Blog Episode 2 The Journey Continues
That was that then, the matter was settled. I held the famous brown envelope in my hands and therefore I had indeed been compulsorily mobilised. If there had ever been a good time to sit down and consider whether or not this was actually the right thing to be doing then that moment had now well and truly passed. From reading the inch thick wad of instructions contained within the envelope I learned that I had been given one month before I had to report to Chilwell RTMC, the reserves training and mobilisation centre. This actually seemed very reasonable as I had heard horror stories of previous mobilisations giving a week or less in which to close down your civilian life and get down to Chilwell. As an added bonus I wouldn’t be going alone either, a quick round of phone calls had confirmed that no less than two of my colleagues had also received envelopes. These were identical except that theirs specifically mentioned the United Nations peacekeeping operation ‘TOSCA’ whilst mine simply stated “to be engaged in operations overseas in support of the regular forces”, with nothing to suggest otherwise I assumed that this would be my destination also.
One month seemed plenty of time, at least it did until i realised just exactly how much is involved in putting your civilian life into hibernation for nine months. For a full time soldier the prospect of an operational tour is challenge enough even though it involves little in the way of lifestyle alterations and there is of course no conflict of interests with an employer. For a reservist however, who is essentially a civilian, the prospect of being deployed on operations is a different ball game altogether, it involves bringing your existing lifestyle to a grinding halt at short notice. For nine months you’ll be overseas, fully preoccupied and certainly not in a position to sort out any issues back home. Putting in contingency plans for every conceivable eventuality whilst away for this period of time is a huge task, one that until you actually do it is impossible to appreciate the scale of.
So it was that for a couple of weeks i immersed myself in a mountain of paperwork. Civvie job, utilities, wills, mortgage, home and contents, childcare, vehicle tax insurance and mot, council tax (here the nice lady on the phone said that being overseas and thus not using any council services whatsoever did not entitle me to any rebate, however they would of course give me 100% discount if I was in prison. Anyone for a revolution?) a multitude of other tasks. Last on my impressively long list of pre-deployment tasks was my young daughter. In true single parent style I decided to break the news while we fed the ducks, always a good time for big talks I find. However the concept of nine months or “270 sleeps” is hard to grasp for a six year old and thus after listening intently and pondering the idea for some time she told me to make sure that I packed a chocolate bar in case I got a rumbly tummy whilst away. Handkerchief anybody?
My MFO box duly arrived and I filled it (chocolate bar included) with all the things you normally pack when you’re not sure exactly where you will be going and hence are not sure what you will actually need when you get there. There’s a golden rule with MFO boxes though, don’t put anything essential in them–you may not see the box again until the tour is over so such items need to travel with you instead! Regardless of however much thought goes into this task the benefit of post-tour hindsight means that the list of what you actually should have packed rarely bears any resemblance to what you actually packed.
With much to do the month flew by, the reporting day got closer, and all the hassle of pre-deployment only served to make me more eager to actually get away and crack on with the job. So it was that on a late summer’s day I arrived, bergen and black holdall in hand, at RTMC Chilwell…
For more information on joining the Territorial Army visit www.serfca.org or tel: 01252 357605