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Reasons for wanting to become an Army officer

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
I thought, after years of reading all manner of interesting and sometimes technical and complex threads on how/whether to get to the RMA and commission, that it might be helpful and perhaps interesting for those young men and women wanting to become Army officers, if the view from 'the other side' was aired.

In all too many threads about commissioning, there's a focus on process, on post-Service dis- and advantages to having been an officer, on cap badge selection, on educational qualifications - and, of course, the perennial topic of AOSB and how to blag it.

In the minority of cases do I sense any particular aspiration towards, or even interest in, the core activity of Army officers, which is commanding soldiers. I know we're expected to take this as read, but, all too often, that's dismissed as something which needs to be done, almost as an adjunct to wearing the Garter stars and cutting about in an embroidered cap badge.

Here's my take, as a long-retired, long-service SNCO. I wanted my officers to enjoy the company of soldiers I wanted my officers to listen to good advice but make good decisions based on that advice and their own judgement. I wanted to be able to trust my officers implicitly not to fuck me or my guys for personal or career advantage.

The British soldier is a complex and demanding beast to command and lead. I said elsewhere, some years ago, that "They're simultaneously horrible and magnificent people: vile, lazy, dishonest and devious - and hard-working, hilarious and utterly dependable when needed." I stand by that statement. I felt privileged when I achieved sufficient rank to start commanding and leading them and I wanted - and want - my officers to feel similarly privileged.

Now. we all know that the holy Army Officers' Career Path, for which the Army provides a bearer ecology, sees probably the bulk of an officers' time spent away from direct command of soldiers (as we have all manner of interesting staff jobs which require a highly-trained and steely-eyed dealer of death and born leader to do), but all those jobs are in direct support of Private Fucknuts, who's at the sharp end and whose life, at some point, is in your hands.

There might come a time, as an Army officer, when you call upon Private Fucknuts to do some dangerous shit and perhaps be killed in the doing and that's the ultimate charge that's laid on the officer. I want to be able, ultimately, to trust you not to waste the loyalty and confidence of Private Fucknuts.
 
I suppose you served more or less in my generation and things seem to have changed a great deal since then. When I see posts here from potential officers today, they seem to focus more on pay and conditions (of officers) and career progression to 55. I suppose this is inevitable when most officers today have student loans to repay but in my day, the maxim was you don´t join the army to make money. you will earn enough to survive (just). I must confess that as a Guardsman, I was quite focussed on the idea of joining a "smart" regiment and all that goes with that. But along with that, I was constantly worried while I was at Sandhurst about how I would manage to lead my soldiers, how they would react to me, is it really the career for me. What I found when I got to my regiment was that a troop of 12 men, like any group contains all sorts; the joker, the introvert, the seriously able, the seriously useless etc. My Tp CoH was actually a Cpl filling a gap and turned out to be a completely no nonsense, competent, polite, slightly humourless fellow, who went on to WO2 eventually. I was very thankful for his tutorage but he did have the slightly irritating habit of starting sentences with the phrase "with the greatest respect sir........" which always meant I was going to get a bollocking. One piece of advice that was floated about in those days was that being an officer was not a popularity contest. Agreed, but neither was it an unpopularity contest. One of my colleagues who used to tout that trite line is still villified on the Association page today for being a dick. The correct balance is to be straight with your men, be serious when you need to be, know when to relax and above all, don´t confuse them.
 
There used to be an ad for Army officers, which showed a grubby finger on the trigger of an SLR, with the strapline "Could you give the order to fire?".

Anyone from a LCpl up can give that order, but dealing with the consequences and immediate aftermath is where the officer bit comes in. Personally, I honestly thought as a late teenager that I could do that, and pursued the route. It didn't work out, and I ended up as a soldier. Having then spent 10 years in the Army, I am now very glad indeed that it didn't work out back then, because it certainly has now. And those 10 years also confirmed to me that while I could have given the order, I probably wasn't right guy to do so.

I see a lot of threads on here about "I have qual X, so I am thinking of joining as an officer". It really isn't about qual X=career Y, it's about the personal qualities of the individual. It takes a certain type of person to fit the mould, and if I'm honest, not all of those qualities are ultimately desirable in other ways. RMAS doesn't turn out "Supermen", it turns out basic platoon commanders. Some of them go on to be "Supermen", either in or out of the mob, some become pension slaves, and some fall on stony ground.
 

MoleBath

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Being an officer is about doing what is right , whether popular or not. Soldiers want an officer they can admire , who is fair and who cares about them .Not an easy pushover or someone currying favour. They also like an officer to be lucky (shift the odds by practising things discretely in advance). At times your soldiers will drive you to distraction, especially in the early days. Persevere, you will find reliability ,loyalty and comradeship unknown in the outside world. By mid career you will attain a Golder retriever as an added bonus.
 
...By mid career you will attain a Golder retriever as an added bonus.

They’re not always a bonus.



The stupid cow rubbed herself in pine marten shït before coming indoors the other day...
 
There used to be an ad for Army officers, which showed a grubby finger on the trigger of an SLR, with the strapline "Could you give the order to fire?".

