Ben’s Blog – Armed Forces Day

Ben’s Story

I joined The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) in May 1996, aged 16, enrolling in intake 96B at Princess Marina College as an apprentice Electronics Technician. This involved far more academic work than I expected, and I didn’t get to my 1st unit, 47th Regiment Royal Artillery, until early 1999. I spent 4 years here taking in deployments to The Falkland Islands and Canada.

In 2003 I was loaded on to my Class 1 course after which I was posted to The Kings’ Royal Hussars, which as with all Armoured Units proved to be a very busy post with countless exercises, Range packages and an Operational tour to Iraq on TELIC 6. During this period, I completed various career courses and after 4 enjoyable years I was loaded on my Artificer Electronics Course at Arborfield. A degree accredited course and an excellent example of how the Military has equated their own courses, skills and experiences into Civilian recognised qualifications.

Following my Artificer course, at the end of 2008, I was posted to 11 Training Battalion REME (School of Electronic and Aeronautical Engineering in old money) to teach Challenger 2 Electronics. I found this an extremely rewarding post teaching the next generation of tradesmen/women. I also gained some civilian accredited teaching qualifications and had a 4-month detachment to Oman. It was here that I learnt about Loan Service posts and eventually led to my next posting which was to be 3 years in Oman starting in 2011.

Oman proved to be best the best time of my Military career for both myself and family. My role was the Electronics advisor to the Royal Army of Oman, Armoured Brigade based an hour and half from Muscat. It was a great job, but it was definitely more about the lifestyle. Following Oman, I was posted to The Serious Equipment Failure Investigation Team (SEFIT) in 2014 which was later to become The Defence Accident Investigation Branch (DAIB). I definitely preferred it as the former with the focus more on Engineering failure, something I have always been passionate about. The work I conducted in this post was a key factor in gaining my IEng accreditation with the IMechE, another significant benefit the REME offer their tradesmen.

In 2017 it was time to head back to the field Army with my final posts being with 19th Regiment RA and 4 Battalion REME, both in Tidworth. It was a nice way to end my Military career, finishing as a WO1 (ASM) at an active field force Unit. The tradesmen remained as good as I remember, but unfortunately all too small in number.

 My transition is very much in its infancy but has so far been positive, undoubtedly helped by my geographic location and the network I formed while serving. The recruitment process, with Engage, was very relaxed and it felt extremely personal which for me was very important. Although the recruitment process was relaxed, in only a week in the job, I can see that the process is very effective with all my peers demonstrating the same pro-active, professional approach I want to be a part of.

 

Mark’s Blog – Armed Forces Day

Mark’s Story

I joined the Army in 1986 as an Apprentice Tradesman and spent 2 years at the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) 6th Form college studying electrical engineering to enable me to qualify as a Radar Technician.

Postings to Larkhill, Kirton In Lindsay (twice), Reading and Bristol followed over the next 15 years.  I worked almost exclusively on the Rapier Air Defence Guided Weapons platform and completed numerous live firing exercises in the Outer Hebrides, as well as many UK and overseas exercises and an Operational tour in Northern Ireland. 

I was selected for a Late Entry Officer Commission in the REME in 2003 and spent the next 16 years in a variety of roles, from training delivery to engineering workshop management, media operations to strategic equipment planning.  I also conducted two further Operational tours, both in Helmand.  I left the Army as a Lt Colonel in March 2019 after 33 years of service.

I have been fortunate enough throughout my career to have worked with a large number of highly motivated and talented service men and women of all ranks.  I have been able to learn something from all of them that helped me to maximise my potential as a soldier, officer and professional engineer, and I would offer this as a key observation to all of those who are serving.  Try and listen to those around you, and by doing so commit to look past the rank of those who are speaking.  Value ideas and opinions on their own merit, not upon the rank slide and cap badge of the person who is speaking.

I have been with Engage Technical solutions since I left the Army, although I worked with a number of the Engage Project Managers and Consultants during my last posting at Army HQ in Andover – their positive and professional demeanour were part of the reason I chose Engage over a number of other opportunities.  Most, but by no means all, of the Engage team have some kind of military background, and they have welcomed me into the company with open arms.  It is a matter of great pride to all of us that we are part of a company that are Silver Award holders of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.

