6 September 2016
Paul Campo is a project manager at WYG working on projects under the MoD’s Principal Support Provider (PSP) framework. In 2015 Paul decided to also join the Army Reserves and is now part of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group Royal Engineers at Chetwynd Barracks in Nottingham. Ahead of Reserves Day on 8th September we take this opportunity to find out why he joined and what life is like as a reservist.
What led you to join the reserves?
Last year I volunteered to be part of a WYG project team supporting the Department for International Development (DFID) to deliver safe isolation beds in communities to help control the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone. The project didn’t go ahead as the situation thankfully improved, but I then had a strong urge to get involved with similar humanitarian projects.
I already had some knowledge of the Army's Corps of Royal Engineers (62 Works Group) as they had deployed to Sierra Leone in response to the Ebola outbreak before. This was as part of the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force providing engineer support to the construction of Ebola Treatment Centres and logistics in 2013 and 2014. I read up on the other works they have been involved with including urgent relief assistance to local communities in Nepal and the subsequent reconstruction works in remote areas to support the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Also, a number of my colleagues on the PSP have served with the military and their skills and the strong leadership they demonstrate has also been an inspiration to me.
How have you benefitted from joining?
Joining the Army Reserve has already benefited my personal development giving me more self confidence and improving self discipline. It has opened up opportunities to learn new skills and broaden my level of experience by getting involved with projects and training that wouldn’t normally be available to me in civilian life. It gives me the opportunity to travel and provides networking opportunities which will benefit my work at WYG. It has certainly taken me out of my comfort zone but given me a real confidence boost at the same time enhancing my personal attributes and skills including physical fitness, leadership and teamwork.
What was the application process and your training like?
With no previous military background I attended two insight days organised by 170 (Infra Sp) Engineer Group in Nottingham. These events gave me the opportunity to meet serving Reservists and discuss their experiences balancing work, family and commitment to the Reserves. I then applied to the Army in May 2015 and by September was invited to spend two days at the Army Assessment Centre in Lichfield which involved physical and mental tests to determine my fitness and soldier potential plus a medical examination.
Following selection, my life in the Reserves really began with Phase 1 training carried out over 4 weekends and a consolidated 15.5 days camp which I completed in May this year at Prince William of Gloucester Barracks in Grantham. This is where I learned basic military skills, including drill, skill at arms (firing a live weapon for the first time), field craft (sleepless nights under a basha), first aid, chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear defence training (exposed to CS gas in a confidence chamber!) and lots of physical training. The training was demanding but a great experience at the same time.
The training also helped me learn more about myself and exactly what I was capable of whilst working on improving my fitness levels. Overall it gave me a real sense of achievement when I had completed it.
What have you been involved with since completing your basic training and what’s next?
On completion of basic training I was assigned to 508 Special Teams Royal Engineers (STRE) 62 Works Group 170 (Infra Sp) Engineer Group. Since then, I have attended an adventure training weekend in Wales and climbed Mount Snowdon via the challenging Crib Goch route. I will also be attending the two week annual training exercise with 62 work group which this year is being held in Bologna Italy undertaking design consultancy and railway infrastructure assessment tasks alongside the Italian Army.
508 STRE Works are tasked with General Infrastructure and have the widest range of responsibilities involving all aspects of engineering assessment, design and project management. I am likely to get involved with anything from barrack and field hospital design to supervision and construction of major roads and bridges.
Is there a synergy with the work you are doing at WYG?
There is, of course, a particular synergy with my role as Project Manager on the PSP Framework. I am currently the Project Manager for a Civilian Engineering Support Team (CEST) project supporting the Royal Engineers with a significant construction project in the Falkland Islands. I also provided UK based geotechnical support to the Royal Engineers through a CEST project working with a Reservist Captain stationed in Helmand, Afghanistan.
That doesn’t mean to say that people working in other sectors and roles wouldn’t have a synergy, though. There are various career paths and opportunities to specialise in specific areas dependant on your skills set and potential for accelerated promotion or opportunity for commissioning as an Officer.
How do you balance the work, reservist and home life balance?
The annual commitment with the Royal Engineers is 19 days including a 15 day camp (for regional units this is normally 27 days). Doing any more than this is optional and there is plenty of flexibility there which helps people to find the right balance for them.
My family have been very encouraging and I obviously couldn’t do it without their full support. I’ve also had the support of my line management at WYG. The company has a reserves policy which sets out WYG’s commitment to employees serving with the reserves. Amongst other things, this provides me with an additional 2 week annual leave to attend the reserve annual training camp.
What advice would you give anybody thinking of joining the reserves?
Go for it!!! At 41 I am at the top end of the age scale (18-50) for people joining the reserves but I wish I had done it sooner. There are lots of ways to find out more information and if you do join and it isn’t for you then there is the option to leave at any time. It is definitely one of the best things I have ever done.
More information on how to join the reserves can be found here.