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Reservists prepare for Uniform to Work Day

Uniform to Work Day will mean many reservists leaving their suit and tie at home and donning their Forces uniform to wear to work instead. Last…

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Uniform to Work Day will mean many reservists leaving their suit and tie at home and donning their Forces uniform to wear to work instead. Last year, thousands of reservists took part in the initiative to show their pride in giving their time for their country.

Uniform to Work Day is part of the build-up to Armed Forces Day, when the public are encouraged to show their support to serving personnel and their families, reservists and veterans.

Amongst the reservists already preparing for the event is the Royal Naval Reserve’s Able Seaman Ritchie Wilkinson, from London, who is a studio manager on ITV1’s This Morning show.

As part of his job he manages the technical side of live TV, plus crews and equipment, in a high-pressure environment. Although he fulfilled his ambition by going into broadcasting, he also felt a calling to join the Services:

As a schoolboy, there were two career choices that I wanted to follow; one of them was to join the Royal Navy and the other was to be a film director,” he said. “After reading film and television at university I was lucky enough to get a job in TV relatively quickly. But I always felt that I had missed out on the opportunities of the Royal Navy.

I saw an advert for the Royal Naval Reserves and realised then it was possible to have my cake and eat it and I relish the chances given to me, to learn new skills required by the Navy, and combine this with my full-time career.

Reservist Private Eddie Binns, from Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, serves in the Territorial Army (TA). Always regretting not signing up when he was younger, he decided to join the TA just before the cut-off age for new recruits.

A welder in his day job, he has served in the Territorial Army for two years. He deployed to Afghanistan in March on his first six-month operational tour with 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment, deployed with 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. He said:

Joining the Territorial Army is something I had always wanted to do but just never got round to doing. Then I learnt I could miss out on the chance because of my age so decided to join when I was 42 - with the cut-off for new recruits being 43 years old.

It’s fantastic, and going out to Afghanistan is something that I had never thought I would do. I have never experienced the camaraderie I share with these young men. The youngest soldier alongside me is 18, the same age as my daughter, and the oldest is 30 - almost 15 years my junior. Despite the age gap though, I’m treated no differently than any other rifleman within the section and carry out regular patrolling in and around the area of the patrol base.

Since joining the TA, his nephew Sean has been inspired to join the Army and has recently started training with the Royal Logistic Corps.

Senior Aircraftman David Haygarth, who is in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, has also been giving his support to current operations by assisting with the movement and tasking of aircraft flying out of the UK to undertake operations in Libya, under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

What should have been annual training for his Energy Manager role at Hillingdon Borough Council ended up being a real operation when he was called up to support regular Armed Forces personnel following the flights of aircraft destined for forward air bases in Cyprus and Italy, as well as liaising with other UK agencies and personnel at the overseas bases.

He has been a reservist with 600 (City of London) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, since 2004. During his career, his employers have welcomed his additional skills learnt from being a reservist. Senior Aircraftman Haygarth said:

I am really fortunate that my employers fully support my role in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Over the years, my employers have found the skills I have learnt as a reservist have transferred across to my civilian employment. Colleagues also regularly express an interest in the role of the Reserves and are generally keen to know what I have been up to in my other life.

Being a reserve is extremely rewarding and the training has really paid off, especially in first aid, where it has given me the confidence to take the initiative in two life-threatening incidents and step in to provide assistance.

Published 3 June 2011