Student to Soldier questions

Discussion in 'Join the Army - Reserve Recruitment' started by Smelly_Tiger, Dec 18, 2009.

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  1. 'Morning ARRSE, long-time stalker, first-time user here, nice to finally be able to use this place.

    Basically, the Gist of my story is as follows. In March 2010, I turn 17, and at that time I wish to join my local TA unit to get some experience under my belt before I go to uni and go through the TASO system, hopefully eventually commissioning into the Royal Artillery.
    I've been in the ACF now for three years, and believe me, I'm under no illusions as to how crap the training is now, or how much I have to learn, which is partly why I'm binning it in preference to the TA (The specific unit being A Coy 3PWRR. There are no RA units near to where I live, and a bit of infantry experience might be good for my career in the regs).

    My situation is that in March 2010 I will be drawing towards the end of my first year A levels, with another year still to go. Are there any bars on becoming a TA Soldier/Officer (Undecided as to which to go for, advice would be appreciated) as a 6th form student, or is it just a case of fitting one around the other?

    I read a couple of threads on it and they said A-OK, but they were about three years old, things may have changed since.

    Regards, Smelly_Tiger :D
  2. msr

    msr LE

    Honest advice: Concentrate on your A-levels, they are far more important in the long run.

    You need to be a minimum of 17 1/2 to join.

  3. Wait until you get to uni to look at the TA; there's little point spending less than twelve months with one unit only to move halfway across the country when you go to uni. Don't pick your uni based on its OTC or local TA; go somewhere where you'll get a decent degree, and once you're there look at local TA as well as the UOTC, as TASO is not the only way to become an officer whilst a student.

    In the meantime, enjoy running around in an ally hat with the ACF. It gets much wetter and colder when you start to do it for real.
  4. Gah, sorry I didn't notice the 'Joining' board!

    Yeah, I thought it was 17 and 9 months (which was the main reason I wasn't going to go for the TA), but I checked on the Army website and it says otherwise... ArmyJobs Entry Requirements

    Thanks for the advice, I'll bear it in mind.

    EDIT: BZ, I was looking at taking a gap year before uni to give me a chance to relax, and also take on some of the courses I wouldn't have had a chance to do when I was in 6th form. That'd give me roughly two and a half years with the unit before I went to Uni (going on a January start of course at uni). I wouldn't have considered it at all if I didn't think I'd spend a credible amount of time with the unit.
  5. I feel qualified to give advice on this subject, but I'll stop short of giving a recommendation - that's a decision that only you can make.

    I joined the TA as a Junior Bandsman at 17 years and 3 months. I think it's still possible but, as then, not widely advertised. I enjoyed being an infantry soldier (recruit) so much that all other activities faded into second place. All social activities and friendships outside the TA ceased - there wasn't enough time to fit them in. (It's still the same 34 years later).

    I took my A levels and failed the important ones - not enough military questions, you see. I applied for a commission in the Regular Army (I had twice the O level requirement, A levels weren't required for the Corps I was interested in). My parents cajoled me into doing a third year at 6th Form, so I dropped my application. I still hadn't learned - and scraped passes (on appeal).

    On to Polytechnic to do a degree. When I should have been studying, I was travelling 100 miles to attend TA weekends. I failed the first year. Dropping onto the HND course, I resat the degree exams the following year. Unfortunately, the exams coincided with the second week of Annual Camp. My OC offered a Leave of Absence, but I wasn't interested - I'd do the first week then sit the exams. At Camp, I was pulled from routine training and given admin jobs, the intention being that I'd have time to revise. But I took on extra tasks, leaving no time to go through my books. I failed again (though in my defence, I'd add that the syllabus had changed, which I didn't know about until I opened the exam paper...).

    If I could turn the clock back, would I do it again? Probably. Would I balance TA/education/social life better? Hand on heart, I doubt it. You commit - and there's the end to it. Had I not joined the TA, I would probably be much better off. Had I not joined when I did, I probably wouldn't have joined at all. And that would be a shame. I've done things and seen things that I'd never have had the opportunity to do and see as a full-time civvy. I made a promise when I signed up in 1975 and the promise was fulfilled in 2003. That alone justifies my choices.

    You make your decision. Be aware that if you join, there are demands that will cut into your life. If you don't join, you may feel that you've missed out on something. You'll read the ethic "Family, Work, TA." That may work for people who join the TA later in life but if you join at an early age, you may find that "TA, Work, Family" becomes your ethos. It's mine and I feel guilty when it comes to the kids' birthdays and I'm not there - but the TA was my first commitment.
  6. I thought I should add my 2p worth.

    I was a cadet, and left to join the TA at minimum age (17). I attested about 2 weeks after my 17th, and got straight in to it, leaving my A-Levels and social life in my wake and spending all my time in the gym, out running, sorting my kit out or actually on training. I thought it was great and for the 2 years I spent at college it was; doing loads of stuff that people my age would never dream of doing until much later in my life.

    But if I lived again, I'd leave it until I was older. I, and the other 17 year olds who went through with me all struggled at our age, compared to lads just 2-3 years older who found it much easier. Just a few years more life experience put them in a lot better stead for their TA careers.

    The job I did was infantry, and I spent many a day out on the moors knacking my hearing with GPMGs and Assault Pioneer style bangs. Was great fun - all I wanted to be was a regular Rifleman, so I thought nothing of running ragged round SPTA and firing off without ear defence. Nobody else thought anything of it either.

    But being such a young age, I couldn't have forseen my future civvy life. I trained as a sound engineer in a local venue and have since worked my way up to being a reasonably well known engineer with a number of venue and touring contracts in the UK and Europe. I have also recently produced an EP for a rapidly growing punk band. And every day sat in front of studio monitors listening to very detailed music, I really kick myself for the fact that what I hear in my right ear is different to what I hear in my left.

    Furthermore, I am lacking in many of the social skills that many of my friends have - and when not with 'army' mates a lot of what I say is frowned upon - people here will know what I mean. This is because, in an age where I should have been out getting smashed with my school buddies, I was out running round the park; and when I should have been spending friday and saturday nights out clubbing, I was in Aldershot getting smashed Army stlye. Much better, no doubt, but civillian early-20-ers don't understand it.

    My honest advice to you mate would be to get your feet firmly in the ground before you go planning the life that sits 5 years ahead of you. Yeah, people say those who plan early do better... but at your age it's a long time and things will change... like it or lump it. I think you'll be best waiting til you get to uni, being settled somewhere will help you with the TA. I struggled towards the end of my time in the TA with a massive commute to my TAC, after I moved away from my home area to work in London. The choices were to stay at my home unit, where the people knew me, I was reasonably respected, I had understanding of the comms system that we had, and was doing well and working towards LCpl; or move to one closer to London but have to start again. I took the former - and the result was that I rarely paraded, quickly fell out of the loop and lost what I'd gained anyway. Then having thought 'feck it, may as well go to London' my employer decided to take a new stance on TA soldiers and make both of us leave our units anyway. If I was you, I'd honestly:

    • Wait til you get to uni, settle down, and if you still want to be a regular, RA officer, join the TA and the OTC.
    • Let yourself mature socially and physically; don't let Army life take over. You'll suffer at uni, and when you join the Regs nobody will want to hear about your time in the TA / OTC anyway. (don't believe in this 'One Army' concept.)
    • Please, please note: The TA isn't a more fun, better trained, better equipped version of the cadets. Too many ex-cadets join thinking that, and get very dissappointed when it isn't. Cadets is there to be fun - not to be your basic training. So the training probably isn't 'shit', it's probably just tailored to make it fun for everyone, as opposed to serious for the fact that all of you should expect to mobilise within 3 years.
    • Please also note, that the TA is not a way to experience Regular Army life, as they are completely different. You hear young guys all the time saying 'I'm gonna join the TA before I join the Regs, see if I like it' - then hear that half the ones who liked the TA joined the Regs and have gone on suicide watch, and half the ones who hated the TA are on their 3rd tour in the Regs and love every second.

    Just do what everyone's said and WAIT. It will make things easier in the long term.
  7. Hmmmm, the advice (from here at least) seems to be ubiquitously "Don't do it, wait out for uni", which wasn't the result I was hoping for, but I asked for advice, and like troopers you gave it to me.

    I'm still going to visit the unit and see if I want to join, but I'll hold all this all in my head. I've already entered a signed contract with my parents and my school that if my grades start to slip as a result of TA work, I'm to apply for a leave of absence or leave altogether, as A levels are the top priority.

    And on the social side of things... I'm actually a bit or a recluse, or to word it more effectively, that sad git you knew at school who spent all his weekends at home. :|

    Thanks for the words of wisdom guys, keep them coming, I am actually listening to you!
  8. I was pretty much the same.

    I'm 17, in my last year of 6th form. I looked into joining back in january '09, passed out in april '09, job done (I was on summer chalenge, so it was quicker than the normal training prosess)

    With the whole juggling exams and training, I'v had no problem, my results have improved tenfold since I joined (They were on about chucking me out of school, now in doing fine) and I'v still got plenty of time to get out and socialise.

