An incredible demonstration of how veterans are supporting veterans out here in the civilian world.
I was extremely privileged last week in having the opportunity to talk with the founder of Warriors RV Sam Benson.
Sam joined the British Army in 2002 and after completing basic training, he went on to join the Royal Irish Regiment deploying on operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As an experienced infantry section commander, Sam became an instructor at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) Catterick for two years.
Although Sam was making successful progress in his military career, he made the decision in January 2015 to leave the Army to embark on a new career in the Close Protection (CP) World.
Why would Sam decide to leave the Armed Forces after building strong foundations for a successful military career?
“I just wanted to try something different and all of my mates were in the Close Protection circuit and I wanted to give it a go”.
Was it an easy process entering the Close Protection industry?
“I did a lot of networking prior to leaving the Army. I wanted to know what courses I was required to complete and I also needed to understand where I wanted to land in the future. I didn’t want to be a shooter all my life, I wanted to be an ops manager. So I researched the relevant courses I needed to do in order to progress”.
“Since leaving the Army I have been progressing slowly and looking for the job ahead of me”.
Would you recommend the CP industry to other veterans leaving the Armed Forces?
“When I left the Army, everyone was telling me that there was no work in the CP circuit and the money had dropped. However, I did my research into CP courses and I completed a controlled risk course. I finished the course on a Friday and I landed a job with the course Instructor on the following Monday”.
“I started getting my name out there and then jobs started coming in. It’s harder for blokes who don’t have an infantry background, for instance, I know guys who served with the Royal Logistic Corps and have been struggling to get CP work but fortunately, thanks to Warriors RV, they have been able to find contacts for CP employment”.
“Having contacts within the Close Protection circuit is a big thing, if you know people in the right places, then you’ll find work straight away. If you don’t, then it’s going to be quite difficult to transition into the CP world”.
“One-hundred percent! People have found jobs through the Warriors RV by getting the CV’s into the right hands. The reason there are so many Close Protection jobs through Warriors RV is that of the contacts I know. Sometimes the jobs are offered to me but I’m happy in my current contract, therefore, those jobs go straight into the Warriors RV“.
I’ve also witnessed Warriors RV providing support in many other ways.
“There was a post on Warriors RV in regards to a homeless veteran and within four hours, the homeless veteran was provided with a wide range of information and support. It’s the little things like that where I feel Warriors RV is helping other veterans”.
This is an incredible demonstration of how veterans are supporting veterans out here in the civilian world.
What inspired you to form the Warriors RV?
“My friend sadly killed himself. I was on guard commander on the following Monday morning and I was sitting there thinking that there must be something other than existing agencies out there, such as Help for Heroes and Combat Stress? There must be something more that veterans can do for each other? So in 2014, I established the formation of Warriors RV“.
“There was only twenty of us in the group, initially it consisted of my best mates. We started looking out for each other and I decided that we could reach out and make it bigger. From there, we made it a battalion network and then one of the lads added a bootneck from outside and before we knew it, we had two thousand five hundred members within a week and it continued to grow from there”.
“It started off for that reason to be able to communicate with each other and that’s how it started. Now we have over seven thousand members on Facebook alone”.
It’s obviously an essential platform for veterans to support each other. Speaking from experience, it’s easier to reach out and speak to fellow veterans than it is to charity organisations. It’s comforting to be able to enter a platform of veterans who most likely share common ground with you and your struggles.
What did you find most challenging about the transition from Soldier to Civilian?
“Leaving that safety bubble – knowing you are going to be paid every month and you know that you’re going to have some form of roof over your head, and you know you’re going to be fed every day. Leaving that comfort blanket with a wife and two children, a mortgage and wondering how to pay that mortgage if I couldn’t get work was the most stressful element. How would I look after the family if I couldn’t get work”.
“I also had it in the back of my head if I couldn’t get work, then I would rejoin the Army”.
So you already made that conscious decision to rejoin and return to the Armed Forces if your situation turned sour?
“I gave myself a year and if things failed to work in that year, I was actually going to rejoin. I’ve had discussions with other soldiers who are too old to re-enlist and that obviously played on my mind. ‘F**k, what if this doesn’t work out‘?
“Touch wood, I haven’t struggled yet but it may well come to a stage where work will dry up, especially in the contracting business. I’d have work today but then my client could decide to leave the country and then I’d be forced to look for more work. That’s where the Warriors RV would play its part for me”.
“The biggest thing for the transition, in my opinion, is to always have a plan B. If this doesn’t work out, what am I going to do next. Even now, I’m in a good job that pays good money but if this goes tits up tomorrow, I’ve still got a plan B. It might be a s**t plan with a s**t job but at least you’ll be able to pay your mortgage and feed your family”.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone leaving the Armed Forces, what would you say?
“Preparation – Use your resettlement package carefully, research into the courses you want to do and then set a goal to achieve within a certain time frame”.
“Most people leave the Armed Forces saying ‘f**k it‘ and grow a beard. I find that if you have a plan and a time frame in your head to achieve that plan, you can aim to hit them targets. If you reach that goal, then happy days but if not, then you need to give yourself an extended period” – Sam Benson.
Just like myself, I admittedly decided to leave the Armed Forces before my official termination date. I had a new job to go into but I didn’t really have a stable plan. I was too eager to leave the Army and as a result, I fell on my arse and I’ve been fighting uphill ever since.
So prior planning and setting achievable goals within a realistic time frame are safer and prosperous methods to the transition from soldier to civilian.
Jamie Kennedy and featured veteran Sam Benson