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Ten-minute chat

Abstract

Claire explains more about what being an Army Reservist means.

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What is the University of London Officers' Training Corps (ULOTC)?

The ULOTC is a reservist regiment in the British Army, open to students of the University of London. Training involves some of the modules from Sandhurst, completion of which allows us to commission as an officer into the Army Reserve. We are first trained as infantry soldiers and go on to understand leadership. We are taught one module per year, and in our third year are given command of the less senior officer cadets.

Training involves a mix of field training, classroom teaching and drill and adventure training expeditions.

The ULOTC is only open to students with at least two years of study left, but there are other reservist regiments all over the country that offer similar experiences for non-students.

How did you hear about it?

At a freshers event and online. Growing up I found that the most inspirational people I met had been in the armed forces, so I was itching to get involved at university.

What attracted you?

I had never been very good at PE, but was very creative and always preferred music to sport. I got angry when someone yelled at me and didn't respect many of my teachers. But I did like practical things and wanted friends outside those studying veterinary. I thought that it was out of my comfort zone enough to be a real challenge, but also hit some tick boxes.

What does it involve?

Like many things in life, you get out what you put in. It's easy to achieve average attendance, fall behind on training, but glide through enjoying social events and fun trips away. I found that joining the ULOTC provided immediate satisfaction and, unlike my degree, I didn't have to wait till the end of the term for someone to say ‘Well done, Miss Scott’. I found that I actually achieved better marks in my degree as I learnt to become efficient with my time. I knew that the sooner I wrote up a lecture, the sooner I could get on with my job, so it provided incentive and drive. In my third year, I took on the role of company under officer, I had to manage, organise training and provide pastoral support for 120 officer cadets. I was given mentors but was never micromanaged. I was left to complete tasks and then shown where I had gone wrong. I learnt by doing.

What do you like about it?

Opportunities that just aren't available in the civilian world. A 20-year-old would never be given more than 100 people to manage, or a 40 foot yacht to skipper.

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Is there anything you don't like?

Getting really cold, and ration pack meals.

Why are reservists important?

In the current climate we can't afford to have a full-time deployable force, so reservists underpin our defence strategy. They allow the army to stay current with civilian minds and technology, while team-working and leadership skills improve the civilian work force in return.

What's been your proudest moment?

In my third year I finally led a team to win a march-and-shoot. It involved a pretty gruelling distance of stretcher carries and moving various weighted objects from A to B as a squad, and then a shoot on firing range.

At the end, I was handed a trophy and the bottom fell off, which made us laugh and I cried a lot.

. . . and your most embarrassing?

I have several: I loaded a magazine of rounds upside-down into a rifle. I got stuck when climbing into an armoured vehicle. I cried at the top of a six-foot wall in front of my entire company as I don't like heights. I fell out of step a few metres after saluting the Queen.

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