Which TA Trade should I learn?
The first question to ask yourself, is what do you want to gain from the TA? Do you want to do a job similiar to what you do in civvy street, or do you want to learn something new?
Some trades (typically in the Corps) are required at all units. For example, every unit will require a REME Armourer, you'd be a bit unhappy without a Chef and Clerks are universal in their ability to mess up your pay. To that end, don't think that by joining an Infantry unit, you have to be a rifleman. If your heart is set on a particular trade, ask your prospective units about it.
It's worth bearing in mind that in most Arms and Corps, promotion is based on a combination of time served, qualification/ trade and usually passing a "leadership course" set at the level you will be promoted to, combined with a vacancy to fill.
In some areas however, your promotion is very much governed by qualifications which you may bring from the wahrwelt. An obvious example is that of a Doctor or Nurse, but if you have good real-World qualifications as a chef, you may be promoted very quickly. This is something to weigh in the balance when you pick what you want to do, and whether you fancy a change from the day job.
Below is a brief description of each trade, broken down by the Capbadge that it is applicable to. This will include (where possible) information on how long it takes to achieve and any skills you will need before embarking on the courses.
Mortars: You can become part of a three man team (led by a Full Corporal) which operates the 81mm mortar. Training takes ******. Pre-requisites are ******.
You can progress onto become a Mortar Fire Controller (MFC) and become a member of the Mortar Fire Control Party.
Fitness standards have to be very high. Especially for the MFCs.
There are basically two types of artillery that the TA are trained to use.
There are Field Guns, which are the sort of thing you think of when I say the word "artillery", and Air Defence (currently all missile systems).
The equipment of the unit you join will decide which branch, Field or AD, you end up in. It is possible to change branches by joining another unit, or when the MoD decide to change things round every 20 years or so.
The information below applies to those who are not commissioned officers. Officers do different stuff, but generally in the same sort of disciplines.
However, if you are looking for a "trade" you can use directly in civvystrasse, then Driver is the one. All the others give you extra confidence to tackle problems, time management etc etc, but no certificate. Please note that the Driver job is RA Driver and not RLC Driver although the job spec is pretty similar.
The trades within these units tend to be:
Gunner, Field Guns (work the gun, make the big bangs, aka gun bunny).
Signaller, both in a Command Post and at the OP.
Storeman and other allied trades.
The trades within these units tend to be:
Gunner, Air Defence (fire the missiles at planes).
Signaller, at various locations.
Storeman and other allied trades.
As you can see, some jobs are common to both types of unit, and some are specialised.
All the above jobs can be done at several levels. For example, a Basic OP Ack is probably a Gunner or perhaps a L/Bdr, an Advanced OP Ack is probably a L/Bdr rising Bdr, and a DC Op Ack is a senior Bdr or Sgt.
Finally, it is very much the norm for you to have more than one trade (in fact promotion depends on it) so you might be a Gunner/ Driver, Signaller/ Driver or whatever.
Surveillance and Target Acquisition
Though not actually part of the Royal Regiment, the HAC is administered through the RA. It offers the only opportunity in the TA to qualify in the trade of Special Observer. More detail can be found, here:Wikipedia entry for HAC , or here Official MOD website
The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Each Trade is broken down into Class 3, Class 2 and Class 1. Class 1 is the highest and shows that a person can work on their own, without supervision. Training is done at the Defence College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Bordon, in Hampshire. Bordon like you to leave at least a year between passing a Class 3 course and attending a Class two course, with 2 years between passing a class 2 and attending a class 1.
Armourer: Inspects, Maintains, Repairs and Calibrates the Weapon Systems used by the British Army. Also includes all the equipment that everyone else can't be arrsed with; cookers, heaters, lamps, watches, ect.
Start standards are quite intensive. However, I've yet to meet someone who has completed them prior to attending their class three trade course:
Class 3: Two week course where you cover Workshop Health and Saftey, Bench Fitting (you manufacture a Strap Spanner to a tolerance of 0.12mm), General Principles of Weapon Inspections, SA80 and L96 Sniper Rifle.
Class 2: Two week course where you cover an intoduction to Cookers, Heater and Lamps, Workshop Proceedures (paperwork), Pistols, General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) including derivatives and the L4 Tripod for the GPMG.
Class 1: Support Weapons.
Courses run once a year and are often cancelled. Probably the hardest trade to learn and get ahead in (no metter what the VMs say).
Vehical Mechanic (VM): Broken down into A Mechs (Tracks), B Mechs (Wheels) and C Mechs (god knows what they do).
VM Junior: Depending on your overall score from the course, it is possible to jump straight to a class 2 tradesman.
VM Senior (to become a Class 1):
Courses run about 3-4 times a year. Probably the easiest course in terms of attending and getting ahead.
Vehical Electrician (VE): Fixes electrical faults on vehicles (also adds phone chargers, CD Players and extra lights) The Regular Army has gotton rid of this trade. However, the TA has kept them. Trade Course structure is the same as for a VM (ie VE Junior & VE Senior).
Recovery Mechanic: The Armies version of the AA. Recovers broken down vehicles or renders them unusable to the enemy. Trade Course structure is the same as Armourer (Class 3, Class 2 and then Class 1). However, REME recovery units can do Class 3 training 'in house' as opposed to a two week course at Bordon.
Courses are once a year and are often cancelled. Unless you're in a recovery company, quite a difficult course to pass and get ahead on.
