May 8, 2015

Visitors to Stirling’s Army Reserve Centre were treated to a feast for the eyes and ears at Highland RFCA’s Southern Area Committee Event.

Reservists and cadets turned out in force, actively demonstrating to members and their guests the positive benefits of being part of forward-looking organisations.

The April 30 event, organised by Committee Chair Lieutenant Colonel Gilly Moncur, put reservists and cadets centre stage, allowing them to share their experiences.

A huge effort was made by all involved to make the evening a success. 7SCOTS, assisted by  members of 3SCOTS, manned stands demonstrating weapons and kit. The Army cadets demonstrated their fieldcraft equipment, DofE and sports achievements and casualty simulation techniques used in first aid training. They were also practising drill for the Armed Forces’ Day parade as part of a typical detachment night. The air cadets also offered a visit to their detachment.

Following introductions, the audience heard from Lieutenant Andy Nicol of 7th Battalion, The Royal  Regiment of Scotland (7 SCOTS), who spoke passionately about his role in the Army Reserve and took them on a journey from being a civilian to becoming Platoon Commander in the Stirling Platoon, all in the space of just three years.

A teacher by day, the geography graduate told how he joined without any cadet experience or family ties to the armed forces and was “not the ordinary recruit”.  Andy combined his sense of duty with his profession and gained the perfect fit.

Andy knew he wanted to be an officer, but felt he had to become a soldier first and revelled in training and the hands-on experience. He said his decision provoked mixed reactions from some of the other soldiers!

Andy described the opportunities with 7 Scots as “endless”, already bringing travel to places such as South Africa and Cyprus. Next on Andy’s agenda is 10 weeks on the demanding Regular Platoon Commanders’ Battle Course.

He says his employer has been “fantastic” when it comes to time off and spoke of the positive benefits his Army Reserve career has brought to the classroom. Andy reckons attitudes have changed with employers now realising having a member of staff in the reserves brings a huge number of transferable skills to the workplace. “It’s a two-way street,” he said.

Andy was also keen to show that being unemployed should be no barrier to becoming a reserve and how recruits can be put on courses, trained and developed to make them more employable.

Next up was the Highland RFCA Cadet Presentation Team, led by Richard Pattison. Richard explained his role in engaging with a range of audiences to actively demonstrate the benefits of becoming a cadet. Having mentored 60 cadets and adult volunteers over four months, Richard told how his team had found their voices to share their stories and how he wanted them to celebrate their successes.

Cadets and an adult volunteers then shared their stories with the audience. Among those was ATC Flight Sergeant Taighlor Cook (19) of 2284 (Dunblane) Squadron. She told how the ‘Cadet Experience’ had given her confidence and a lot of life skills to take forward into the workplace.

ACF Cadet Sergeant Steven Gray (16) said joining the Cadets was “the best decision I ever made” giving him confidence at high school along with self-discipline, turning in his own words a “lazy and disorganised” teen into someone with “an edge” to take into an Army career.

Adult Volunteer Sharon Swash (52) – Detachment Commander at Perth Viewlands – spoke of the rewards of building children up into “well-rounded” individuals, adding: “You have to be 100% committed to bring the best out of the children. As an adult volunteer that’s what I aspire to do.”

Richard Pattison concluded by explaining how the work of his team would see them rolling out presentations to a broader audience in the near future.

Guests enjoyed music from the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders ACF Pipes and Drums (Grant and Lloyd Deans, Courtney Tuff and Alex Paterson) before grabbing a bite to eat from a tasty buffet provided by 7SCOTS reservist chefs and visiting the stands.

Among those manning the stands were an enthusiastic bunch of Sea Cadets from Helensburgh who told how being in the cadets had led to them meeting new friends in an environment with friendly staff where they could enjoy activities such as sailing, rowing, archery, parades, drill and shooting.

At the end of the evening there was a particularly proud moment as the Lord Lieutenant of Stirling and Falkirk, Marjory McLaughlin, presented rugby colours to Cadet SSgt Logan Clark and Honorary Colonel, Colonel AK Miller, awarded Cdt Sgt Stuart Millar, of Bannockburn, his promotion to Cadet SSgt.

The event was a great success evidenced by the many smiles and applause which rang through the venue following a closing display from the Pipes and Drums.

Picture shows ATC Flight Sergeants Ryan Jennison (18) (1019 Stirling Squadron) left, Taighlor Cook (19) (2284 Dunblane) and Keir Marshall (17) (1019 Stirling).