An Officer Cadet and a Head Teacher: Reflections on the Reserve Commissioning Course
By Vic Carr
Last year I made an error. I posted in LinkedIn. I posted about being a middle-aged Headteacher, a female officer cadet, starting her reserve course at Sandhurst.
Why was it an error? Not because I received a pile-on. On the contrary, it was because I arrived at Sandhurst already on the radar of my platoon staff – potentially a dangerous position to be.
But it had a hugely positive result as well. I received swathes of encouragement from hundreds of people. I was also asked three questions, questions I want to answer now. What was the greatest challenge I faced? What was the most fulfilling aspect of the course? How did I feel as I completed the course?
The answers to these questions throw a light on the reserve commission course, the nature of leadership and the genuine pride you get in pushing yourself to achieve something you believe to be worthwhile.
If you are considering the Army Reserve commissioning course – known as the Commissioning Course Short – then my story can offer you insights into the course. More than that, I hope it will explain some of the thinking that goes on inside the head of an experienced school leader who happens to also be an inexperienced Officer Cadet.
But first, indulge me. The story only makes sense if you understand a little about me.
Not every officer cadet is 21 years old
I was not your ‘ordinary’ Officer Cadet.
I had been a senior leader in a range of contexts around the world even before I became a primary school Headteacher ten years ago. Since then I have successfully led two schools, both with significant and unique challenges. Right now, I am responsible for the career development and pastoral care of over 95 staff, the quality education and safeguarding of almost 600 children, and a multi-million pound budget.
For some years I lectured part-time on several Master’s Degree courses in leadership. I lead modules on coaching and mentoring, governance and policy, and change management. I am a consummate learner, currently engaged in my own seventh postgraduate qualification, the majority of which have focussed on leadership in one guise or another. I am an advocate for learning at every level and striving for self-improvement. Yet I confess: I have made, and continue to make, more mistakes in my 47 years than I have eaten hot meals.
If you had told me five years ago, even three years ago, I would be writing about being a British Army Officer I would have laughed out loud. So how did I end up at Sandhurst?
At 45, having completed a doctorate I was wondering what to do with my ‘spare time’. A colleague suggested that I consider joining the British Army Reserves. I spent two years navigating the recruitment process, going through basic reserve soldier training, the two-part officer selection process at Westbury and the commissioning course at Sandhurst and am finally ready to command my first troops.
So let me now answer that first question.
My greatest challenge
What was my greatest challenge to succeeding at Sandhurst?
In a word: me.
Prior to attending Commissioning Course Short 213 I suffered a crisis of confidence. Those I work with in school were amazed by this. I am known for my ability to seek out talents and latent skill, hone and coach it to the fore, instil and enhance confidence in my peers. Indeed it is one of my most renowned skills. Yet I found myself utterly lacking. Trying to reflect on this retrospectively is far easier than trying to understand it at the time.
One of several commissioning pathways for reserve soldiers and potential officers is to complete Basic Soldier Training then complete three modules of two weeks each, known as Modules B, C and D. Modules B can be completed with a University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) over an academic year as weekends, the summative assessment conducted on annual camp.
I did Module B with Liverpool UOTC. It was the closest to where I live, the finale was a field exercise where individuals were assessed on their ability to live in the field, receive sets of orders, analyse them using the Combat Estimate (also known as The Seven Questions) and produce a set of orders before delivering and executing missions under the watchful eye of experienced Directing Staff.
As we ‘collected brass’ at the end of the exercise, the Directing Staff assessing me discussed my performance. Having come up with a cunning and well executed plan, they felt that what I lacked in natural aggression I made up for in tactical awareness. My assessor felt I would ‘nail’ the remainder of the commissioning course, all of which needed to be conducted at Sandhurst in a 2 or 4 week burst of Modules C and D.
