71 Engineer Regiment are the Royal Engineer’s Army Reserve Regiment based across Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) is based in Leuchars, Fife, and they have 3 Squadrons based in Bangor, Paisley and Cumbernauld and Troop detachments in Leuchars and Orkney.
They are paired with 39 Engineer Regiment, a Regular Unit based in Kinloss, Moray which offers fantastic training opportunities both at home and overseas.
As a Force Support Unit, 71 Engineer Regiment has a defined operational role in support of the Regular Army. Each Squadron must be able to Force Generate a troop’s worth of Force Support capability in support of training and operations as follows:
- 102 Field Squadron – Construction Plant & Combat Infrastructure
- 124 Field Support Squadron – Engineer Logistics Node & Combat Infrastructure
- 591 Field Squadron – Combat Infrastructure Troop
I’m Lt Parkes, a technology consultant at Deloitte during the week but an Army Reserve Officer in the Royal Engineers at weekends. My current role is Support Troop Commander with 591 (AA) Field Squadron based in Bangor, Northern Ireland. One of the common questions about being an Army Reserve Officer is how do you fit it around your civilian career? Well, being an Army Reserve Officer can fit around a demanding civilian career and actually enhance it in certain places.
Although the minimum commitment is only 27 days, I often find myself doing up to 50 days a year. For me this typically consists of one weekend away a month, generally in NI or Scotland where I’ll be out ‘in the field’ with the guys, and one weekend a month in the Army Reserve Centre, catching up paperwork and planning upcoming training. Generally Reservists also do one night a week in the centre as well as a two week period of continuous training each year. This will typically work on a three year rotation; one year you will attend a course which will teach you as an individual new skills, the next year will be a UK based training exercise where you’ll go away with your unit to train together, and the third year will be an overseas training exercise to confirm all the training you’ve done over the previous two years.
It is important to note that there is a great deal of flexibility with the Army Reserve. As a consultant I do a lot of travelling; my current work with a large insurance client means that I typically spend two days a week in Swindon and another two in London. Because of this I can’t attend Tuesday night training, however my Staff Sergeant can and so covers for me. I usually just have a quick phone call with him to catch up on what I’ve missed. Currently my Army boss is a Regular Officer and, as is common with any Regular Officer who works with the Reserves, they understand that your civilian career comes first and find a workable compromise.
Another example of flexibility was that one of my Sergeants couldn’t get two weeks off work last year to attend an annual exercise. To get around this we organised for him to do a reduced commitment which meant that he came out for nine days (Saturday through to the Sunday of the next weekend) so that he only had to take five days leave for the Army Reserve that year.
Certain employers do give members of the Army Reserve extra time off for annual exercise; the NHS gives fifteen days extra leave a year to attend the Army Reserve and the Civil Service gives ten days a year to its staff to attend their annual exercise. However the expectation is that Reservists only have two weeks a year and training is organised accordingly.
Being a Reserve Officer will add to your CV. In my experience the biggest positive is the amount of responsibility you get given from a young age. There are very few employers who will give a person in their early twenties a team of 25-30 people to lead and manage. The Army provides excellent training on how to write your soldiers annual reports and I’ve used this training in my civilian career to help me when writing feedback for members of my team.
Being an Army Reserve Officer will also reinforce existing skills. Last year I took 30 Reservists from our Squadron on a multi-national exercise in South Dakota, America as a part of a larger group of 90 Reservists from across Scotland and Northern Ireland. We worked alongside armed forces from the USA, Canada and Denmark. I was in charge of coordinating the construction of two wooden bridges for the National Park, upgrading three bridges, and constructing two fishing piers. This may seem to be very different from managing releases for a website but the underlying principles are similar.
Overall it is certainly possible to balance a Reserve Officer career and a civilian job. Other officers in my unit have a diverse range of careers ranging from teachers to lawyers, policemen, engineers and civil servants. Being a Reserve Officer will enhance your CV giving you “a second string to your bow” and helping you stand out in a competitive job market.
I would strongly recommend that anyone who is considering a career as an Army Reserve Officer go for it; you do have both the time and the energy. It will be challenging but the rewards are excellent, you’ll meet great people, travel extensively, and experience something unique.