Week 43: One more week to go…

After this week there is just one more to go. We are spending an increasing amount of time on the parade square. I am in the Colour party so I have the honour of protecting the Queen’s colours, which also means I have the job of never standing easy. This is exceptionally painful whilst carrying a rifle, which gives me a whole new respect for the young Guardsmen outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor.

I distracted my mind through various things, one was what advice would I give to someone who is about due to come to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS)?

I thought it would be a pleasant change from my usual ramblings that I write every Sunday night, so here we go, my little bit of advice.

1. Be a nice person. Too often this is sidelined and not thought about enough. Everyone is so focused on getting that top third. That spot in their chosen regiment; they can recite the Army leadership code; they get the best feedback from the instructors; they can conduct a perfect platoon attack, that they forget to be a decent human being and just be polite to each other, ask someone how they are and be genuine about it. It is very easy to be a good platoon commander for a short time, but that cannot be sustained if the empathy and humility that your soldiers deserve is not there.

2. Do not worry about where you come from. Contrary to popular belief not everyone is called Tarquin and went to Harrow. My name is Josh; I went to a bog-standard state comprehensive and all of my friends joined as soldiers. It just so happens that I was seen as being a bit different. Yes, there are one or two teething problems when you get here. Learning how to dress and act as a gentleman for one, and there are some cultural differences. But it just adds to the rich tapestry of the Academy. Your differences, your experiences are what makes the British Army an elite force, not the double-barrelled surname or the red trousers.

3. Do not wish your life away. Many people will be under the idea of coming to the RMAS as soon as possible, some eager eight year-old is reading this right now. Well to you my young friend, think again! I have loved my time at Sandhurst but I regret coming as early as I did, take some time. I am not saying go tour the world, I never did a gap year. I worked a bit and went to university before I came here. I spent the last five years of my life pushing everything as fast as possible to get here as soon as possible, it’s been my biggest regret yet.

Go live life for a bit, make sure you go and get drunk a lot and make as many mistakes (within the law) as is humanly possible; because when you get here you need to have some life experiences that do not include the local conservative club or the student union. Once you get here the sheer weight of the reputation of Sandhurst and what it is to be a Army Officer means that no decent cadet will go and make these mistakes that you can freely make as a civilian.

4. Leave no unfinished business. For me, it was girlfriend problems or now lack of girlfriend problems! Ensure that life is all going fine when you come here because Sandhurst will consume your year and your service to your country comes first. Therefore, you will not always have the time to talk to crying girls or indeed cry over girls. I am not saying to say goodbye to friends and family, not at all, they are the ones who really drag you through your time here! But you will know what I mean when I say leave no unfinished business. Have fun with your family before you come here too because it is very scary how much it can all change when you come out the other side.

5. Remember why you are coming here. If you are coming here for a year of being a “jolly good chap” and living the fictional dream in the officer’s mess, lots of parties, smart uniforms and as a result lots of women… then I would add that you are not what the Army needs, especially for its officers. You come to Sandhurst to thrash yourself and prove yourself so that you can be given the privilege of commanding British soldiers. You will be coming to an institution that has trained many of the nation’s greatest heroes and led the youth of history against unfavourable odds. Just make sure to take that reality check before you come here.

6. I promise this one will be positive! If you ever for a moment begin to lack the motivation to perform here, it is completely okay. No human can stay determined when the world around them is caving in. What is important however is how quickly you get up. It is not hard to do either.

Just think about everything that this institution has completed. A secret I kept from many of my peers here would be to go to the Royal Memorial Chapel when I was feeling low and read the names of the fallen off the wall. I learnt a story about Lieutenant Dease VC who died at Nimmy bridge. He was wounded several times but kept on fighting and commanding his soldiers, he later succumbed to his wounds. Work hard at Sandhurst because the impression you set on people directly impacts on the impression people have on heroes such as Lieutenant Dease VC. At Sandhurst, you will be surrounded by inspirations, you just need to find what will give you the drive that our predecessors had.

Well I hope this has been somewhat useful, anyone can tell you what iron to buy or what boot polish is best. Either way, if you chose to come here, you are not choosing a job, but a way of life. Be proud.