As A Principal Consultant at Engage, it is my responsibility to reach out to the many talented individuals across all three services, including Veterans, and actively recruit those whose professional aspirations and key skills that best match the opportunities available with Engage.  Having recently been through the resettlement process, I recognise how daunting the thought of leaving the Armed Forces can be.  Having been helped along several steps of the way by the Engage team, I can confidently say that those companies who actively support the Military Covenant, and Engage is certainly one, should be at the top of any Service Leaver’s list for advice and that all-important networking activity.

 

Adam’s Blog – Armed Forces Day

Adam’s Story

As I look back on my military career to date, I feel blessed to have been exposed to the people, places, experiences and opportunities that I have been.  My 33-year journey from being a 16-year old junior soldier to commanding on operations as a company commander, battalion commander and group commander is not unique but has certainly moulded me into the person I am today.  In my early years, running up hills and parachuting (including training jumps into Arnhem, Normandy and the English Channel) provided the high points.  More latterly, the privilege, heartache, excitement and challenge of commanding soldiers in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan are the times that have stuck with me.  I still think the exceptional highs and lows of operations brings out the very best in our people.  

Having now spent the last 3 years as a committed Reserve soldier with a Regular background, and having set up my own company with my wife Amanda (Dragonfly Directors Ltd), the life-long learning experience continues.  On the Reserve front, I’m impressed every week by the commitment and sacrifice that our Reserve soldiers make in balancing a full-time job with their family, their Reserve service, and any other extra-mural responsibilities they may have; as Winston Churchill is often paraphrased as saying – ’twice the citizen’.  In business, when compared to my military experience, the number of people who fail to do what they say they will, when they say they will and to the standard they say they can is significantly high.  For those serving, and for veterans in business, I’d offer two key insights from this.  Firstly, be kind on yourself; the values, standards and personal discipline that comes so naturally to you is significantly greater than the majority of the population.  Secondly, be choosy with who you work with; maintain your own personal standards, know your bottom line and pair yourself with organisations that recognise your strengths. 

Engage is a company I’ve chosen on more than one occasion.  They have an intimate understanding of the military mind, they operate as a team, they focus on high standards and they genuinely care about the customer.  Each time I’ve worked with and for Engage, I’ve been enthused.  Maybe no surprise that Engage have signed up to the Military Covenant, are Silver Award holders of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme and actively recruit a mix of quality individuals from both Industry and from within each of the three Armed Services.  

So, as we approach Armed Forces Day and recognise the exceptional work of the men and women currently serving and of those that have served in the past, I’d like to thank  Engage.  Engage knows talent, spots talent and utilises talent from our Armed Forces and Veteran communities in a way that is quite exceptional.  Keep doing what you do Engage!

 

Louise’s Blog – Armed Forces Day

Louise’s Story

By the time I retired from the RAF in 2007 I had spent half my life in ‘light blue’. But it had never been my intention to join the Armed Forces. Other than developing an obsession with fast jet aircraft – a result of having grown up near what was then BAC Warton with Lightnings and Tornados flying low-level over our house – I had no connection with the military and no interest in a military career. It was a chance sighting of a newspaper advertisement written in German which led to my interest in joining the RAF. I was studying modern languages at University and it seemed the RAF needed linguists! From that point it was a pretty speedy process to being offered a date for the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre at Biggin Hill. And so, what started as proving to my parents that I could actually get a proper job became a thoroughly rewarding, exciting and varied 22-year career as Training and Development officer! And, apart from a rather miserable cold soggy night in a bivouac on Salisbury Plain during officer training, I never looked back or wondered what might have been.

