Leaving the forces: How has it changed?
August 21, 2019 Case Studies
I served in the Royal Corps of Signals for just under 10 years from March 1985 to August 1994. My decision to leave the military came about due to family reasons – I have a disabled child and she could not take the constant relocation.
I applied to sign off and gave my 12 months’ notice but was given very little assistance or help in getting myself sorted out, as the resettlement systems in place at the time were very poor. I had an interview with my Commanding Officer and he signed the form and it was done, and I entered the sausage machine and was then considered a 2nd class citizen right up to the day I left.
With so little support, it was down to me to sort things like housing. I was told to apply to my local council for accommodation but I did that 2 years prior to leaving and then had an ongoing battle, as the council refused to acknowledge I lived in the area before leaving to join the army and in the end the Army actually had to evict me from my army quarters to force the issue.
On the work front, I had to use my leave entitlement to visit the area to register with various employment agencies to help me find a job. However, with no realistic date of move back to the area and very little understanding of my skill and abilities, most employment agencies could or would not help me. Funnily, one actually said I should start my own company to help military personnel find a role…
It would have been much, much easier if I had had access to an Education or Resettlement Officer who could have given me assistance with transferring my military qualifications and assistance with CV writing which did not exist at that time. All I was offered a lump sum for my training and told to find a course I wanted to do and get on with it.
Things are definitely better now, as the military has a system to help individuals with the process of leaving. It still has issues, as one size does not fit all and most of the individuals who run the system have never actually worked in the civilian sector and have no real idea of what it is like out there. They leave the military or civil service posts and fall into these roles and they have an idea of what we should be doing next, but what not what we could do next. This is why I got pushed down the Security Guard route and not the Telecoms route, even though I was supposed to be a telecoms engineer.
In an ideal world, the military would be educating servicemen and women on the day the finish their initial training to help them prepare for leaving, getting their military training courses, not just the ones they do in basic training, but further along their careers, getting these courses recognised and accredited by civilian training providers so they make sense to civilian employers.
I also believe there should be personnel scattered up and down the country who can give advice and help on local issues for service leavers, rather than leaving it to the charities like SSAFA and Royal British Legion who can only get involved when people have fallen through the cracks. I’d like to see all councils have a dedicated point of contact for service personnel who can share local information and assistance prior to leaving, because when I left the forces, the local council employees were in some cases a bit stand-offish and in one case down right hostile to the fact that I was military. That’s an attitude that belongs in the past.
We’d love to hear your experiences of leaving – when did you leave and how was the process for you?