Naval Reservist getting best of both worlds

June 21, 2017

Reservists make up one sixth of all Armed Forces personnel and play a vital role in protecting UK interests at home and overseas. 

Today is Reserves Day, which gives society the chance to say thank you to those ordinary men and women who give up their spare time to train and serve alongside the Regular Forces.

It’s not easy juggling one career, never mind two, but Andrew Fulton has been successfully doing just that for 15 years as a Leading Hand in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR). He is based at HMS Scotia (Rosyth).

HRFCA caught up with Andrew (46) to get his take on life as a Reservist. We also spoke to his civilian employer to find out how they support his Service.

Leading Hand Andrew Fulton.

Tell us about your career as a Reservist, when and where did it all start, what’s your current role, and what made you want to join up?

“I joined the RNR in 2002 for two reasons – I had and have a sense of service because of friends and family who have served in the UK Forces and secondly, because I am a half-accomplished sailor, I thought the RNR could help develop my skills, confidence and abilities – it has, in bucket loads!”

What’s the best part of being a Reservist?

“As a Reservist I get the best of both worlds and have yet to find a downside!”

Where has your naval career taken you?

“I have visited lots of countries with the Royal Navy including Australia, Bahrain, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates and I have worked at sea with the Navy across the Indian Ocean from Somalia, Yemen and the Horn of Africa in the west to Oman, the Arabian Gulf and the West Coast of India in the east.”

Do you have a favourite moment?

“I wouldn’t say favourite but I have many memorable moments – being deployed as part of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and on Op Telic in the Northern Arabian Gulf; representing the RNR as a watch leader in the Sydney to Hobart offshore yacht race and; taking part in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo Guard of Honour as part of the Battle of Trafalgar bicentenary.”  

Tell us about your civilian job.

“I work as a Senior Designations Officer for Historic Environment Scotland. I am based in Edinburgh but travel across the country to assess Scotland’s heritage and recommend those sites and monuments that, by virtue of their cultural significance, should be given recognition and protection. These are not just the landward sites we are all familiar with, they are not just the buried archaeological remains which are often invisible to the naked eye, but it is maritime heritage too – the coastal sites and offshore areas where shipwrecks and plane wrecks survive, telling us a story about a particular point in Scotland’s past.”

Being a Reservist requires time off work, how does your employer support those demands?

“There is very little impact of my RNR life on my day job and Historic Environment Scotland are supportive of what I do. There are three Reservists that I know of at work and we are all given ten days’ leave to do our annual military training. I have been deployed on operations twice now and on both occasions Historic Environment Scotland have helped tremendously in the transition from civilian work to the Royal Navy and back again.”

What skills have you gained as a Reservist that enhance your civilian role?

“I work in communications for the RNR and so I’ve learned lots of hard skills – but for me the boost in confidence, public speaking and the softer, more general skills are a real bonus.”

What would you tell a colleague who was interested in becoming a Reservist?

“Of course I would recommend the RNR to friends and colleagues. I know it is not the sort of life for everyone, but until you try it you won’t know.” 

Alex Paterson, Historic Environment Scotland Chief Executive, is Andrew’s boss and we asked him for his experiences of employing Reservists.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive Historic Environment Scotland.

How do you as an employer benefit from employing Reservists?

“There are lots of practical and general skills that our Reservists bring to work from their military service. These are not just the hard skills that we and the military both draw on, they are the softer abilities and attributes that Reservists seem to have in spadefulls – the powers of influence, good management and organisation, presentation skills and public speaking and, a sense of humour. These are all of tremendous benefit to Historic Environment Scotland.”  

In what practical ways do you support your Reservists?

“Our current approach ensures Reservists are recognised and valued as members of staff. They are entitled to ten days’ special leave in order to help with their military training commitments and in cases where they are mobilised for service, our HR team are familiar with procedures to help them do this with as much support and as minimum disruption as is possible.”

What qualities do Reservists bring to the workplace?

There is this sense of resilience, of a ‘can do’ attitude and a flexibility or adaptability that marks out our Reservists.”

What would you tell a fellow employer if they asked if it was worthwhile employing Reservists?

“Firstly, there is no question that I think it is worthwhile employing Reservists. They are a credit to the military and to us. The impact of their service on the business is absolutely minimal and they bring so much from their experiences.”