As an internal training consultant there was never a dull moment – filling a range of training-related roles and supporting many different teams and organisations across Defence including officer and recruit training; nuclear, biological and chemical defence; PR; media training; and information systems and services. I also worked with the RN, the Army and the Civil Service, visiting many parts of the globe and flying in many different aircraft types. When I joined the RAF, women had only recently been awarded combatant status and equal pay; many roles were closed to us and we were obliged to leave on pregnancy. We were still in the midst of the Cold War and facing an ever-present terrorist threat from the IRA. This was our normal. Much has changed since the mid-1980s, and the changes keep coming – at ever-increasing pace. The lines between peace and war have become blurred and technology presents a multiplicity of challenges which we simply could not have foreseen back in those days.

The role of the learning and development consultant in any organisation is a broad one – from analysing the impact on people of the introduction of a new process, policy or piece of equipment through scoping the requirement, agreeing learning outcomes and designing learning activities to delivery and evaluation of those activities – which of course include not only formal classroom learning but also remote, online and social learning, job shadowing, mentoring and reflective practice. In much the same way as with acquisition, a pragmatic, evidence-based, iterative approach governs the whole learning and development cycle, providing quality assurance and allowing continuous refinement and adjustment so that the product remains relevant and continues to deliver benefit. Investment in human capability should be managed with the same diligence and scrutiny as investment in any other type of capability! For me it is an ideal mix of ‘left brain’ needs analysis and research work and the more creative ‘right brain’ activity involved in the design and delivery of learning programmes and workshops.

I took the decision to retire from the RAF for a variety of reasons, but mostly to achieve greater stability for my 2 young children. Having considered the various options open to me, I quickly realised that my capabilities were portable and that I remained as enthusiastic as ever about helping organisations to grow and improve through harnessing the potential of their people. Since then I’ve worked as an independent practitioner with a variety of organisations, from small charities to big multi-nationals as well as in the public sector, with Defence, Health, local Government and Education. The close-knit community of the Armed Forces endures long after retirement and has stood me in exceptionally good stead, generating numerous professional opportunities but also providing incredibly important friendships, many forged over 30 years ago.

Through this network, in 2014, I became an associate of Engage and, while I didn’t have their usual technical profile and background, they secured a valuable opportunity for me to work at the Defence Academy as part of the Defence Education Pathway team. We were tasked with developing new and adapted learning activities for military officers and civil servants to equip them to face future defence and security challenges, taking into account advances in technology, the changing character of warfare and developments in approaches to learning. I’ve been able to draw on my previous experience of and my passion for focusing on leadership and team behaviours and on the benefits of investing in people’s education and development – better motivation, engagement and productivity and better outcomes for Defence. It’s been a busy, fascinating and really broad role – engaging across the Armed Forces and Civil Service as well as with related programmes in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France and Germany. Being back in Defence – but as a contractor – has enabled me to bring related external experience and a certain objectivity to the role, while having a military background has meant I can slot straight in and understand both the language and the ethos, as well as being able to ‘fast-track’ the development of those essential stakeholder relationships based on trust.

The world of the Defence contractor isn’t for everyone – but it works incredibly well for me, bringing as it does flexibility and freedom of choice in my working arrangements but also enabling me to continue to support an organisation which has formed such a significant part of my life and for which I still have an enormous amount of affection.

Vince’s Blog – Armed Forces Day

Vince’s Story

I joined the Army in August 1982, having completed a civilian engineering apprenticeship. This was the realisation of an ambition I had since the age of 10! On completion of Basic Military Training at the REME Depot in Arborfield I started my basic armourer trade training at the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (SEME) based at Bordon.

On completion of trade training I was posted to 7 Armoured Workshop REME in Fallingbostel, north Germany. It’s worth remembering that in 1983 the Cold War was still going on, consequently much of my time was spent on military exercises around the north German Plains. However, as one of only a few individuals with a motorbike license I often found myself “away from trade” and being used as a Dispatch Rider for regimental, other units and Brigade exercises. Utter freedom – riding around Germany, albeit on a decrepit 250cc bike from the 2nd WW, which usually required on-going maintenance and repair (mostly at night and with tools taken from my armourer’s toolbox!). However, these exercises developed in me a love of operational life, as well as beginning to grasp just how complex the military world was outside an armourer’s workshop.

