Adventure with purpose

“You’ve passed, but you’ll never make the Paras”.

The recruiting officer’s words hung in the air, as if I should defend my performance. I was 20 years old and had just narrowly scraped through the Army’s 1.5 mile run fitness test. “Good thing I’m not going for the Paras”, I muttered under my breath, hoping he wouldn’t hear.

 

I’ve been in love with adventure for as long as I can remember. It became real when, having decided I couldn’t spend my formative years stuck behind a laptop, I dropped out of my graphic design degree. I had to find a way to challenge myself. 

 

I wanted to join the Royal Military Police (RMP) after seeing my younger brother undergo his basic training. At his passing out parade - the culmination of three months’ basic training - I was captivated by how smart and disciplined he had looked. Impressed by his new knowledge about life, and about conflict and law, I’d made my mind up to follow in his footsteps before the parade had all but finished. A week later, I quit university and started the application process.

 

I was never that fussed with sports as a youngster (I played some Rugby and loved mountain biking) so had to work hard to develop my fitness to pass the necessary tests. At a recruitment and selection weekend at an Army base in Staffordshire, I stood nervously on the start line. I’d scraped the required time on a couple of occasions during my short preparation but that had been on a treadmill, something the forums told me wasn’t anything like the run in real life.

 

“3….2…..1…..GOOOO!!”

 

The Physical Training Instructor’s shrill voice rang out, marking the start. It was a test I’d come to loathe throughout the rest of my military career. Even years later in the Royal Marines I still felt the same sense of trepidation on the start line.

 

 “You’ve passed, but you’ll never make the Paras”.

 

I wanted to be faster but with so little time to prepare, this was the best I’d got. Happy just to have made it, I resolved not to be last the next time.

 

The start of things to come

 

After nine months of training (three months basic military training followed by six months of military police training) I was sent to Northern Ireland to become a ground and context advisor to the infantry battalions posted to provide security to the police service.

 

At 21 years old, patrolling around the British countryside with live ammunition in my rifle felt like a huge responsibility. We travelled everywhere in helicopters, mostly at night to avoid being targeted, and I loved it. I was working with experienced Officers and senior Non-Commissioned Officers helping to plan tactical movements. I felt like I was making a difference and wanted more experiences like this.

 

Nine months later I got a confirmed place on the Close Protection (CP) course, a revered yet demanding nine-week intensive training course designed to turn military police men and women into bodyguards. 

 

With only a day’s notice, I went on half-prepared and narrowly avoided failure at many turns. One by one I passed the tests and at the end of the course found myself holding a deployment order for Baghdad, Iraq. I was to be part of a ten-strong team, charged with the protection of the British Ambassador – Her Majesty’s highest representative in the country. I was barely 23 and now deploying to a city gripped by ferocious insurgency and civil war.

 

HMA's CP team  |   Baghdad city  |  2006

 

Why do it?

"The iron ore feels itself needlessly tortured as it passes through the furnace. The tempered blade looks back and knows better."

 

It was around this time I began to realise that adventure and challenge are what push me to aim higher. Glibly put, it really is being in this furnace that forces you to develop new life skills and sharpen underused ones. But something always strikes me. If I’m going to take a risk to develop myself – it should be for a greater good. After all, the world is full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Why put those around me, those who invest their energy, love, time, money and support in me, through it if I’m the only one to benefit from the experience? It doesn’t seem to make sense not to use it as a force for good.

 

So this is my philosophy:

Don’t just do adventure for adventure’s sake – there are many people in the world that aren’t lucky enough to be in your position. Instead, use your experience to help those that aren’t as fortunate. Fundraise for charity; advocate for a cause; trail-blaze for the people around you. Just don’t do it to get followers, fame, acclaim or fortune.

 

The starting point for all of my future endeavours will be the same question:

 

Why?

 

#AdventureWithPurpose

Mountain biker in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Mountain biker in Kabul, Afghanistan.