‘I attended Northallerton College from 1988-1992 completing my GCSEs and A Levels. I didn’t quite make the grade to study at my first choice of university and whilst initially disappointed, it enabled me to reconsider the available options and I was accepted for a BSc degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Sunderland; a course which combined the two subjects I enjoyed, biology and geography, along with a breadth of other topics.
Between the second and third year of my degree, I took a year out to take part in an expedition to Lake Baikal, Siberia with the First Battalion The Green Howards. Advertised in the local press, the regiment were looking for civilians to join the small team of military personnel to assist a group of Russian Scientists complete a survey of the Nerpa Seal, an endemic species to Lake Baikal. The lake is frozen to a metre thick from November-May and we would be riding along its length on quad bikes to complete the survey.
Following 3 months of navigation, first aid and survival training in Germany, we travelled to Siberia to consolidate our training before undertaking the expedition. This was an amazing experience which exposed me to an organisation and provided me with a particular skill set that, unbeknown to me at the time, would have a considerable influence on my future.
Following graduation, I still had no definitive career path in mind, so decided to apply for a PGCE to teach Geography, while gaining experience from working for a year as a classroom assistant and office clerk at a secondary school in Middlesbrough. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the PGCE course, having sampled ‘life in the military’ I felt I wanted to experience more of this lifestyle and decided to apply to join the Royal Air Force.
In 1998 I graduated from RAF College Cranwell as a Royal Air Force Officer and was selected to undertake Air Traffic Control training, but unfortunately didn’t pass the professional training course, so I transferred to the Medical Support Officer Branch. This role required no clinical training but supported the delivery of medical care to military personnel. During my 18 year career I undertook a range of roles from assurance and governance of military medical facilities, training Officer Recruits, liaising with the NHS for the provision of healthcare to military personnel and writing policy and management plans. My RAF career led me to numerous postings throughout the UK, 2 years in Germany, and deployments to the Oman, Iraq and Afghanistan.
By choice I left the RAF in 2016, returned to Northallerton to be near family, and subsequently started a family of my own. Having had a break from work, I now find myself back in my RAF uniform as a Reservist at RAF Leeming.
When I look back at how I came to be where I am today, I didn’t always follow my planned pathway, but the paths I ended up taking led to some exciting destinations. Whilst you might be faced with disappointment, don’t be disheartened and look towards the opportunities that are subsequently on offer.’