I was then posted to the Berlin Infantry Brigade, attached to the Royal Highland Fusiliers and then The Black Watch. This was 1986 and the Berlin Wall still divided the city, which at this time was in the Democratic Republic of East Germany, enemy territory! In fact, part of the Wall ran through the back of our Camp – many a time a rugby ball would disappear into “No Man’s Land”. Having taken my wife from the rural simplicity of northern Germany to the bright lights of Berlin, did compensate in some way to the fact I was, yet again, apparently always away on exercise. This was in part due to the need to travel back to West Germany for firing camps – so trips to Sennelager or back to Fallingbostel ranges was quite a logistical challenge.

Following this posting to Berlin and completion of my Armourer Upgrade course back at SEME I found myself in Aldershot working with the Artillery. This was to be the start of a very long relationship with the Royal Artillery. During my time in Aldershot I was selected for Artificer Training – so back to Bordon I went for just short of 2 years. Promotion to staff sergeant pending my wife anticipated living in one of the more salubrious quarters on the “patch. Having no children meant that we ended up 3 doors away from where we started during my basic training!

On completion of my Artificer Course in 1992 I was posted to Plymouth and back to the Artillery supporting the Commando Brigade. My plan to remain in the Plymouth area was short lived as I and my wife and a 10- month old daughter) moved back to Berlin to assist in the close-down of Berlin Brigade – the Wall had come down and unification of East and West Germany had occurred. With greater freedom to visit what had been East Germany I was able to find out what lay on the other side of the Wall – eastern Germany was a treasure trove of historical buildings, not all demolished or spoilt during the Cold War. With the closure of Berlin Brigade, I found myself back in the UK. This time working alongside the RAF at RAF Brize Norton. Here I was training personnel on maintaining aerial delivery equipment. One of the benefits of this posting was that it was tri-Service. This meant that I had to deliver maintainer training courses to RAF personnel based in Hong Kong – what a blow!

Somewhat unfortunately, promotion got in the way and I was posted after only 10 months to the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham. I was to be an instructor on indirect fire weapon systems. On first arriving at Shrivenham (where the Defence Academy now resides) I thought I’d entered a museum, destined to be the janitor and my military career had ground to a halt. How wrong could I have been. In fact, this was an amazing post: investigating other nations weapon systems, instructing all levels of military personnel on weapons technology, having my own weapon system to play with and maintain (this ranged from rocket launchers to state-of-the-art self-propelled weapons) and assisting students in their post-graduate studies. I, too, given support in completing my OU degree. Of course, all this joy comes at a cost. Yet again I had to travel, of note were the trips to Paris and then to Bermuda where I assisted the resident Bermudan force in maintaining and training with their artillery systems.

In 1998 I was posted to 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (3RHA) in the role of Artificer Sergeant Major (ASM) in the REME Workshop, I deployed to the Balkans for a winter tour over the 1998/1999 and then returned to Kosovo in 2001. In 2002 I was selected for a Late Entry Commission into REME and so left 3RHA to start a new career as a REME officer.

My first appointment as a REME officer was as the Welfare Officer for 6 Battalion REME based in Tidworth. Yet again, the experiences gained from leading the welfare support for a battalion (and this includes the families) deployed on operations in Iraq would stand me in good stead when I would deploy my own workshop in support of Op Herrick in Afghanistan in 2005. However, before ending my tour as Welfare Officer I reverted to the technical roles I was more familiar and deployed to Bosnia again and then Iraq as the technical support officer in the respective National Support Elements HQs. It was whilst in Iraq that I was notified that I had been selected for the officer commanding a REME Workshop supporting a Royal Engineer regiment that supported infrastructure builds to deployed RAF units.

I returned home from Iraq in 2004, moved the family from Tidworth to Waterbeach near Cambridge, and prepared for what I thought would be more of a support to operations role than being deployed on operations. You can see where this is going……. I deployed to Scotland – north-east of Glasgow to support a Military Aid to the Civil Community (MACC) task, whereby the Royal Engineer regiment would undertake infrastructure builds around the communities in Scotland – I thought I would just be supporting the equipment being used, this was true, but the REME Workshop also had its own task to build an adventure playground in an activities centre. This was followed shortly in 2005 by notification that the Regiment was to prepare for operations in Afghanistan. The task was not to be underestimated – the Regiment would build the runway and camp infrastructure that would become Camp BASTION; but included other significant building projects across the theatre of operations and comprised several particularly hairy helicopter rides as part of the Recce Team! I often had opportunity to fly over Camp Bastion and comparing photos of what the location looked like when I first arrived – mostly desert – to the finished camp (albeit improvements would continue throughout the campaign) it was a proud moment to see the results of the Royal Engineers’ efforts and my small part in that success.

