly professional unit, where each thinking soldier is key.
Even with a stringent 6 month long selection and continuation course, followed by another 18 months of being assessed as a Trooper. An individual who’s not quite right for the Regiment could still tag along…even if that seems unbelievable to read about.
Hence why from time to time, individuals got returned to their units early. They’ve proved themselves thus far, but sadly not quite enough, somewhere in their makeup a glitch has shown, and you don’t want it to show more than once.
It was always sad to see the odd young Rupert (officer), and the odd young Trooper/NCO get sent back for nothing more than a character clash with a senior rank. It happened all over the army…it happened here too…human nature can spill over into management decision making if allowed…unfortunately.
However, I was never sad to see someone with good reason get sent back to their unit early. If caught at the right time, it will undoubtedly save lives later. It’s way too late once these individuals are miles behind enemy lines, behaving on operations in completely the wrong mind set…yes, that too has happened in the past.
Socially, I would see groups of lads out on the town.
Like any other unit, those groups would be around each other, simply because of their past bonds perhaps from their parent units, or had present social bonds in common with one another. However, post operations, I’ve seen groups change. No longer was an individual welcome back into a certain group…for whatever reason. Almost an animal type of instinct not to allow him back in.
These observations are just as important to a manager, as the observations in times of training and on operations. Yet, sometimes, and again it’s human nature…it can be missed and allowed to continue on for way too long…and that’s really dangerous.
I loved my time in the Regiment, and now after 25 years of being a civilian (longer than my 23 years in the military in total), and reflecting back on my great and fun career, I see that we all serve our time pretty much in the same way…and with the same parameters and potential problems, no matter the unit. Getting the blend of individuals to soldier together and at their best is always key to any future success.
As soldiers of the British army, It’s the cap badge that we all wore proudly. It’s the unit of the cap badge that we served with proudly, and for the vast majority of us, to the best of our individual abilities. But overall, given the backgrounds of each SAS soldier way back then…it’s my service in the British army that I’m proud of the most…as we all needed each other’s back to perform at our best.
So, seen through the eyes of an ex SAS soldier, I saw the whole of the British army performing within my tiny unit for almost 20 of my 23 years military service. We may differ slightly as individuals, but as units we’re all exactly the same.