From Uniform to Civvies With Harry

According to the Ministry of Defence Armed Forces Annual Personnel Report (1st April 2014) in the year 2013/14 some 640 officers and 20,350 other ranks left the British Armed Forces. Sixty-five percent of those leaving (known as SLs or Service Leavers) were aged between 20 and 34. That comes in at 13,040 officers and other ranks. Who knows what the future holds with regard to these numbers?

On 17th March this year BBC Radio5 Live hosted by Adrian Chiles interviewed many veterans and also AVM Ray Lock of the Forces in Mind Trust . The reason for this interest in Service Leavers, veterans and their transition from the Forces was as a result of the announcement that a certain 30 year-old Captain Wales (Prince Harry) will be leaving the Army after 10 years service. Harry has served his country well and now is moving on – as all service personnel have to do sooner or later.

AVM Lock was exactly right when he listed the hurdles that face all those transiting from uniform to civvies. A single man such as Prince Harry will need to plan for his income, role, and a place to live once having left. Again AVM Lock was right to say that Harry does face these problems although he does have a pretty strong support group. Even so, has Harry planned his exit?

But this blog is not just about Harry. It is also about the many men and women – anything up to 20,000 of them – that leave the Armed Forces each and every year. Men and women that are single or have families, are fit or unfit, are often well prepared for the ‘transition’ but sometimes not prepared enough.

Yes there is a resettlement support function available whilst serving and if a Service Leaver is lucky they will have the full two years to prepare. If they had been made redundant, with the best will in the world, some of those leavers would have been forced into making some quick decisions. Those decisions may sometimes also be made in isolation away from spouses and partners, away from family back home – even under fire.

I started a discussion on LinkedIn just by asking the question, “Do you go where there is work and risk not having the support of family and friends, or do you go where there is family and friends and risk not finding work?”

The responses made one thing obvious and it was that each individual or family may share a core of needs but that those needs are often satisfied differently. The sweeping generalities that are sometimes applied can miss out important needs.

For example, a spouse or partner may attend two briefings – housing and finance – but the rest is down to the Service Leaver. From personal experience (having left the Royal Air Force on two separate occasions) I often had difficulty explaining in detail to my worried partner about what I had learned in the past week. And worried she was, because she was not involved in the fact-finding, decision-making process as much as wanted to be.

And it is not just the immediate family that should be included. Never ignore the contribution of a spouse or partner – they may be the major breadwinner at first. Don’t forget the input from friends and family back home.

Tools such as MAPP Resettlement allow the Service Leaver to include everyone in the planning process from spouse, partner, dependents, resettlement consultants, family back home and even – yes Harry – father and grandmother!

The same MAPP tool prompts the decision-making process and allows tasks to be delegated – all planned over the Internet. Never forget that whilst planning is vital, the inclusion of everyone impacted by the transition in that process is even more important.

So has Harry planned his exit alone? Or will there be an input and support from his immediate family and friends?

Want to know more about Resettlement MAPP? Here are some links:

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