Who was I to argue? Those who work with me in school would attest to this: my usual disposition is best suited to thinking rather than shouting. My brain never switches off and I am always considering problems and comparing potential courses of action methodically. However, despite this positive feedback I remained irrationally apprehensive.
In the month leading up to my departure there was a lot to occupy me. I found myself legitimately able to avoid looking at the Admin Instruction. I found excuses to not think about the expectations against which I would be measured. I busied myself with my day job such that my weekends, evenings and any spare time were so full that I had no time to think of failure. By doing so I was able to keep the unfounded fear at bay: fear of letting down so many people who believed in me; people who assumed I would pass, who just expected me to be successful. Of all the fears, it was the fear of being pitted against younger, stronger, fitter, more able individuals and being found wanting that paralysed me the most.
What this meant was that by the week before I left, defying logic and common sense, I was more anxious than ever – and given some of the personal and academic challenges I had faced over the years, I can see now that this was ridiculous.
Logistically, I had prepared everything I could at school and at home, literally with military precision. I am a super-organised person – the only thing missing from my preparation was a synchronisation matrix. Yet conversely, it was only two days before stepping off that I finally went through my kit list and started to pack in a mild panic.
We were also due an Ofsted inspection. When I took over my current school it was in a less-than-desirable Ofsted category. I knew I was being either very brave or very foolish in leaving my leadership team at the helm for a month with an inspection looming.
What I was confident of, as an experienced senior leader of 15 years, was they all knew their jobs. They all had a crib sheet to remind them of their excellence and things they had done over the last three years. I had trained and coached each of them. They were knowledgeable and highly skilled and, as a tight-knit team, they knew the school as well as I did. I was confident that should they receive ‘the call’ in my absence, they could handle it without me – even if none of us particularly wanted this.
At home I had a planner on the wall in my house and each of my two teenagers had a separate colour for appointments, tasks, and work rotas, as did my Mum who was left as overall adult in command. Even the school dog, Gus, had a schedule.
The issue I was battling was cognitive dissonance: grappling with the notion of simultaneously wanting to go and complete the course yet feeling like I was abandoning both my school and my family. I have never ditched anything halfway through, but was I abdicating my professional responsibilities? Was I also abdicating my maternal responsibility by missing my son’s 18th and daughter’s 17th birthdays? Despite knowing Modules C and D would challenge me as I had never been challenged before, I was more anxious about deserting those reliant upon me. Was I being selfish, heading off to experience the magic of Sandhurst and test my mettle?
I did my final Ofsted preparation on Twitter and LinkedIn on the Friday night. With a sanitised photograph of my kit in disarray in the living room, I explained that I would be busy for the next month. Ofsted look at your school website and social media for up to a month prior to any inspection; this was an attempt to dissuade them from even attempting to come and inspect, as they would know I was not there.
I was not quite prepared for the response from the general public…
Being ‘that student’
I did not sleep over the weekend. When I got in the car on Sunday morning I felt physically sick, still battling the negative voice in the back of my own mind which was busy telling me I was being foolish and setting myself up for a fall, to fail. The voice questioned the rationality of undertaking such a demanding course at my age.
I am lucky. I spoke to several friends on my way down to Sandhurst, friends who know me well and who were confused about why I was battling feelings of inadequacy, despite a trail of successes. Friends who were able to refocus my thinking temporarily. Yet none of this prevented me from arriving at the Staff College Gate at Sandhurst with a racing heart and sweaty palms.
Anyone who has ever done something new, pushed way beyond their comfort zone, or who is planning to, has felt the feelings of doubt I felt and experienced the internal battle of wills I suffered. I am nothing special. Many of the reserve potential officers I encountered were apprehensive about an aspect of the course. I have felt anxiety like this before and managed to overcome it. I have a road map for navigating it. My anxieties, however, were compounded when our exceptional Staff Corporal (the Lifeguards equivalent of a Colour Sergeant), pulled me quietly to one side as I unpacked. In his inimitable Scottish brogue he informed me that the Company Sergeant Major was aware of the post I had put on social media two days before and which had (unbeknown to me) attracted over 80,000 views and hundreds of comments.
