How the army recruits: Your country needs YOU!

The Army's school recruitment drive came under fire last week. But with daily headlines from Iraq, how do you sell life as a soldier? Julia Stuart joins Sgt Terry Marshall at a Gloucestershire school

Dressed in army fatigues, the faded blue tip of a tattoo peeping out from his neatly rolled-up shirtsleeves, Sgt Terry Marshall sits at a table in a school hall waiting for his first pupil. He is one of 10 local employers who have been invited in to give the children a mock interview to improve their techniques.

The Army has not had a good week. Plaid Cymru has accused it of targeting schools in poorer areas in the wake of the war in Iraq. The party claimed that figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that most deprived schools were visited about 50 per cent more often than the less deprived. Assembly member Leanne Wood went as far as calling for the Welsh Assembly to ban Army recruitment initiatives from schools. The Army didn't recruit in schools, it said, but sought to raise awareness.

It makes visits on a specific, invitation-only basis, such as the exercise today. Other activities on offer include cookery classes, football and rugby coaching, music workshops with an Army band, practical engineering sessions, personal development courses and Army work experience. The aim, though, is clear - to raise interest in the Army and its careers.

Ian Kellie, headteacher of Sir Thomas Rich's School in Gloucester, where the mock interviews are being held, has no qualms about the Army coming in. "Out of a year group of 110, three or four pupils would be seriously thinking of joining. The Army is a valid career. I'm perfectly happy that youngsters are prepared to consider serving their country. I have no concerns," he says.

Here in Gloucestershire the Army visits every senior school. Sir Thomas Rich's, a boys' selective grammar that admits girls in the sixth form, is not in the least deprived. It was ranked 23rd out of about 3,500 state schools for its A-level results last year. About two-thirds of pupils achieved A or A* in their GCSEs, and most go to university.

In the school hall, the boys are sent to a table on an ad hoc basis. Those sent to Sgt Marshall, a careers adviser with the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry, won't necessarily have any interest in signing up anyone. Aged 36, he has been in the Army since he was 17. One by one, the boys in their neat blue blazers and artfully distressed hair sit opposite Sgt Marshall, whose own locks have been shorn down to a no-nonsense No 1. He tells them he's not here to recruit them and then asks about their interests. They have a friendly chat about their career ambitions, and he then comments on their mock job application form.

Chris Goodwin, 16, hopes to become a criminal barrister. What would put him off joining the Army? "The whole danger aspect and how you could actually die," he admits. "I think my mum would be quite worried if I wanted to join. At a guess, I think a soldier would earn about £20,000. A barrister would earn probably more, and salary would matter to me. One of my ambitions it to be quite wealthy and have nice things."

Ben Ruxton, 16, tells Sgt Marshall he doesn't know what he wants to be. He plays rugby, cricket and five-a-side football and would quite like to do something sports-related. "I think the whole discipline thing would put me off joining the Army," he says. "I am disciplined, but I don't know whether I would want to go that far. The thought of dying would put me off. You'd also be away for quite a bit.

"But I think it's a very respectable job. There's a lot of bravery and honour involved. I would feel proud being a soldier if I did decide to join up. I think the British Army is doing well [in Iraq]. I'm proud of them. The mortality rate is quite low. I think the amount of destruction to people and property could have been worse."

Daniel Bridges, 16, has no qualms about dying for his country, and would relish a career in either the Armed Forces or the police. "I'm quite interested in the Army, but my mum's a bit unsure," he says. "I like to be in control and I think the Army would offer me a chance at leadership and skills that I could use in civilian life if I left. I wouldn't be scared of going into a battle zone if I'd had the correct training, and I believe Sandhurst would prepare me for that.

"Death doesn't occur to me when I think about the Army. Injury doesn't bother me, either, to be honest. If I'm trained to do my job, medics within the army are trained to do theirs, so I have confidence in them. The salary isn't too bad. Risking your life for £30,000 doesn't sound a lot, but there's the experience that the Army can offer me to consider.

