Getting out of the forces is a daunting time for any soldier. Life in Civvy Street if far more complex than the military regimen guys are used to. In many cases soldiers have joined in they’re late teens and are knocking on 30 or 40 years plus when they leave. This has given them no experience of what to expect. The safety net of having regular pay, food and accommodation can disappear literally overnight. The circuit is unpredictable and as I was told from the very beginning “there is no security in security” ( thanks Jack Parnell ex Royal marine commando). Very often once a soldier walks through those camp gates for the last time, that’s the last the forces have to do with him. There is no turn-key option to set soldiers up with exactly what they want to do and very often their expectations are beyond either their ability or qualifications.
Let’s start with my own experience. I left the regiment in 2001. I was a “premature voluntary release” in other words I bought myself out. I was allowed resettlement and was allowed money to do courses or anything which would prepare me for life on the out. I got an uncle who had an estate agent say I was on work experience with him and I spent my money on a hotel in Ramsgate where he lived, so that I could go down and find somewhere to live. It was of course a misuse of funds but it was never questioned. I stayed in a hotel for around a month while I sorted out my accommodation for when I left. My uncle received a small fee for having me, which we spent on drink and that’s was my resettlement package complete.
Now although this was my choosing and I am not moaning about it whatsoever, it does highlight that soldiers can manipulate funds which should be going towards ensuring they are ready for their next step and use them to achieve other goals. My background eventually got me onto the circuit which was very different from how things are today. Very few lads outside of SF were employed anywhere dangerous and the prices commanded by those with the right skill sets was high. Those days disappeared with Iraq and the age of the contractor. The circuit became circus overnight as hundreds and thousands of ex troops and even the odd civvy rushed out to claim their stake of the “big money.”
The typical thing that happens, guys pay all their money to companies in return for a body guarding course and on completion, they get the SIA (Security Industry Authority) badge as required in the UK for anyone wishing to work in security. The alternative is to ply your cash into getting the required paperwork enabling you to work on the ships fending off pirates. I see all too often guys getting out expecting to earn huge wages only find out that it’s actually a big fat myth. Nonetheless they pay over the odds to become proficient in jobs which are unavailable unless you are in the know or have the right background.
This is all very well and good, but in the first place companies have worked out exactly how much a soldier gets so that they can command the lot. And this leaves nothing for him for anything else. With the current climate, most guys will be lucky to get any employment in either the commercial protection or anti piracy world and have just wasted their dough. I know companies who will qualify you for around five hundred pounds. If it’s purely a license you are after and quite frankly if you get out and your skill sets don’t stack up for any of the aforementioned jobs, just maybe you should think about what you really want to do; because the work will not be there for three and a half grand course or not. Once a guy does find work in places like Afghanistan or on the oilfields of Iraq, he then finds out that the daily rate is as low as £120 in some instances. Insurance packages are non-existent and he is only paid while in theatre (nobody pays a retainer anymore).
The anti-piracy can be even worse with guys only getting paid their full rate (120) when actually in pirate water. The rest of the time they can drop as low as £50 a day and receive nothing on travel days. And of course we have all seen the lack of support the guys who are in prison in India are receiving. It is shocking to see what guys are getting paid for the risks they are taking. A head door supervisor on any decent club in London will earn twice as much as a geezer running seriously dangerous routes in the Middle East.
I would strongly advise for soldiers to think very carefully about what they expect from Civvy Street before they hand in their notice. The grass is not greener on the out and in many cases it’s actually non-existent. Once you have decided what you want to do even and if it is to try to get on the circuit, you should box extremely cleverly with your resettlement money its to ensure you don’t get ripped off and to help you find some sustainable income. Civvy Street will promise you the world but in reality, until cash is actually going in your account, it is all bull shit. I have seen countless guys promised the world who have then put themselves in precarious positions only to find out there never was anything in the first place. Even this week I have seen a guy return to the parachute regiment because its better than anything out here and he will one day get a half decent pension if he does the time.
The gold rush is over and the guys out there now in many cases have no choice because they took on big commitments when the money was good. The companies know this and exploit them. I personally would not go anywhere near a hostile environment for less than at least £250 a day and that would be an exception. I have had to adapt and try to make things work elsewhere as the circuit fell apart around my ears. Poor wages and lengthy spells away from my loved ones made things not worth doing any more. If you are a young lad in the forces now, stick it out is my advice. It won’t always be quiet and you will be rewarded well for your full service.
Featured image courtesy of YouTube