After graduating with a BA in International Relations and Modern History from Swansea University and an MA in International Studies from the University of Birmingham, James worked as a defence consultant in London. Three years later, he wanted more excitement and to utilise his interest in events in Afghanistan, so he applied to the Army. Now, a year since passing out at Sandhurst, James is working as a learning development officer for the Educational and Training Services (ETS) branch.
My degrees have been extremely useful for delivering CLM training (Command, Leadership and Management), as well as for understanding global issues. As unit press officer for 3 PARA, I need to be aware of world events and the potential impact seemingly small actions can have on government policy.
There is no typical day in this role, though one constant is being very busy. If I am teaching, I arrive at work for 8am to prepare teaching by 8.30am. During the day, I deliver lessons on topics as diverse as counter-insurgency strategy and coaching and mentoring tools, working as part of a small team of ETS officers. When we're not teaching, we usually advise ‘walk-in’ soldiers on education opportunities and pathways.
I also liaise with 3 PARA to help manage and advise unit education issues. And I work with 16 Air Assault Brigade Media Operations to promote 3 PARA in the press and train soldiers within the Battalion in media skills. They have given me the opportunity to be an active part of their headquarters on exercise and potentially in the future on operations, where I would advise and direct any engagement with the press.
As an Army officer, maintaining your fitness is an important part of your job, so I regularly go running with colleagues or use the gym on camp. Finally, the Army is paying for me to complete my PGCE qualification at the University of Southampton, so I often have assignments to complete.
I've had the freedom to carve a large niche, with a variety of responsibilities above and beyond my teaching responsibilities. Within 18 Army Education Centre, I’ve been involved with new initiatives such as the Army Instructional Techniques pilot, which will significantly change the way the Army delivers training to recruit instructors. In addition, I've completed a CELTA English teaching qualification so I'm ready for deployment on military training missions in Africa and elsewhere.
The best thing about my job is the people I get to work with, both my colleagues and the relationship you can develop with soldiers. I do feel I make a positive impact on the soldiers I teach and work with on a daily basis. Teaching a class of experienced soldiers is a really rewarding experience. Variety is key for me - almost two years into the Army and I haven't really felt that one day is the same as another. Looking forward, I have a variety of different career pathways open to me (no ETS officer's career is the same), and I know that I will be doing something different every two years. The most challenging part of the job is balancing and organising all the different components and prioritising competing demands.
Teaching is a hugely rewarding, and at times entertaining, job. But it is good to balance it with the broader opportunities the Army can offer for travel, operational experience in places such as Afghanistan, adventure training and personal and professional development.
If I had to give advice to other students and graduates who would like to get into this career, I'd say be sure you want to do it, and if you do, remember to be yourself and go for it with everything you've got.
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