I received an advance copy of my mobilisation order last week, and I’ve been thinking it over for a few days. A bit of reflection on what needs done, and some reflection on the impact of the deployment.
Inevitably it makes for a fairly challenging time, there is quite a lot of administration to sort out both with my employer and with the service. There are also plenty of conversations to have with a number of people about the job itself and about going away for six months. It’s also inevitable that I’ve got my own anxieties about the whole experience.
I suppose the anxieties themselves are easiest talked about first. I’m not so worried about doing the job out there, I’m pretty experienced in my field, I’ve been well trained and I’ve got lots of background in doing it in practice. I do have a mild concern about my own fitness, but some of that is probably pretty natural. I’m fit, but until I get there will I know that I’m fit enough. The pre-deployment training will help me settle on that and in the meantime it’s just a question of continuing to hack away at the fitness. In the past there was some stigma attached to being a reservist, but that’s gone from the vast majority of the regular services. I have an advantage there as an ex-regular but lots of my colleagues have established a good reputation for themselves so there shouldn’t be a major issue there.
On the employer front I’m extremely fortunate, as mine is very supportive. To an extent they can see a value from my membership of the service, and whilst we don’t work in the defence marketplace I’m able to point to my direct operational management and command experience as a benefit. Despite that support it’s still ten months away, and lots can change in that time. In the same period we’ve restructured twice! So we need to identify someone to hand my current projects on to, then hand them over. We also need to work out what we’ll do to keep in touch. Email should be fairly straightforward, and possibly some video messages, just to keep in touch with what’s going on and to keep in touch with the rest of my practice.
Then there are the conversations with family and friends. Most people recognise that there is a risk in going out to Afghanistan. For me there will not be as much risk as there is for others, I will not be engaging the enemy in close combat, but there will be times that I’m vulnerable to mines or Improvised Explosive Devices; command wire, radio-controlled, victim-initiated, vehicle-borne or suicide. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned but I’ll be well trained, the level of threat isn’t as bad as the media suggest and we have strategies and tactics to reduce the risk. Dealing with that will be easier for me, as I’ll be there and getting on with my job. Having been on operations before I know that there just isn’t time to sit and worry. But I know that it’ll be difficult for my friends and family still at home. I’ve been very conscious in the last couple of weeks of just how often the news is about an incident in Afghanistan. Instead of being busy with new experiences those still at home will have a gap left in their life as I’m not there, and there will be reports on the news that will be stressful for them. Sometimes there won’t be opportunities to get messages back and forth, sometimes there will. Instead of all of their time being filled up there is a persistent reminder that I’m elsewhere.
On the other hand there is an appreciation that as a reservist I’m doing what I signed up to do, and I want to go and do it. If I didn’t want to do it I’ve had plenty of time before now to find something else to do with my free time. It’s something I’ve trained for, I’m well equipped to do and for me is something I think is worth doing.
I’m looking forward to it, but spare a thought for those that have to put up with loved ones going away.