I returned to Waterbeach to prepare for my final 6 months in command of the Workshop and my handover to the incoming Officer Commanding. In due course I was posted, taken up operations post in Army HQ, then based out of Wilton, near Salisbury in Wiltshire. I was part of a team that responsible for the deployment of support equipment needed to maintain and repair the equipment used in every operation the UK was engaged in worldwide. Whilst this was a particularly high-pressure role, it confirmed, probably what I had learnt throughout my career thus far, that teamwork, collaboration and a ruthless desire to succeed are the hallmarks of the military’s character. Again, working with a number of organisations I managed to swing ‘business meetings’ in the Falklands, back to Iraq and several more out to Afghanistan, once even managing to fly business class as far as Kuwait (but then being flown in to Iraq under cover of darkness, during which time the helicopter pilot tested his missile decoy flares whereby I thought we had been struck by anti-aircraft fire – heart rate through the roof is probably the politest way of explaining how I thought things were going!

Selected for further training at Shrivenham, now the Defence Academy, I had a year of learning more about the Defence environment. The family were settled and there really wasn’t any chance of my getting a surprise posting order. Although I was cooped up in my study completing my dissertation!

On completion of Staff College in 2009 I was posted to a small unit based in Warminster that specialized in testing and deploying new equipment to support operations. I was back in my element – the operational space and as expected duly deployed to Afghanistan. With changes in Army structures this niche little unit was absorbed and I moved back to Army Headquarters where I was responsible for systems supporting troops in Afghanistan – almost “poacher turned gamekeeper”.

In 2011 I became the principal engineer with in 1st Artillery Brigade HQ; I was in my element – guns, rockets and surveillance equipment. The Brigade had an enduring responsibility to directly support activities in Afghanistan, so again I was in my ‘natural habitat’. Whilst not directly deploying on operations I was still travelling – the Brigade’s units were spread across the UK from Larkhill to Newcastle and Wales in between.

What was to become my final posting followed my time with 1st Artillery Brigade. I was posted to the Defence Equipment and Support Agency in Abbey Wood, just outside Bristol. This posting provided my first opportunity to get to understand the business perspective of Defence. It was also the time that the UK military was returning from Afghanistan. I came to realise that all my commissioned service had been focused on operations and now it was time to consider my options as a civilian.

I was pleasantly surprised and relived in equal measure at the responses I was getting from my job applications. Consequently, I joined the Civil Service in Bristol and while gaining further experience and qualifications I did feel that I was missing the Service life. This manifested itself in two ways, firstly I enjoyed delivering specific outputs, particularly in the consultancy role and then once completed moving on to something completely different. Secondly, and most profound, was the different character of people I was working with outside of the uniform. I recognized that I was one who needed to translate his skill set and outlook into the civilian environment – not the other way around. This transition did not come as easy as I had expected; I did sometimes wonder whether my leaving the Army before my completion date had been the correct decision.

It is now just over 4 years since I left the Army and I have now really found my niche: I work in Defence across the technical domain; I belong to a company that epitomises the military esprit de corps, engages with each employee to ensure that identified roles and tasks are not only agreed but are suitable for the individual. This ‘family’ approach was the fundamental reason I accepted a position in the company rather than others I was initially about to accept. Here, at Engage Technical Solutions I’m not just an employee number. I have the same sense of belonging as I did when serving – priceless!

I have, however, not completely let go of the service life – I now serve in the Reserves!’

