After ‘the experience of a lifetime’ serving in Afghanistan, Kiwi Corporal Dion Tantrum is back enjoying the routine of training in Dorset with the Territorial Army.
The 38-year-old from Milborne St Andrew trains with Dorchester-based C Company, 6 RIFLES and says he owes a great deal to the TA for making him feel at home in Dorset, many thousands of miles from his native Waikato region in New Zealand’s North Island.
Dion left there in 1999 to travel around the world, reaching the UK in 2001. He met his English wife Clare, a teacher, and now with two daughters – Imola is nine and Kiana, six – the move to England has become permanent.
“When we came to this part of Dorset, I knew absolutely no one,” he said. “I had a good look round and thought the TA might introduce me to a few people – and it’s been a great choice.”
His first deployment to Afghanistan was in 2008, followed by the second, more recent venture. “Altogether, it has been an experience of a lifetime,” he says. “I am just left feeling sad that Afghanistan could be such a fascinating and wonderful place but for the conflict that has affected so much of its history.”
In civilian life, Dion works as a butcher for C & S Meats, of Holnest, near Sherborne.
“I still miss home. I haven’t been back to New Zealand for three and half years,” he added. When he does make it again – hopefully in around 2015 – there will be a large family to greet him, including no fewer than 64 cousins!
C Company, which has a detachment at Poole, is keen to attract new recruits. It offers many opportunities to learn new skills in addition to enjoying adventurous training. In the New Year, for example, Dorchester-based reservists will be ski-ing in France as well as island hopping in the Caribbean on a sailing trip from St Thomas to Miami.
The Territorial Army is to be renamed the Army Reserve, under plans announced in July by The Secretary of State for Defence. With £1.8bn investment in better training and better equipment, it is planned to expand to 30,000 trained reservists by 2018.
Enhanced conditions for reservists include the introduction of paid annual leave and pension entitlements during training and operations, plus better access to defence health services and training. Employers will be given £500 per month per reservist when mobilised, in addition to existing help such as with the cost of advertising for replacements.
For more information about C Company call 01305 264969 or to find out about opportunities in the TA visit www.army.mod.uk/join/20237.aspx.