I was like a rabbit trapped in the proverbial headlights.
As a Headteacher I can tell you honestly, knowing all about a child before they join your school is not necessarily the most auspicious of start for them. I found myself in the curiously inverted position of being the ‘well-known child’ in this scenario. Having explained the rationale behind the post, he was satisfied. He was also supportive of me taking a call from the Ofsted inspector should the inspection have to take place whilst I was on the course.
I was unaware, until we were on the 5-day Mod C field exercise and the Sergeant Major told me himself, that he had been sent screenshots of the post by several of his military friends and knew I was on the course before he has even seen the nominal roll. Wincing, I took a moment back in ‘the lines’ days later to read the comments. I was speechless. The vast majority were overwhelmingly supportive, with one or two a little left-field – but swiftly taken to task by other commentators. The comments made on my post, either from people who had been Directing Staff or had been through it themselves, buoyed me ahead of the start of the course. Yet the fact the staff knew about it out-balanced this comfort. It made me anxious about their prior impressions and expectations of me.
This experience, within an hour of arrival at Sandhurst, illustrated something important for me. How we represent ourselves in the public domain can be amplified and quickly gain traction without our awareness or our explicit intent. Whilst I had awareness of this from a school perspective, as a prospective Reserve Officer, this was an important lesson to learn early on.
The military community are supportive of one another. There is a wealth of respect for people who have been through Sandhurst that spans generations. The bonds created through a sense of shared experience and understanding is akin to a language all of its own and I personally felt it happen to the course as we lived it.
Balancing competing reserve and civilian priorities
It was another example of the complexity of balancing competing priorities when one chooses the Army Reserve path. I knew needed to share my location so Ofsted would know it, and hopefully not inspect our school in my absence. However, I felt very exposed because I was sharing the fact I was about to be tested and may not meet the standard, whilst also drawing attention to an organisation rightly nervous as they were currently in the press. My post was not a brag. I was taking a risk. The benefit of Ofsted not coming mitigated against any potential public embarrassment, for me or the organisation, and balanced against the subsequent necessity of reassuring Directing Staff.
I feel that much of daily leadership in all spheres is distilled into this simple truth – there is always duality.
Module C was every bit as challenging as I expected it to be, and rightly so. If it was easy then it would negate the stringent and exacting two part selection process undertaken by the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) ‘Briefing’ and ‘Main Board’, and everyone would be doing it. This I was rightly told by those buoying up my flagging self-confidence on LinkedIn. I had already been assessed as having the potential, therefore I threw myself at each task determined to giving 100%, and supporting others.
The Army system, tried and tested, is to pair soldiers, to ‘buddy-buddy’, where each undertakes to look out for the other. I was lucky. My room was in the middle of my section, all of whom were inevitably much younger than I was, all of whom were male, and (I imagined) initially wondered whether I would be ‘the section drag-along’. Needless to say, my powers of organisation, attitude, drive, morale-inducing chat, determination and resilience meant I very quickly demonstrated to them this was not going to be the case.
On exercise I was dogged despite rain, cold, sleep deprivation, hunger at times, and several frustrations. In barracks, I was organised, supportive and respectful. My final gesture, something I have often done to my staff in school, was to hand-write a card for every person on the course. I told them the value I felt they had added to the course, and my experience of it, leaving the notes by their doors on the penultimate night. The personal responses to these notes were very telling. While I was placed in the top three students on the course, the responses of my peers that night meant far more to me and several have since become very close friends.
My room rapidly became the hub of map covering (show me a teacher who cannot ‘fablon’ any inanimate object in seconds), ‘wet making, scran sharing, dit spinning’, and laughter. Everything I do on a daily basis in school just transferred immediately into my natural role on the course – ‘platoon mum’. I was lucky to receive parcels almost every day from friends, family and followers on social media, the contents of which were immediately shared out.
