Once Army life is in your blood, it’s never lost – as proved by 47-year-old Alan Oakley-Jones, who serves in Swindon-based 280 Movement Control Squadron, Royal Logistic Corps.
Marlborough-born Alan, whose father was a career soldier in the Gloucestershire Regiment, joined the Regulars in 1985 and, during the next ten years, served in the Gulf War as well as completing service as far afield as Norway, Turkey and the Falklands.
These days, he lives in north Swindon with wife Joanne and daughters Caitlyn, aged eight, and four-year-old Erin, and works in London as a health and safety manager for the British Council.
But there’s something special about the Army … and when last year a friend already serving with 280 suggested he might be interested in joining, Alan couldn’t resist the thought of getting back into uniform after a gap of 17 years.
“I did think about it for quite a while – after all this time, I admit I was slightly apprehensive,” he said. “But this is a cracking unit and I was immediately impressed by the very professional way they operate and by their professional staff. After about four months, there was a chance to go out in the field for the first time and, for me, everything just clicked back in.
“It shows that, once you have experienced Army training, you never lose that mentality of how to operate and what to do.”
Alan is one of several ex-Regulars in 280 Squadron, adding experience and maturity to a unit which has been successfully developed from scratch in the last four years.
After learning two trades as a Regular in the former Royal Army Ordnance Corps – supplier specialist and baker – he now looks forward to completing a third in movement control.
It’s a serious business. Reservist soldiers are increasingly in demand these days to support their Regular counterparts. Nine of the Swindon unit reservists are due to deploy to Afghanistan in October. And Alan expects to follow suit next year.
280 Squadron is unique as the only Regional TA Movement Control unit in the British Army. It operates predominantly in support of its Regular sister regiment – South Cerney-based 29 Regiment – in planning, controlling and monitoring movement of personnel, vehicles and equipment to operations and exercises all over the world.
Recruiting remains a high priority. In addition to training Movement Operators, there are as many as 15 different trades available in the RLC TA, ranging from drivers and chefs to combat medics and marine engineers. For information about 280 Squadron, call 01793 523251 or email 162MC-280-PSAO@MOD.UK. To find out about opportunities in the TA visit www.army.mod.uk/join/20237.aspx.