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Question for Royal Naval Reservists

For what it's worth - as an ex PO(Comms RNR). I served from August 81 to Mar 94. Parent unit was HMS Northwood (yes, really. As mentioned in Yes, Prime Minister 'Grand Design' episode....blah blah blah). To answer the q's:

1. How do reservists act outside the military environment? Do they keep the military personality with them through their workplace? Or do they 'switch it off'?

Each to their own but I found it best to switch off. Anyone who hasn't served won't understand anyway and two weeks in Benidorm on a package holiday doesn't come anywhere close to a deployment in Gib or wherever when you are doing a job and being paid to be there. To start talking about 'runs ashore', 'watches', 'scran', 'dhoby' and so on at work will only piss off your work colleagues. Mostly it's jealousy but I found it better to switch off and keep quiet unless asked.

2. On going on deployments are you really recognised as part of the Royal Navy? Are you appreciated or seen as not relevant?

Down to the individual and their attitude. I served in several ships and was always told not to mention I was a reservist. As far as my shipmates and the boss were concerned I was ship's company. I was by no means the exception but it is very much down to the individual - give it your very best and you'll be fine. Trying to use being a reservist as an excuse for not doing your very best will go against you and puts the RNR in a bad light. Generally, the level of knowledge / competence should be the same as full time colleagues. It's usually the lack of day to day experience that slows you down because you have to think about what you are doing, get used to the kit, find your way around the ship etc.. As a reservist you should be competent but will be slower - but slowness is overcome once you've got stuck in. You have to make the effort, show initiative, switch on and think ahead. Once learned these are quailities that you can use in your day job - and that is where the difference between an out and out civvy and a reservist begins to show.

3. In terms of promotion, I've heard it's a challenge just to get onto the LH course each year. How straightforward is promotion? And, are you recognised within your unit?

Cannot comment on this one as things have changed since my time. I understand that nowadays it's points based and advancement/promotion depends on vacancies across the fleet. For us old and bold it was task book plus completion of courses - passed of course - and general conduct etc. Advanced to PO, promoted to Chief all within the unit, not in competition with others.

4. Looking at some of the staff at my unit, I don't see them as true RN types (no offence), but I see them as civilians acting as military people with half the RN standard - and thats hard to shake off when your in there. Even the CO is a civilian! When talking to each other, do you regard yourselves as military or the sea cadet type?

When training it is very much about adopting a RN attitude because that's what the training is about but in the mess, just be yourself - often there'll be ex RN in the mess so the banter etc varies. I've found it to be a mix of both RN/Civvy - even at RNR reunions - ex Northwoods meet around once every six weeks or so - it's a mixture of both. It's whatever you feel comfortable with and suits the environment you are in. Just don't force it... go with the flow.

5. When doing the job, how do you fit it all in? Is it done through monthly/yearly planning? What do you tell your employer about going on deployment?

Difficult one. I used to work for BT when I was in the RNR and my supervisor was ex Army and his boss was ex RN both valued RNR training and back then BT provided quite generous special paid leave for it. So for me and others at BT, going off on full time training with the RN wasn't a problem - although of course it had to be booked and due notice given. Other employers might not be so accommodating. I recently worked for a local authority and one of the bosses there was dead against any reservist training, irrespective of what Cameron and his boys might say or want.

6. Do you see it as a hobby or another job? Does your branch/rank reflect the type of job you're doing?

Definitely a job. When I joined the RNR I was a field service engineer fixing fork lift trucks; when I left I was a sales manager with BT in the City of London. That progression was down to the RN and the training and self-confidence it gave me. For that reason alone I feel I owe the RN / RNR a lot and am eternally grateful for having had the opportunity. If I'd have wanted a hobby I'd have collected stamps or something....

7. What on earth do RNR officers do? I always thought there was no such thing as a part-time manager!?

You'd be surprised. Check out the RNR website. One of our officers (an Iranian and ex Northwood. When Northwood was paid off and HMS Wildfire took over he became part of Wildfire), had special skills and has received an award. Many of our officers were Int, others were Naval Control of Shipping (NCS).

Hope this helps....
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