There was lip balm for one of the boys, bath bombs for another, moisturiser for someone else, unlimited biscuits and chocolate for everyone together with emergency blister plasters, which were a God-send. As for the gin delivery, self-reported on the day as I was the ‘Duty Cadet’, the less said the better. Mind you, I am sure the actions I undertook during my tenure as ‘Duty Cadet’ will live on in infamy. Of particular note was the 0700 room inspection and re-show of every single poncho, ‘yoke’ and set of magazines, in not too dissimilar fashion to kit shows on residentials I have organised for children.
What simple responsibilities such as these allowed us all to do was to have the opportunity to show our capabilities not just in the field in command roles, but also in general obligations in barracks – just as we would be expected to when undertaking our duties in our units. Not all leadership is enacted in the field or during conflict, in fact the vast majority is not. According to my verbal debrief at the end of the course, Directing Staff are looking for those who ‘glue the platoon together’ as well as drive forward attacks.
My peers on the course, it has to be said, were amazing. Each of us had navigated time away from our civilian roles. The effort I put in to preparing for my 4 week absence was matched in similar ways for other reserve officer cadets who came from finance, marketing, paramedicine and civil service jobs amongst others.
Each of us brought our own unique skill set to Sandhurst, This diversity was both beneficial to us officer cadets and created a lot of hilarity for the Directing Staff. I feel sure they have exponentially expanded on their repertoire of ‘dits’ on the back of our platoon alone. Working with accomplished, qualified experts from multiple fields will have been a far cry from years of working with trained and proficient soldiers, or ‘regular’ officer cadets, and thus added a different dimension to the course for those Directing Staff tasked with training us. Their professionalism with us all, and determination to see us succeed, was exceptional. It again had congruence with the approach of virtually every teacher I have known in my civilian role.
The final aspect of Mod C covered academic and theoretical leadership concepts together with History of War studies. This gave us all an opportunity to explore and refine virtue ethics, character, how our ethical muscle memory would be developed through a holistic approach to training and how we would implement the theory in our role. If I am honest, this was the greatest pleasure for me. I loved listening to the views of the lecturers and others on the course, expanding on them, being challenged cognitively and really thinking about enduring leadership dilemmas in the military and wider society. So many of them had congruence for me in my day and academic jobs.
Students and staff
I was recently asked two questions by a colleague of mine who left Sandhurst decades ago, before completing his training. He is in an exceptional leadership role and works closely with me in the work I do on ‘leadership in the outdoors’, which amalgamates several passions of mine. The first was, ‘were the DS as shouty as they were 40 years ago?’ The second was, ‘are the cadets rather one dimensional in their thinking? Less creative and less critical than civilians?’
I enjoyed the ensuing debate. Despite what may be commonly purported in the press, I experienced only professional conduct from the Directing Staff. I cannot comment on what has gone before. I would say that any progressive organisation will respond to societal change and expectation, therefore it is impossible to apply the current analytical lens that we have to historic methodology in training. We all know better now and are therefore able to be better. The Army is no different.
The Directing Staff we came across were pragmatic about aspects of the course and encouraged interaction and debate during sessions. They allowed us to expand on the perspectives of our peers to gain maximal traction in crucial aspects of our learning. An example of this would be the session on ethics delivered by the Padre. She asked us to consider where we stood on the conundrum of killing. Who would we be prepared to kill and under what circumstances? When would this be considered proportionate and why? It was a fascinating debate and one that drew out the key contentious issues from across many disciplines and centuries in relation to taking life.
This enables me to segue to the second question. The cadets were anything but one dimensional! I had some of my most profound conversations when the social constraints we inflict on ourselves in our daily lives were removed and I sat in the dark for hours on stag with all members of my section. Whispered debates about what comes after death, leadership and post-traumatic stress, the benefits of talking therapies over physical exercise, astrology and constellations, religion, love, relationships, mortality and an awful lot more.
