Guest Post Day 4 – Reservist or not, Andy was a soldier…
Todays Guest Blog Post is, quite frankly some of the best blog writing I have ever read.
Enough of me. Read on as Elboomo writes…
Hi all, this is an issue that’s been on my mind for a little while now and something I planned on writing about on my blog. I am however, a little behind with my planned blogging so I figured it would have to wait, but with the great RAFairman offering the chance to write a guest piece for his wonderful blog, I thought I’d tap it out.
I haven’t been a part of the military for very long, 4 months to be exact, but there is a certain attitude I have noticed during my time towards a particular group of people. These people are reservists. I’m told that there is a lot more respect for reservists now-a-days with them serving alongside regular personnel in Afghanistan, but still phrases such as STAB (Stupid Territorial Army B******) and ‘Weekend ‘Warrior’ are thrown around when they are mentioned or seen around. It’s particularly bad with the lower ranks and trainees.
This is quite a sore point for me for reasons I will explain, but the general opinion seems to be that reservists are people that want to be in the military but can’t hack it full time. Many will agree (particularly reservists themselves) that this is not the case and I’d like to share a story about a reservist I knew.
A few years back when i was in my teens, I was in the Air Training Corps. There I met a lad called Andy. Andy was a year older than myself and from a different ATC squadron but we became friends and often saw each other at various camps and functions within the ATC. Andy left the cadets to study Mechanical Engineering at university whilst I went to do Aerospace Engineering at a different university. Both of us had similar plans, get a degree and join the military as an officer. We didn’t see each other for several years but stories of Andy sometimes came up with friends when I was back home.
When I next met Andy, he’d finished his course at uni, spending two years with the Officer Training Corps whilst he was there and had a civilian job as a regional sales manager. Not bad. Andy’s plan was still very much to join the Army as an officer and had decided to join the TA in the meantime. He joined 7 Rifles in 2007 as a potential officer to get any help he could with his dream whilst still holding his civilian job.
As well as joining the TA, Andy volunteered to help out with the cadets once again, using his knowledge from having been one himself and his new experiences with the OTC and now the TA. He was very capable but on one occasion I remember, he made a simple, small mistake. I don’t remember what it was or what happened but the point is it wasn’t huge. Andy was given a bit of a dressing down by another instructor and somewhere along the lines “you just think you know everything because you’re in the TA now, you’re just a part-timer” was said. Exactly the mentality I see today.
But Andy was not just a part-timer. He believed that to become a good officer he would first need combat experience. He volunteered to leave his civilian job behind and join the 3 Rifles Battle Group when they went to Afghanistan next. To do this, he had to pass the same Pre-Deployment Training courses as the regulars including an Assault Pioneers course. Being a rugby player, Andy had completely the wrong type of fitness required but thanks only to his determination he lost the weight and got fit for combat. He quickly proved himself to 3 Rifles and was accepted as one of them, receiving high levels of praise from OPTAG (Operational Training and Advisory Group), and so he went to Afghanistan with the battle group.
On November 15th 2009, Andrew ‘Fen’ Fentiman was on a foot patrol in Sangin and was killed by enemy fire. He was repatriated through Wooton Bassett, and I paid my respects in the streets as they were lined with family, friends and members of the public. Latrer with his family and close friends in attendance, just like any other serving soldier he was buried with full military honours.
Reservist or not, Andy was a soldier. Not a ‘STAB’ who couldn’t hack full time. As Lieutenant Ben Heap, 7 Rifles, said “To come to Afghanistan as a soldier takes courage, to volunteer takes more so.”
Andy wasn’t the first reservist to serve in Afghanistan, nor will he be the last. As I write this, another good friend of mine, an RAF reservist, is there serving with 2 Squadron RAF Regiment. They deserve every bit of respect us full-timers receive.
Elboomo has his own blog that you can read at http://elboomo.wordpress.com/