Stevenage-based regular turned reservist speaks on Armed Forces Day
PUBLISHED: 10:31 29 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:06 01 July 2019
To mark Armed Forces Day today, the Comet spoke to Steve Cottrell about life as an army reservist after serving as a regular for 22 years.
Steve, who works for Stevenage-based company Morrison Utility Services, has spoken highly of both his time as full-time military personnel and as an army reserve.
With Army Reserve Day also celebrated on Wednesday, June 26, Armed Forces Day celebrates and shows support for the men and women who make up the armed forces, with official events happening across the country annually on the last Saturday of June.
Steve, who left the army in 2005 after 22 years, joined the army reserves in 2005 when he realised he missed having a regular 'fix' of army life, and is currently Captain in the Royal Engineers and Second in Command of a Specialist Royal Engineers Team.
"I planned a transition a few years before I left the army. I actually had a good transition into civilian life," he said.
Speaking about the importance of celebrating of our armed forces, Steve praised the Armed Forces Covenant - legislation that many employers nationwide, including his own, are adopting to ensure that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
Steve said: "My company fully support me, allowing me additional days to conduct my annual training exercises and any extra duties that may crop up."
Reflecting back on his military career, Steve highlighted how his attitude towards a career in the reserves changed.
"What was interesting when I first joined the reserves and I met with a couple of guys who were just due to transition out, they said that they enjoyed the reserves because it took them away from the civilian environment - and it was like a rest for them," he said.
"I couldn't relate to that when I first joined, because to me it meant doing more work on your weekends off, but I think that now I've done the reserves for 10 years, I sort of get it.
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"I have a busy life in my civilian job - I travel up and down the country and have quite a stressful job - but the military life is a different type of stress, so it does give you a bit of a break," he said.
With reserves only volunteering in his unit for approximately 30 days annually, Steve explained differences between the reserves in comparison to those with full-time military careers, but highlighted the ethos and comradery of his fellow reserves.
"Some of the skill sets aren't as fast or as well-trained as what you get in the regular army, but the big difference that I found is the attitude of the reserves is because everyone is volunteering," he said.
"Balancing it with another profession and another life, to put the effort in and turn up at the weekend, it takes a lot of commitment."
Juggling his time between personal, work and reservist commitments is always a challenge, but with a supportive family behind him, Steve has continued to enjoy adventures of a lifetime at home and abroad - including attending exercises in the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and the Lake District.
Steve also gained a master's degree in safety, health and environmental studies while transitioning into civilian life, working a challenging full-time career, and being part of the reserves.
Expressing his love of being surrounded by like-minded people, balancing his two contrasting worlds while simultaneously setting an example for the next generation of our armed forces, Steve's mentoring has shone through as the highlight of his current secondary career.
"Seeing the younger guys and girls coming through and enjoying it as much as possible, it's that more than anything else, it means more than my own fulfilment," he said.
Reflecting on the importance of raising awareness for and celebrating all members of the armed forces - including veterans, cadets and their families - he added: "Armed Forces Day and Armed Forces Week have grown over the years, I think Afghanistan probably helped a lot with getting this occasion into everybody's head.
"Armed forces celebrations have to be kept in the public domain and kept fresh to highlight what the guys and girls do behind the scenes."
To find events in North Herts, visit armedforcesday.org.uk/find-events.