"I think the British Army is doing a pretty good job, especially in Iraq. To expect to have no deaths when you go into battle is ridiculous. Without a doubt I would be proud to be a soldier. To be able to come home and say that you've done your bit, you're protecting your country and you're also protecting the lives of others in other countries, and you can help in disaster zones. That's something to be proud of."

Hamza Kadodia, 16, doesn't know what he wants to do in the future, perhaps something to do with art and design. The Army holds not the slightest appeal. "It would be hard work and I'm not really interested," he says. "You wake up early, then there's all the activities like running. You have to carry everything on your back all the time. I would rather get a degree and then get a job. I wouldn't want to risk my life either. You have to join at 17 or 18. I'd rather have a social life with my friends.

"I think it's a good career, though. It shows bravery and that's a big achievement in life. I don't think my mum would be too happy if I joined."

Nathan Young, 15, shakes Sgt Marshall politely by the hand and informs him that he wishes to become an actor. The soldier is full of admiration. Not only does Nathan devote his Sundays to helping the disabled, he's also the first pupil to have made the top button of his shirt is done up.

"The Army doesn't appeal," Nathan admits afterwards. "Life as a soldier would probably be very challenging and rewarding. But there are some feelings of contempt against the Army around. The hours might not be good and going away for months at a time can't be easy. As for risking my life for my country I don't see any point in going to another country to get killed. I suppose soldiers do a good job. It's just not always seen to be that way."

Nor will Matthew Hopton, 16, join the Army. He has other interests: he has already set up his own company designing bespoke software. "I wouldn't consider putting my life on the line for my country. I don't feel I've done enough at the moment. The Army is very good at what it does. But I think the war in Iraq has gone a bit too far now. To start with, I supported it. If I told my mother I wanted to join up, I think she would try to put me off. I don't think she could bear to lose me if I died or if I was away from home for a long time."

Blake Franklin, 15, is given a mock interview by another employer, but comes to speak to Sgt Marshall afterwards. He can think of nothing better than a career as an officer.

"I want to make a difference. The money doesn't attract me, it's the lifestyle: getting to travel a lot and the opportunity to learn more languages and skills and meet more people. I would be happy to die for my country. It's something I've discussed with my parents. I've got a passion for the country and want to be the best at what I do, and to be the best you have to take risks and that's one of them.

"If I got injured I'd go to hospital and get patched up. You take the risk to improve yourself. When I watch the situation in Iraq I think it's getting quite out of hand, though we're only there as a peacekeeping force. If we pull out now it may undo the good work that we've done. It was a lot worse than it is now.

"If I got in I would be over the moon and feel proud of myself. I feel proud of the Army, particularly when they capture people like Saddam Hussein. However, when you see hooligans beat people up it doesn't make me feel proud. But they're a small minority. I'm patriotic because my country has given me a lot. It's paid for my health: since I was 11 weeks to when I was 14 I was in and out of hospital. I've been given so much support, it's the least I could do."

The roll call: Recruitment is up - even at £2.45 an hour

* Recruitment of soldiers rose last year by 9.2 per cent, with 11,460 soldiers enlisted. Yet the Army still missed its target by 1,252.

* The Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, Royal Signals and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers exceeded their annual targets.

* Figures refer to initial recruitment, not additions to trained strength: a number leave during training.

* Some 13,730 trained or training soldiers left the Army last year; 3,660 of them were recruits.

* Figures for 2005-6 show that 133,823 young people "expressed an interest" in joining the Army, up 58 per cent on the year before.

* The Army's advertising outlay nearly doubled to £25.3m.The recent boost in interest has been attributed to advertising, particularly a campaign featuring an expedition to Everest.

* The MoD spent £1.5m making a 30-second Army recruitment advert in South America. It was shown on television this year.

* Despite increases, the Armed Forces are still 5,000 below strength, according to the National Audit Office.

* The average salary of a newly qualified soldier is £14,300 before tax. In a combat zone, being on duty for a minimum of 16 hours gives the troops an hourly rate of £2.45. There is also a longer service separation allowance of about £6 a day, but this only applies to those who have served at least 12 months away from home. The national minimum wage is £5.35 an hour at age 22.

Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Year 1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers ne...

Early Years Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Early Years supply teachers neede...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits