Week 27: Finding a home in the Army

Well it is regimental selection board week, and what we are all here for is to find out where our home will be. For those who are unaware of what RSB week is, as I was before coming, it is where the Army find a home for you in the future, whether it be the infantry, mechanics, engineers, air corps, artillery or medics, everyone needs a home. I found the analogy of teaching useful when explaining it to my mother: consider Sandhurst to be university, and your phase two training to be your NQT. Just because you graduate from university does not mean that you automatically have somewhere to do your NQT, you have to apply and be interviewed and have all of your work looked at. This is very similar to Sandhurst, but I would like to think that it is slightly more intimidating in the Army!

We had last week to prepare for what has arrived, but still there is the random mad dash to prepare for extra questions and research extra parts of your hopeful regiment. But the day will arrive where the Army finds a home for you. And in my opinion, this is the most important personal decision I will ever make, because every other decision that I will ever make will be as a result of this one, what beret I will wear, what role I will do, how close I will be to the frontline, all comes down to this week.

My interviews are both after lunch, which is awful on my nerves. I have always found waiting the most nerve racking of all! So I spent the morning pacing up and down my room, trying to find the best shirt for the best tie for the best suit, after all, first impressions mean a lot! I found myself later downing fifty cups of coffee and eventually, ending up at my interview nearly forty minutes early!

Now, I shall make this part as descriptive as I can to aid everyone who will eventually go through the process. I walked into my first interview (you get two in total, unless you are going air corp, you get three), a group of rather serious colonels, regimental sergeant major, some old boys who were no doubt former brigadiers or generals sit, all staring at you, trying to make out who you are.

A nervous squeak of “Officer Cadet…” comes out of my mouth, I get told to sit down in the centre of a semi-circle, I felt almost like a lamb for the slaughter. Not to intimidate anyone, but anyone who says that they were not intimated by their boards is a liar! The interview starts very well, everything is going my way, all of the questions that I thought I would be asked are asked, and the week of prep has worked miracles, but then comes the left-fielder, the complete out of the box question that there was no way on earth that I could pre-empt or even answer, they’ve got me. Like the nature documentaries where the hare is fleeing from the fox, and the fox has finally caught me in a magnificent show. But, what I remembered was invaluable; I am here to be judged at how I am under stress, so I take a few seconds, a condor moment as it were, regain my sense and give my response.

My advice? Understand who you are and what makes you a good leader, why you want to join the regiment, and if it is infantry, you really need to consider the moral dimensions of your job path which is ultimately playing God with people’s lives. My boards had every piece of information on me, from private notes written on me by the instructors to my recent PFA result, they probably knew more about me then than I did, so being self-aware is very important. I also found some light humour in your interview can be a God send, you get to see the board crack a smile and it shows that they too are human. You will also find on your board you will have some military celebrities, I most certainly did! Do not let this intimidate you. I think the art of mastering the regimental selection board is to be suitably scared, humble yet confident.

But the results came in a few days later and I got my first choice of regiment, which I am overly proud of! After Sandhurst, I will be going to the Infantry Battle School in Brecon to conduct my platoon commanders battle course and I am overly chuffed, I have the regiment of my dreams and I cannot wait for the honour of commanding my soldiers when I finish my training. I will have a long time to wait though; I am not due to finish all of my training until April 2017! Officers have a lot of training…

“..for England and St George.”