SSLC/Gap Year/UGap - A response to Barbs & Mike_2817

As someone who did the SSLC thing a long time ago the following thoughts sprang to mind from the Gap Year with the Paras thread. Shoot me down in flames if you will, but this is my take on the experience.

Barbs wrote:

Mike_2817 I felt very strongly about this in the past. I met GYC officers who were feckless and pointless. I met others who contributed loads to their regiments and battalions. I even met one who was an appalling waste of rations at RD but when he was at university he encouraged everyone he met to join the Army and told them all the realities of life in the mess and unit from his perspective: when they in turn joined their regiments they had learnt from his mistakes.

I am afraid that of the 50 or so who complete the GYC (or UGAP) each year I don't think many have the character to complete the full Commissioning Course - however I have been impressed by the quality of those who do attempt it after university: maybe they would have been good anyway - who can tell?

I was a contemporary of an SSLC Officer who resigned her commission, was commissioned as TA Gp B, then resigned this before being commissioned on Reg C. Some perverts must REALLY love the Factory. At all stages she was not only a fine Officer, but a fantastic laugh. “Sewage”, where are you now?

Who is to blame for GYC officers being a waste of space? I think Regimental Officers have a lot to answer for: they are uninterested in GYC officers insofar as they don't understand their limitations and don't harness their energy. They treat them like other subalterns not realising that they only have 8 months in which to make the most of them - giving them one project that will last 6 months from concept to delivery is not necessarily sensible.

Equally people employ GYC officers so badly... what is the value to the Army of making a GYC 2Lt an asst asst adjt in a Gar HQ with him or her as the only subaltern in the mess? On the other hand making them an officer without specific responsibilities in a relatively busy unit but with a programmed year that is truly energetic (and for this the Gunners must take some credit, pah) is a generous and probably rewarding in the long term for both parties.

I was very lucky to join a Regiment which was in the run up for BATUS, so spent something like 6 of my 10 months on Happy Hohne/Sunny Soltau/Picturesque Prairie on Gunnery Camps and Exercises. A small matter of Op GRANBY cropped up where we were due to be amongst the first replacements so we became very warry for a while. The Regiment gave me a series of posts (starting as Loader/Operator under the guidance of a Tp Cpl) and I got to see the whole shebang from up close. I was known as “paperclip” because I was always attached to something. Perhaps I missed out on the individual Squadron esprit de corps, but I learnt an awful lot about the inner workings of an Armoured Regment.

I also did the customary round of Orderly Officer (honest, I was fairly picked from the Adjutant’s hat for Christmas duties!) and within weeks of arrival took the Regimental Cross Country Ski Team to Norway where I was so awful I was voted the only man in NATO to do langlauf as a contact sport. I was also given the job of running the staging for the Skit night on the Regimental Weekend – a specific project where results could be seen (and I suspect a more senior Officer or an SNCO was quietly watching on to make sure I didn’t drop a complete bollix). During the times I was on duty I dealt with a stabbing, arson, suicides and very deliberate discharge of a weapon over the barrack fence. Quite a lot for an 18/19 year old with 4 weeks at the Factory and a week at Bovvy to deal with. Thanks to support from the whole Regiment and in particular some fantastic Seniors I was allowed to learn by my mistakes and by what I did well, but without being a complete liability to the Regiment.

Again a contemporary joined the RMP (serve her right!) and was the sole 2 Lt in a very grim Garrison Mess. She later cropped up in a TA Unit I served with and I believe subsequently went Reg. I also knew several SSLC types who spent the whole year on AT and were never allowed near Soldiers. I was, at least with a minder on many occasions!

The AT SSLC might have been fun all the time and at the time; I was flaming cold, wet & miserable for periods of mine but feel I got a lot out of it. How much did I put in? Questionable, but I did my best and at the very least gave the boys a laugh and the other Officers a break from duties on a pretty regular basis. At no point beyond the expected banter did I feel that any member of the Regiment was not interested in me (not in that way, M_D_N). I was made most welcome and was just another Rupert to some of the troops, an object of curiosity to the Seniors and God alone knows for the Officers. I was offered a Cadetship, although I expect that that was because of impending amalgamation and the desire to have as many future Subbies as possible from the dark-green side, so can’t have been that disastrous.

What I have found is that people are not willing to be honest with GYC officers because it is easier not to be. They don't tell them where their weaknesses are and allow them to wallow in an opinion of themselves which is not real. They then think that they can join the Army without real hurdles to confront. My experience of GYC officers who have gone on to complete the CC has been largely positive, with only one or two notable exceptions.

Interesting. I have rarely had so much honesty in my life, be it constructive or sometimes less kindly meant. A particular Officer sticks in my mind who in no uncertain terms told me to sort out my phys or lose credibility forever. That kind of thing sticks, especially when one is breathing through one’s arrse. I don’t remember too many encounters with CO or Adjutant sans coffee or dogs (CO didn’t like shouting in front of his…)

I also met my arch-nemesis from those days about a year ago who had been most forthcoming about my singlar lack of the qualities he expected. My 19-year-old self remembers a huge, bald, thuggish creature of some indiscriminate age who soundly leathered me on a regular basis. My 35 year old self encountered someone considerably smaller, a lot less frightening, still only one rank and a couple of years ahead of me but still pretty bald. How things change.

Similarly on transferring to the TA I was a pompous little arrse until taken aside by a kindly OC and SSM and invited to change my attitude. I had let my pride in where I had been overshadow what I needed to learn where I was. I think I'd have hit the 19 year old me!

Why shouldn't GYC officers be allowed to continue as 2Lts in UOTCs and the TA? Actually I didn't realise they couldn't - there is probably some administrivia that should be sorted out before they leave their regular unit.

When I transferred from SSLC it seemed to be up to the individual CO. Mine was QRIH, I was ex-Irish Regiment, I kept my star. My only issue was that as an ex-walloper I had a fair bit to catch up on on the Infantry side. A kindly CSM with a penchant for his hipflask and my cigarettes soon sorted that out, even if I sometimes wonder if he was so helpful out of sheer fascination and curiosity that something like me had appeared in his Unit. Wonder what happened to “Cabbage” too, and if his other half ever realised he chain smoked (my) fags at weekends. No M_D_N, Flashy etc he did not propose any “special favours” for passing on his expertise and was a paedogogue, not paedophile.

What is the purpose of the GYC? I don't care what it is there for, and like most things in the Army today if you went back to first principles you probably wouldn't like what you read. I think its value is better than none, and if done properly it can be really positive for everyone involved.

If nothing else it led me to 16 years commissioned service, a year on Ops and 3 years FTRS where I was freeing up someone more able to go and do the sharp pointy bits.

One thing I can guarantee is that having done the SSLC/GYC/UGap (and I know this is a cliche) you will have learnt a heck of a lot about yourself and other people and have gained a lot of confdence which if carefully harnessed will serve you well.

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