These were young men with questions, unafraid to talk to an older woman who had life experience and who was neither judgmental nor fazed by being asked unusual or difficult questions. These were young men, prepared to invest their spare time into an organisation in flux. They were modern and progressive thinking individuals who were prepared to challenge with respect, who wanted to learn and who wanted to help others. I felt proud to be amongst them, learn, laugh and work with them. Anyone in their final units will be as well.
We had a day off between Mod C and Mod D and it was like emerging from a bunker. I walked around the entire Sandhurst site. I enjoyed being creative, taking hundreds of photographs in the late autumnal sunshine. With every step my body reminded me of the bruises I had accrued on exercise, the high intensity I had been working at for a fortnight and what an achievement surviving it all felt like.
I curated my photographic diary, sharing my favourite images on social media. I was taken for dinner by a course-mate. I slept, reflected and marvelled at the history of the Academy and my own journey to be there. I found time to have a coffee with a Royal Marine friend who found the unused assault course very interesting and thought we should all have been put through our paces on it! There was a very definite transition between the two modules which indicated the change in focus and allowed us all the opportunity to regroup.
Module D had a different vibe altogether. We lost some cadets as they could not commit to the 4 weeks due to logistical issues outside of their Reservist roles. We lost some to injury. We gained others who had done Module C the previous year and we needed to integrate them quickly to preserve the integrity of the platoon.
I knew, having already had a command appointment in the field, that the likelihood of me taking on another one in the final exercise was minimal. As Platoon Sergeant I had already navigated the requirements. The structure of the progressive difficulty meant that as mine was the second serial in an ‘advance to contact’ the Directing Staff raised their expectations from the first and added in multiple, complex casualties for me to manage. This element of ‘Command and Control’ was critical in enabling those who came after me to see how it should and could be done, building on errors noted in both my performance and of the team’s performance in relation to my command. The coaching methodology we experienced meant that even making mistakes was invaluable to the rapid improvement we all made and point of need learning that took place. I did well, but it was hilarious when, on our return patrol to the harbour area, I thanked someone. I was told in no uncertain terms I should ‘cease and desist’ by Colour Sergeant ‘Smudge’ Smith. You can take the teacher out of the school but…
The Mod D ‘replacements’ were quickly tasked and given very robust command appointments. This led to a great deal of learning in the field and, as an observation, they illustrated viscerally the concept of ‘skill fade’. Military historians will know more about integration of replacement soldiers and the efficacy of this. Many will have frameworks upon which we could have based our rapid absorption of these newbies. We just took them to the Colours Bar for a lemonade and then inculcated them into Room 151 Common Room for some healthy banter and some biscuits! As professionals outside of the Army we had all been in situations where we had inducted new staff or been inducted ourselves.
The final field exercise was more than a little cheeky and rightly so. It built upon the physical robustness of the previous one, the military and tactical skills required, the practical and conceptual knowledge and understanding of each of the roles in a platoon. This was critical for mission success, efficiency and harmony, and our cohesion as a group. The finale (skip on to avoid a spoiler if you are about to complete a Commissioning Course Short) was a casualty run and a dip in The Wish Stream. It felt like a baptism. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling like I stepped out of that experience like a different person.
Metamorphosis, leadership and pride
The end of the exercise, ‘End-Ex’, for me was a metamorphosis. I knew I had changed and found some inner confidence which could not be shaken out. Given my history and life story, it might be a surprise to anyone that I would have lacked it in the first place. The other officer cadets said as much to me, asking me daily if I was ‘proud of myself yet’.
I am not sure I was truly proud. But I was glad to have learnt a little more about leadership.
Effective and transformative leadership will be more vital than ever in the future. We need to manage and mitigate the changes afoot in society and the military. Each of us has a part to play in that, at every level. If we have a right to be led well, then we have a responsibility to follow well and lead others well, too.
