I'm trained for combat, but completely unarmed against poverty

Many who leave the services find themselves ill-equipped against unemployment and lack of affordable housing

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The Independent Online

One day in 2009, I boarded a train heading towards Brookwood station. I then started 14 weeks of 'basic training' for what I thought at the time was a career in the armed forces.

1,976 days later at 00:00 hrs on the 18th of June 2014 I became - having been selected for non-voluntary redundancy - a civilian.

Beginning with the moment I started training till the day I left, I'd never lived in one place for longer than a year. Whilst my first posting was 18 months long, it was interspersed by a tour in Afghanistan, the first of two such deployments during my service.


Accommodation during training exercises and operational deployments can often make even the most desolate of rooms look palatial. As an un-married soldier, I spent the majority of my career - luckily - in a one person room, my own personal space.

Although accommodation in the armed forces is improving, you can still find a spectrum of buildings between luxurious and near inhospitable. When I left, I was paying £62 a month for my room, which included heating - when it worked - and electricity. It was a roof over my head and the cost was far below market rates.

These low costs are welcomed and perhaps considered by the public to be well deserved, yet they often leave people living in a bubble. Not everyone has someone to fall back on and I've been incredible lucky to have had the support of my parents.

I remain immensely humble to have begun taking the Queen's shilling during a time of recession. Joining the army somewhat insulated against the economic downturn.

When applying for jobs, "deploying to Afghanistan and wearing body armour in high temperatures" soon became 'good under pressure.' I applied for over a hundred jobs before a volunteering opportunity became my salvation.

After I moved back up north when I left the forces, I intended to spend only three weeks in August volunteering in Wiltshire, yet I'm still there. I began volunteering for Michelle Donelan, who is standing to be the next MP for the Chippenham constituency. Now that I work for her, I feel I have purpose.

No matter how strong your work ethic, how long you work for or how much integrity you have after leaving the armed forces, if you don't get a job or somewhere to live then it's all for nothing.

Following my service, I feel able to move from place to place at short notice with relative ease. For me - and others - it's a blessing and a curse. An ability to improvise, adapt and overcome can only go so far in countering feelings of non-belonging and a lack of permanence.

For many who leave the services, their entire adult lives have existed in a selfless and isolated environment which don't reflect reality. Some cope, many don't cope at all.

Following redundancy, I realise nothing in life is permanent. The worry over employment, housing and whatever's next, is ever present.