    The only problem is that I can't put my name down for the occasional training day mid week, but they come around rarly as everyone has jobs/commitments on weekdays.
  9. I joined the TA when i was 17 and 9 months, in my first year of college. All i'd say is time it so that your training weekends don't happen when you need to be revising, as i found that by the time i'd got back in on a sunday night i wasn't able to concentrate on work and just wanted to go to the pub to chill out for a bit.

    Having said that, i'm now in my second year of the TA, and second year of college, and the personal skills i've developed as a result have helped me no-end. I've no trouble giving presentations where other students falter and the things i've learned in the TA have greatly benefitted my course (Uniformed Public Services). I'm now heading off to uni at the end of the year and will stay with my current unit, I enjoy being with them and will hopefully commission into the same regiment should i be successful at Sandhurst.

    Advice would be to do it, you're obviously switched on enough to realise that it may cut into college time, and intelligent enough to sign your leave of absence contract. I found college were actually very supportive, doubly so after I bumped into the head teacher at the Rememberance Parade!

    Good luck bud!
  10. My experience, though long ago, was different from some of the above.

    I was falling right out with school come A levels, thought all the teachers were effeminate tossers
    and was bursting to leave and take on the real world.

    My old man, bless him, said I could join the TA with his blessing if I would stay on and give the A
    levels a good go, and it worked a treat. Mixing with adults and letting off steam in the TA
    put the whole 'school' thing into perspective and having an identity outside the place
    meant I just came to see it as a task that had to be done, like drill or digging a trench.

    It sorted me out at a stage where things could have gone horribly wrong and resulted
    In RMAS etc etc.
  11. I'm unclear whether you're aspirations are to go Regular or to remain with the TA. However you said:

    Sadly this rings alarm bells. You really need to get some interests outside the ACF to show yourself to be a more rounded person if you want to go to RMAS. You don't need to be some raging clubber, but sitting at home all the time when not at school/Cadets will not come over well to an interview board.

    At my RCB I was asked why I was not a Prefect at school. As I could answer that being a JUO in the CCF; Captain of Shooting; VIth Form Treasurer; ran Modern languages Society; played Rugby etc, not getting to boss the younger boys around in the lunch queue wasn't a big issue.

    As I said on another thread if you are going Regular I would give serious consideration to not doing anything in green at all. Why not take up a new sport, join an Am Dram outfit, learn a new langage or an instrument or something like that?

    Once you get onto the treadmill of a military career that will be your main focus & you are likely to miss your free time & opportunities to get out & do something different. I was a lucky devil as I joined in 1990 when lots of AT, sport & jollies were still available: with the momentum of current Ops & the reduction of budgets life isn't quite so cushy.

    Whatever you choose good luck.
  12. I'm not quite sitting in my room from friday night to monday morning, I do play Rugby every weekend and am currently a 250cc motorcycle racer, I more meant that I'm not a huge social animal, I don't (like many people my age) spend every weekend getting very drunk and ruining my liver.

    Ghillie and Lampard, that sounds pretty much exactly what I was aiming for by joining the TA, you've restored a little of my faith, thanks!
  13. Good man yerself! I'd really suggest you concentrate on these activities; see if Cadets can become more rewarding by taking on more responsibility; and above all your school work.

    Someone who advised you here was a contemporary at school & joined the TA in the Sixth form, but remember that was in the late 80s. The TA is a very much more serious beast now & certainly not somewhere to go as a hobby or to get a taste for the Regular Army.

    As I said, all the best!
  14. Noted your response to the 'stuck at home - social recluse' point. My advice such as it is relates to the fact that the MOD is chokka at present and can be very fussy.


    Concentrate on qualifications (these are for life trust me)

    Concentrate on outside activities (ones that mean you are not 'the cat that walks alone' being more beneficial to any employer let alone the MOD).

    Enjoy life outside the military and your youth as years from now you might think 'Jesus I am married, posted to Afghanistan etc and didnt make the most of years 17-21.

    Keep your interest in military and skill-set up in preparation for Westbury etc but not at the expense of all else

    Try to get a girlfriend/boyfriend/compliant animal ...
  15. ST - I don't think you came on here looking for advice, I think you just came on looking for people who will back-up what you want to do right now. Maybe you are in conflict with your parents over this, but there is a good reason for this. Without qualifications you won't get anything in civvy street. The army will only be there for a certain amount of time. The rest of your life you need a job and that comes with studying now and doing well in your exams. There is plenty of time to join the army. I know you're keen, but some people are to keen.