Each of us can be a leader, in any walk of life and many of us are. he Army is rightly proud of its multifaceted leadership pathways – from junior soldiers at the Army Foundation College (Harrogate), to promotional courses such as Army Leader Development Programme. From initial officer training at Sandhurst through Junior Officer Tactical Awareness Course and beyond. But these do not limit leadership or the desire to positively influence others.
For me, I was not proud of completing the course. I was relieved not to have let down myself, my children, my family, my loved ones, my colleagues at school, my platoon, and my unit. I was pleased to have conducted myself well, to have supported my fellow cadets and to have done all I could to facilitate our collective success. I was pleased where I was able to make the experience as transformational for others as it was for me. I suppose this was something I took with me to Sandhurst. It underpins my own philosophy of leadership and was evidently recognised by the Directing Staff and my peers alike.
Yet how leadership is developed and experienced, understood and personified, is different for every one of us. It is ever-fluid. How the British Army recruits and train its Officers, the expectations placed upon them throughout their careers and how they exemplify their responsibilities, may well come under further scrutiny in the near future. Despite being a very experienced leader, and somewhat mature in years, my understanding of my own leadership evolved for the better as a direct consequence of attending Sandhurst.
Our destiny as leaders
As a Headteacher I often talk to student teachers. They are taking their first tentative steps towards being qualified to teach a class without the handrail of another adult to defer to in the room. One of the topics which generates a multitude of questions from them is always whether I was destined to be a leader. They are keen to understand whether it was always my goal when I started teaching. They ask whether I knew from an early age I would be a headteacher. They wonder how I made the decision to teach over any other career and how I have managed to retain my passion for the job despite the accountability pressures and excessive workload. Latterly they are keen to know how I balance the different facets of my life and give so much to each.
They are inevitably astounded when I explain how my decision to go to university, gain a degree and then teach was by dint of the fact that email was not invented when I was their age. In a twist of fate, ‘snail mail’ meant the application I made to university was the first to be returned, the one to the Royal Air Force arriving some weeks later. Thus, my potential career as a Chinook pilot, potentially the first female Chinook pilot, was no more than a dream. I found myself in student accommodation in The Lake District the following September instead of at Cranwell.
Because of the assumptions they make of me, my position and how I arrived at it, the student teachers are even more surprised when I tell them how most of my life and career has followed a similar pattern. This reaction was amplified by the young Army Reserve recruits I trained with at Wyvern Barracks in 2020, and latterly the Officer Cadets at Sandhurst. It perhaps typifies the confirmation bias which is innate in all of us – successful people have a plan and execute it with precision.
This has not been my story. It may not be yours.
Rather than believing in destiny, my philosophy, probably based on several early life experiences, is to seize opportunity, give maximum effort to achieving success (in whatever from this may take). Perhaps most importantly, it is to enjoy the process. I realise this may not fit any conventional career pathway model. I am certainly not advocating everyone behave in the same intuitive way. Yet I do know it is the sole reason why I have such a diverse professional profile and why I am constantly evolving as a person and therefore leader.
My final report from Sandhurst says I am ‘formidable’. I am also organised, focussed, determined and driven. Therefore, it must appear strange when I lack confidence. I will have sudden ideas about doing a course, or taking on a physical challenge simply because it is novel or interesting. I often do not know where each opportunity will lead me, and often I push myself beyond my limits of comfort, terrified, but trying anyway. This time, it led me directly to the steps of Old College via many a rite of passage, including a dunking in The Wishstream.
What a journey.
It is perhaps a truism that if people can see something, they can develop a belief in their ability to emulate it. Perhaps that is the true destiny of leadership. The Army of the 21st century is focussed on inclusivity, diversity and embracing talent. This means that as a woman I am morally and operationally obliged to be a role model to other women, regardless of age and social standing. Women need to see their way to achieving and to contributing positively to the organisation whilst enhancing their own life experiences. Seeing other women do it helps.
