RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Guest Blog Post Day 3 – What Could Have Been…

I know it’s Monday and people have that Monday feeling, however the lastest in my Guest Blog season is a cautionary tale from Tom Wilson.

This blog is a bit of a departure from his usual stuff over on www.simplytelevision.blogspot.com but it is a fantastic post.

In a way it reminds me, as a member of the RAF, just how lucky I am compared to many others out there.

So Tom writes…

What could have been?

I had never considered a career in the military, not once growing up had it crossed my mind but during 2008, after a failed attempt to join the RAF Police (didn’t get a good enough score on my entry test), I found myself heading up to RAF Honington to take part in a 2 night 3 day PGAC in a bid to join the RAF Regiment.

The PGAC was fundamentally an assessment of attitude & fitness with a 3 mile run & a swimming assessment being the primary tests although an assessment of my key maths & English skills was also included.

I had put quite a bit of fitness work in prior to the trip so I passed it with flying colours especially the run, which to my disgust a lot of men horribly failed to finish. Not being able to complete a 3 mile run in those circumstances was a disgrace & resulted in them immediately failing & being sent home. I then had a final interview with a Corporal after which I was told my date for joining was only 2 weeks later; I was given my boots to break in and was sent home to quit my job & prepare for the 6 month-long infantry course ahead of me.

I started the course under prepared in every way, I had no ironing board, a crap iron & little money. I also realized pretty quickly that I might not be cut out mentally for a military career.

Right from the word go I struggled to get to grips with what I was expected to do. I was failing to meet the standards in the ironing, drill & weapon training. I was fine with the fitness aspect of the course but was really starting to struggle in every other area.

It was starting to get on top of me; I was distancing myself from the guys in my flight & starting to seek help and guidance from my parents on a daily basis. I was feeling very isolated. I remember standing outside the block in the morning being inspected and watching cars drive past, I would just stare at them because it was the only contact I was having with the outside world. I wasn’t allowed off the base, no TV and no shop to buy a newspaper (this was early on in the course). All I had was my phone to call people with and was often too busy to do that apart from the 10 minutes for my parents.

The Corporals assigned to us were great especially Cpl P who was in charge of my training flight, they were always willing to give me a 5 minute pep talk or quietly show me a better way to do something, I think they could see I was trying my best.

After a few weeks I was sent to get tested to see if there was a reason I was struggling so much, effectively it was a test to see if I had a learning difficulty. I was diagnosed with dyspraxia which explained why I was so clumsy with the gun. I was offered the chance to get help with it but by this time I had short-sightedly decided to quit so I turned it down.

After 14 days I advised them I wanted to go and spent another 7 days on the course and was then put into a holding flight for 7 days until I was allowed to go home. Towards the end of my time on the main training course I was standing outside our classroom and two of the four training Corporals called me into their office and tried to talk me out of quitting because I hadn’t given myself a long enough chance to adapt to the course.

But I was so set on going home so I didn’t really listen & just gave them a standard “it’s not for me” answer. I gave the same answer to the Sergeants and Flight Lieutenant (may be the wrong rank but I forget).

Eventually my last day came and every part of me was screaming “leaving was a mistake” but again I was so focused on going home I was ignoring what I was feeling. A Sergeant from the holding flight drove a couple of us around to get signatures of some departments that we needed to obtain and was talking about how good a career in the military was. I was so close to asking him if it was too late for me to change my mind but stupidly I let the opportunity slip me by.

Once I had my rail warrant and all my stuff gathered I was allowed to go and went to the guardroom to order a taxi to the train station.

I will always remember looking back at the base as I pulled away realizing I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. When I got home I was emotionally and physically drained and just burst into tears as the depth of the mistake I had made began to sink in. The following Monday I walked back into the AFCO and applied for the army in a desperate attempt to get back what I had stupidly thrown away. Unfortunately my application for the Army has never worked out so I don’t think a career in the military is meant to be but I will always wonder what could have been.

I write this on my computer in the call centre I work in now…

I don’t think there’s a lot to say after that, other than to wish Tom the very best for the future. And to say don’t forget to check back tomorrow for what I think will be some of the best blogging you will ever read.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post Day 3 – What Could Have Been…

  1. Paulo on said:

    An absolutely brilliant article that reminded me of my own struggles when I joined. There was many a night I felt like bailing out but didn’t have the guts to say so. Parental pressure and other siblings in the Forces kept me going, not wanting to let them down.

    I got through training and life in the RAF became great and something to be proud off.

    Well do for an honest account. You deserve a lot of respect.

  2. Lou brooke on said:

    Wow what a story. My hsuband served 24 years in he royal navy. It’s the best thing he has ever done and his friends are friends for life. We are both lucky that he joined young enough to experience many good and some not so good times but that opportunity given was the best x

  3. Alistair Rae on said:

    Thank you for a very candid description of your experiences.

    New Entry training is challenging, and I know of a few who’ve had to go round-again for various reasons. Fortunately there is no shame in that.

    Personally I’m very glad that the training environment is now far better at supporting Special Educational Needs than it was when I joined. Unfortunately I think there is still a way to go, as some of these still have some stigma attached.

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