Rick’s Blog – Armed Forces Day

Rick’s Story

I joined the REME as a Vehicle Mechanic in Sept 1982 serving my military basic training in Arborfield and moving to Bordon for my Class 3 trade training. My first posting saw me deploy to Oxford Barracks to the Irish Guards in Munster Germany, where I took part in the largest NATO exercise to have ever deployed ‘Exercise Lion Heart’ (and I believe that is still the case today) amongst other exercises such as ‘Medicine Man 3’ in British Army Training Unit Suffield Canada.

After a brief spell with 204 Signals Sqn, 4 Armoured Brigaded signals Unit, I moved to Regents Park London to ‘20 Sqn Royal Corps of Transport’ as a class 2 Mechanic working on the Queens Cars. This included carrying out Duty Recovery and escorting the Queens Baggage to Airports.

Now a LCpl Class 1 Mechanic, I deployed back to Germany to serve with 12 Air Defence Regiment working on the Towed Rapier equipment. It was here I deployed to the Falklands for a 4-month tour working on the BV206 Snow Cats at Mount Pleasant. Upon my return the 1st Gulf War had already commenced so deployed to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) where I deployed to Bosnia with the United Nations, serving in General Michael Rose Headquarters. On my return I was selected for Artificer Training, returning to Bordon and subsequently promoted to SSgt.

My first posting as an Artificer was to The ‘Queens Royal Hussars’ as an Artificer in charge of a Sqn of Challenger Tanks. During this time, I once again deployed on Battle Group Exercises to Canada and also served in Armagh Northern Ireland as a Multiple Commander as well as a Unit Search Advisor. It was during this time I managed to get City & Guilds Accreditation for all my Search Teams; the first time it had been achieved.

Returning from Northern Ireland I served as a Territorial Army Instructor with 237 Sqn RLC for 2 years then posted to 19 Regiment RA to help re-role the Regiment from Light 105mm Gun to Heavy Gun AS90. It was with 19 Regiment I once again deployed to Bosnia under NATO Security Forces (SFOR).

My last 5 years of service saw me promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2 and posted to 1 Bn REME in Osnabruck as the Battalion Operations Warrant Officer. During this time, I was instrumental deploying the Battalion to Oman on Exercise SAIF SAREEA and also hosted the Russian inspection of Armaments Treaty.

After a brief spell deployed to 1 Division Equipment Support Branch as the Divisional Artificer Sergeant Major (ASM), my final tour of my 23 years was served with 6 Supply Regiment in Gutersloh.

The transition from Military service to civilian life was a challenge to say the least as I resettled in my hometown of Aldridge West Midlands. My first job was as an Engineering Manager working for Travel West Midlands, a very challenging role trying to get to grips with the corporate machine that drives business. The military ethos and resettlement did not prepare us for those type of challenges. I soon realised my talents lie back in the Military world albeit from a supply base rather than a user and so returned as a contractor serving the Defence Tear 1 companies such as BAE and Babcock in the ILS world for Land Sea and Air assets and remained in defence ever since.

 

Armed Forces Day 2019

#ArmedForcesDay is an opportunity for Engage to say thank you to Servicemen and Women, past and present, for serving and protecting the UK. It takes place on 29th June this year.

As proud holders of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award and having signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant. We will be sharing stories from six members of the Engage Family about their time in the forces, leaving the forces and then coming into ‘civvy street’ to #SaluteOurForces.

This campaign will be taking place from Monday 24th June (when the Armed Forces Day flag is raised on famous landmarks around the country) to Friday 28th June with a different article posted each day.

Check back to the page every day to read their stories.

The national event will be held in Salisbury this year but if you are looking for an event to join near you to #SaluteOurForces follow the link below.

Find Events

CTP Employment Fair 2019

Only 1 week to go until this year’s CTP Employment Fair at the University of West England (UWE)!

The Engage team will be on hand to discuss the range of opportunities that we have available at the fair on 13th June.

We are recruiting now for:

• Systems Engineers

• Equipment Support Practitioners

• ILS Practitioners

• Logistic Managers

• Supply Chain Practitioners

• Programme and Project Managers

• Project Controllers

Can’t make it on the day? Drop the team an email with a CV attached to: joinus@engage-ltd.co.uk and we would be happy to discuss our current roles.