What was the most fulfilling part?
The most fulfilling aspect of Commissioning Course 213 was showing young officer cadets, particularly young female officer cadets, that anything was possible. Not only showing them (they had already made the selection themselves) but also showing the same thing to children in my school, my teenage daughter and her friends, and my colleagues.
I was also able to challenge stereotypes which other people may have had about age and gender in a wider public forum. I shared a second (celebratory commissioning) post on LinkedIn, again to over 73,000 people. It was evident there was a degree of respect in the comments. I felt a subtle seed change as it was realised how glass ceilings, self-imposed or societally imposed, are there to be firmly smashed by each of us. The only limits we have are our own.
I know from experience how relationships are the basis of all leadership successes, conundrums and barriers. They are also the basis for all success and conundrums in life. I understand how challenging myself and being immersed in a project does not exclude my ability to simultaneously signpost others towards fulfilling their own potential. Influencing and signposting others happens constantly, sometimes in the most unusual ways and places.
For leaders in any context, this reflection is essential. I have written and talked about the varied experiences I have enjoyed. They are also why I feel I can speak with a degree of authority about the learning which took place for me at Sandhurst.
I learned how self-doubt is more than natural if you lack ego and want to achieve something which matters to you. Anxiety is also typical, if you are outside of your norms and feel less knowledgeable or find yourself possibly in an alien environment. Only since the end of my Army journey have I revisited these feelings, feelings I have not felt in the 25 years since I was a new teacher learning my craft. Perhaps all reservists will feel the same. It reinforced for me how collectively we can overcome a great deal and how the relationships formed during duress or difficulty are profound. This is a truism which spans many fields.
The feeling of commissioning
Finally, it almost goes without saying that Sandhurst is a special place.
For me, the opportunity to learn within the history and the beauty of the grounds created a space for me to reflect which I was not expecting. The most poignant moment for me was in the Chapel, following the privilege of attending Remembrance Day there. With an hour off I went back to see if the chapel was open and explored not just the splendour of it but also absorbed the sombre ambiance. I considered the ultimate sacrifice of others and the potential for me to make the same one.
I realised that for me, sacrifice is also about the time, energy, and effort we devote to the role we have. This is crucial in a leadership position which paves the way for the success of the collective. Our conduct and ethical behaviour is key to this. The focus on the development of our conduct underpinned much of the work done on both Modules. It is exemplified throughout wider leadership training across the Army.
I felt calm in the Chapel amidst a sea of dark blue, crimson and white. I enjoyed being on the parade square. I felt a sense of pride, yet recognition in being a small part of a much bigger whole. I loved standing before loved ones, friends, family and feeling that I was sharing in a slice of history. The sense of profound responsibility settled on me as we slow marched up the steps into lunch. I found joy in thanking the Directing Staff and walking an inch taller from Old College to Victory Building as a commissioned officer. Finally, it all felt surreal the next day to be back in the reality of running a home and preparing for school as if it had all been a dream.
In the end, it is about serving to lead
I have been asked several times whether I am proud of myself for my achievement. Having reflected about how I feel, the answer is ‘not really’.
I can almost hear the audible intake of breath at this revelation but bear with me. Whilst I am not proud of myself per se, it is my intent to be proud of what I can do, as a privileged bearer of The Queen’s Commission, to positively influence the careers and lives of those whom I serve.
This, for me, is what underpins leadership both in my day job as a Headteacher, and now as a newly-minted junior commissioned officer in the British Army Reserves. Serving to lead, leading to serve.
They are the bedrock of who I am and the value I intend to add as an officer. If you think they are the bedrock of how you would like to lead, then perhaps you should go on the same journey I went on.
Because the destination is worth it. But the journey is even better.
If you would like to know what leadership advice a former Commandant of Sandhurst would give you, then read Four and a Half Lessons Learnt, by Maj Gen Patrick Marriott.