Metalsmith: Possibly the only 'true' trade left in the REME. Manufactures and repairs equipment with processes like Welding and Grinding. Trade Course Structure is by way of three, two-week courses to become Class 3, Class 2 and then Class 1.
Tech Storeman: A storeman which is required to have a level of technical skill, seperating them from the RLC type storeman. I'm not sure how the trade courses work, but I'll find out.
The Royal Logistic Corps Specialist (National) TA is based at Prince william Of Glocuster Barracks, Grantham, Lincoln.
Driver. 160 Transport Regiment. Self explanitory trade! All who join will be trained on a variety of vehicles from 4 Tonne Trucks and DROPS (Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System) and other such large vehicles requiring a Cat C+E licence. Training of course all provided and paid for! Once in, typical role will involve driving large ammounts of ammunition and technical equipment for other Regiments. For example, a Regular Regiment provided a squadron of Drivers with DROPS that required 42 Flat Racks (the bits that go on the back) to remove 126 Petroleum Squadron alone from an exercise 3 years ago!
Driver Radio Operator Not based in one particular Regiment (yet - things may be changing to a set up like the Catering Regiment potentially) the Driver Rad Op is trained to provide secure and insecure comminications between Troops(smaller subunits), Units, Regiments and Brigades. Operating out of a Land Rover with attached tentage, Rad Ops will be used by Troop formations to talk to their parent Headquarters, who will in turn talk to their Regimental HQ and so on. Instructed in a wide variety of subjects from Health And Safety, Batteries and Charging, Land Line and Field Telephone, Electronic Warfare, use of HF and VHF radio equipment, secure data equipment, voice procedure, low level codes, and antenna theory and construction. Normally you would join a Regiment first and then train as a Rad Op, or on entry just be posted where they are needed! Its a good job for the nosey minded out there :)
Petroleum Operator Part of 166 Supply Regiment (although shortly under FAS moving to 160 Transport) 126 Pet Sqn is responsible for the intake, supply and outload of fuels (bulk and packed) and lubricants. Fuelies are responsible for the quality and stock rotation of these goods and provide fuel fit for issue for all types of vehicle from motorcycle to DROPS to tanks and aircraft. Soldiers trained as Pet Ops will undergo training in Firefighting, first aid, pump opetation and maintenance, and other supporting skills required to control bulk fuel "farms" which may be in the hundreds of thousands of litres.
Laundry Operator 710 Laundry are your best friends in the field! They have portable washine machine systems and MBLU (Mobile Bath and Laundry Units) which bring the showers to you. As a Laundry Operator, you would be taught in the use of the equipments as well as other supporting skills involved in the upkeep of this kit. One of the most travelled units in the RLC...
Movement Controller Movement Controllers of 162 Regt are the Travel Agents of the British Army. Wherever Personnel and equipment are in the world, a Movement Controller will be the person sorting this out for you/it, whether this be by land air or sea.
Port and Maritime 165 Regiment and their Mexefloats make harbours out of nothing! Many varied trades within P&M are available and all their kit is HUGE. Massive ships, transports, cranes and dock work equipment in order to load and offload the British Army from the British coastline to anywhere in the world, whether it has its own harbour or not...These guys also have a Railway Squadron with trade involved in rail head operations.
Postal and Courier The Posties of 82 Regt(?) run all post office functions that you would expect from the Post Office, only in green and under war conditions. Whether acting as dispatch riders with sensitive documentation and orders to the supply of personal mail from home to loved ones on operations, it is the responsibility of these guys and girls to get that very morale boosting role done. Trained in post office matters, motorcycle licences are a good incentive!
Ammo Technician 531 Sqn of 166 Regiment handle the Ammo Supplies, Storage and disposal of off-spec Ammunition.
Supply Specialist/Controller (Needs filling) Sup Specs and Sup Cons work on the logistical supply to squadrons and regiments. Fairly specialist skills in aquiring the right stuff for a unit tasking, be it vehicles, cam nets, admin tentage, or running the stores and accounting for fuel, ammo, food and so on.
Chef The Catering Support Regiment provides the Chefs and catering facilities for the guys and girls on the ground. Mobile Field Kitchens, and drumming up new cuisine from the massive ration supplies is their expertise. You will be trained in all catering type matters such as food hygiene, preparation of fresh produce, and all that good stuff. Again another well travelled occupation in the TA RLC. One day you could be guarding a helecopter landing site, the next you are silver service chefs for a Brigadier and NATO Generals...all in a days work.
RMP (National Unit)
National (Specialist) Unit: The National unit runs TARC days at Worthy Down, Winchester as and when needed and last time I checked recruits about two or three times a year. It consists of a couple of days at Worthy Down with interviews and the BPFA.
Nothing too much to worry about however you must be a serving/retired police officer to join, or have previously been regular RMP. There is a number of different trades open including SIB and GPD with plenty of oppertunitys to go FTRS and do attachments. The TA site says that RMP(v) can complete the CP course at Longmoor and then go on to complete a tour in a FTRS role however I have yet to find someone who has done it. They are part of ARRC (Allied Rapid Reaction Corps) which are based in Germany so also plenty of chances to go abroad.
National (Independent) Units:
There are several trades and ways to be a member of the RAMC. You don't need to be a doctor in real life, but you need to be fairly switched on.
In terms of being a private soldier, you can train to be a specialist, with lower commitments and centralised training. Or you can be attached to another unit, for example the infantry.
You will follow the same basic training as everyone else, then spend two weeks doing your first lot of CMT (V) training as your trade. You can increase this training throughout your time with the TA, however, these skills do not necessarily transfer very well to civvy street.