Anyone from a LCpl up can give that order, but dealing with the consequences and immediate aftermath is where the officer bit comes in. Personally, I honestly thought as a late teenager that I could do that, and pursued the route. It didn't work out, and I ended up as a soldier. Having then spent 10 years in the Army, I am now very glad indeed that it didn't work out back then, because it certainly has now. And those 10 years also confirmed to me that while I could have given the order, I probably wasn't right guy to do so.

I see a lot of threads on here about "I have qual X, so I am thinking of joining as an officer". It really isn't about qual X=career Y, it's about the personal qualities of the individual. It takes a certain type of person to fit the mould, and if I'm honest, not all of those qualities are ultimately desirable in other ways. RMAS doesn't turn out "Supermen", it turns out basic platoon commanders. Some of them go on to be "Supermen", either in or out of the mob, some become pension slaves, and some fall on stony ground.

The uncomfortable truth that the system does not want to acknowledge.
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
Being an officer is about doing what is right , whether popular or not. Soldiers want an officer they can admire , who is fair and who cares about them .Not an easy pushover or someone currying favour. They also like an officer to be lucky (shift the odds by practising things discretely in advance). At times your soldiers will drive you to distraction, especially in the early days. Persevere, you will find reliability ,loyalty and comradeship unknown in the outside world. By mid career you will attain a Golder retriever as an added bonus.
With the greatest respect, I don't think I ever looked to officers as an object of admiration. Trust, certainly - as I noted above, admiration, naah.
 
Is it not to become a snappy dresser and driver of an Audi A3?
 
As an Officer that was never trusted with staff work, and who had the privilege of serving 'three' tours as a Infantry Platoon Commander. And they were not short ones either as they spanned 77 - 84!
I have had great fun, deep sorrow and no shortage of experience in digging them out of the shite, 24 CMs, numerous visits to local nicks and no end of COs orders. I have watched them systematically remove a fleet of MBTs accessories and spares, turn a main line railway station into a pork pie firing range which would have made the front page of the Independent today.
I have covered up for some close run things, and dug my Pl Sgt out of the Police station in Inverness after the jocks took a night club apart. In all that chaos I have never felt safer, better looked after and although my career peaked well before many of my peers, it was an experience that shaped me.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
One piece of advice that was floated about in those days was that being an officer was not a popularity contest. Agreed, but neither was it an unpopularity contest.

Is the second half of this a go-to HCR line? I remember hearing it from the HCR SO1 at the recce wing when I was on Troop Leaders.

It is quite a good line.
 

Cruthin1967

Old-Salt
In the minority of cases do I sense any particular aspiration towards, or even interest in, the core activity of Army officers, which is commanding soldiers. I know we're expected to take this as read, but, all too often, that's dismissed as something which needs to be done, almost as an adjunct to wearing the Garter stars and cutting about in an embroidered cap badge.
I concur with my learned friend: two follow-up observations.
1. The Army has lost a lot of good officers in recent years who did well as platoon and company commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan - but had no interest re the greasy-pole of staff appointments. And that's a tragedy.
2. As one of the RMAS DS (ex-Scots Guards, as they all seemed to be) said: those above a JO may control his career, only those below him in rank will ever save his life. Tried to remember that whenever returning a salute.
 
I concur with my learned friend: two follow-up observations.
1. The Army has lost a lot of good officers in recent years who did well as platoon and company commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan - but had no interest re the greasy-pole of staff appointments. And that's a tragedy.
2. As one of the RMAS DS (ex-Scots Guards, as they all seemed to be) said: those above a JO may control his career, only those below him in rank will ever save his life. Tried to remember that whenever returning a salute.

My Bold. This is probably the reason that now ALL Majors have to complete ICSC(L) to substantiate which is pushing a lot of LE's towards positions that they neither want or feel comfortable doing.
 
As a regular member of Regimental Selection Boards at RMAS I hear the same reasons for joining the Army and my Regiment as my mates and I rolled 20 years ago. Thankfully, I don't get asked about pensions, service to 60 and annual leave allowance but what I do see is another generation ready and willing to serve their country. The end product is pretty good, certainly young officers are a good deal more professional than when I joined. My advice to them now and those who want to join the Army as officers is - command is a privilege, lead from the front and don't be a dick!
 
As a regular member of Regimental Selection Boards at RMAS I hear the same reasons for joining the Army and my Regiment as my mates and I rolled 20 years ago. Thankfully, I don't get asked about pensions, service to 60 and annual leave allowance but what I do see is another generation ready and willing to serve their country. The end product is pretty good, certainly young officers are a good deal more professional than when I joined. My advice to them now and those who want to join the Army as officers is - command is a privilege, lead from the front and don't be a dick!

Reading all of the above, it all boils down to the words we all wore on our cap badge at RMAS,

”SERVE TO LEAD””
 

Chef

LE
Having reached the lofty heights of full screw, may I quote GMF from 'The general danced at dawn':

'But instead he fell back on the Selection Board classic, which is: 'Why do you want to be an officer?'

The honest answer, of course, is to say, like Israel Hands 'Because I want their pickles and wines and that.' and to add that you are sick of being shoved around like a low-life, and want to lord it over your fellow man for a change. But honest answer never won fair psychiatrist yet, so I assumed my thoughtful stuffed look, and said earnestly that I simply wanted to serve the army in my most useful useful capacity, and I felt, honestly, sir, that I could do the job. The pay was a lot better, too, but I kept that thought to myself.'
 

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