Vet student and part time Army Reservist
I am a fourth-year student at the Royal Veterinary College and also an Army Reservist in 101 Military Working Dog Squadron, part of the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment. I like being able to work with some seriously healthy dogs: highly intelligent and at the top of their game, lean, and sometimes mean. I like completing a satisfying weekend, where I feel a slightly better person at the end of it.
I had completed three years at the University of London Officers' Training Corps (OTC) and was ready for a new challenge. A progression to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps was an obvious one for me.
With the OTC I had undertaken some of the best leadership and development training possible, as well as wining and dining with influential figures, partaking in expeditions internationally and finding myself covered in mud. Friends I had met will be friends for life, and memories made will be lasting, so there was really nothing to lose.
Ideal part-time job
Being a reservist is a fantastically flexible part-time job that allowed me a comfortable student experience. I knew that I could earn and socialise at the same time, all the while developing my character, receiving mentoring from some of the best minds in London. I got paid to take part in adventure training, enjoying sailing in Denmark and hiking in Corsica, among others.
"Being a reservist is a fantastically flexible part-time job that allowed me a comfortable student experience"
Taking the jump to become a dog handler in the Army Reserve gave me a new sense of worth. An infantry battle was fun, but I was never going to be the fastest runner or the best shot. Working with dogs was something I felt confident that I could excel at. I felt ready to begin to merge my civilian and Army careers, and wanted to use my degree learning for a wider goal.
A chance to apply veterinary skills
Despite my having not graduated and having not yet become a veterinary officer, my regiment has invited me to ‘play vet’ at many opportunities, while getting my fix of soldiering too. It has allowed me to extend my university teaching to applying herd health to a group of working dogs and strategise how to keep our dogs at a constant operational level. It is important that they remain healthy, as their role is genuinely life-saving. I have even attended paid CPD, to the dismay of other veterinary students! By experiencing the Army Reserve as a soldier, I hope to become more relatable in my aspiration to commission as a veterinary officer. All being well, I will have risen through the ranks, never asking my troops to do anything I wouldn't have been happy to do myself.
My regiment is a National Regiment, meaning that the expected commitment is lower. It ensures that you are never out of pocket as it reimburses travel expenses and pays for your time. It recruits individuals who want to learn to handle dogs, veterinary nurses (veterinary technicians), veterinary officers and any mixture of the above. There are constant training opportunities, with chances to complete field exercises with our dogs, enter competitions (lots of sport) and help with army recruiting.
Maintaining dogs at peak fitness
Veterinary officers are ultimately responsible for the health of military working dogs, both in and out of the field. The role offers a chance to experience clinical work in adverse conditions, with animals that must be maintained at peak physical fitness.
Veterinary officers are ultimately responsible for the health of military working dogs, both in and out of the field
Veterinary nurses support veterinary officers, protecting the wellbeing of the dogs, especially if sick or injured. It is often the veterinary nurse's role to report and act on clinical signs. Dog handlers come from many walks of life, but are initially trained to work with protection dogs, although they may later train with specialist military working dogs.
In all roles there are opportunities to travel, develop field craft, and really engage in the Army Reserve.
Initial training courses can be split into two-week chunks so it is manageable to start the process around full-time work. And, after basic training, we are asked to give as much or as little time as we can.
Recently, I have been sad to have to pause my reservist career to prioritise my degree, but the unit still supports me and wishes me well at every opportunity. They know that I will be back as soon as I can because, well, why wouldn't I?
Further information can be found on the Army Careers website or visit your nearest Army Careers Centre.