The launch of our April 2021 issue also includes excerpts from the forthcoming free e-Book from Pathfinder International editor Mal Robinson – D.E.M.O.B. – General Advice On Leaving The Military.
We’ve made it even easier for you to read the extracts by including Chapter One (Decide & Plan) below.
D.E.M.O.B. – General Advice On Leaving The Military is due for release on April 23 across an array of book platforms including Amazon and Apple Books.
Chapter One – Decide & Plan
Without being over dramatic, once you decide to leave the military, you have made a life commitment of sorts.
Yes, if you still have some years left on your service, you can retract your application to leave, but for many, once you have made that decision to leave the armed forces, you have made a commitment that will ultimately change your life the way you know it.
For some, this will be a natural progression following a full term of service in their branch of the military. Yet still with this in mind, unless retirement from the forces is your option, the choice of location, second career, mental wellbeing, family life and more still needs to be carefully considered.
I had in total two day’s worth of resettlement, one being a course on how to write a CV, the other another day course, this time on how to become a company director and run my own business, which at the time I was loosely doing producing football magazines…and that was it.
Hindsight is a luxury none of us have personally, but you do have the luxury of my hindsight and my example by reading this.
Knowing I had a job lined up, agreed and contract signed over in Dubai, then Afghanistan, I thought that was that. What I should have been asking myself was what about life after that role?
The whole contractor scene working in Afghan and Iraq probably wouldn’t be sustainable as a long-term career. I had a new baby girl on the way, surely, I wouldn’t want to be away from her forever? These were things I should have considered instead of perhaps seeing the pound signs and feeding off my emotions churning up inside. The fact, my unit in the RAF could not make a call on my future shouldn’t have clouded my judgement, but we are all human, emotive and at times, these can overtake a decision-making process.
Yet, I made a decision to leave, but failed to plan ahead. Maybe it was the fact I was returning to a hostile environment where I’d already served two tours with the RAF, this time without the comfort zone of armed protection, both personally and with massed ranks, that was playing on my mind that negating any long-term plans, I am not sure.
Seven months later, I was making my way out of Afghanistan and returning home to the UK to be with my young family. The job I left nine years proud service in the RAF for was over for me following a number of reasons. I returned home to continue my magazine business with the acquisition of a financial backer, yet still I had been extremely lucky in order for this to happen.
Without turning this publication into a memoir, this is how things panned out.
I had been working as logistics coordinator in Kabul, overseeing the arrival and distribution of air cargo among many other things. The role, whilst having its obvious security risks living off base and up the road from Kabul International Airport, was great for me.
It was an ex-military set up, everyone involved on the ground in Kabul, all military based in one form or the other, including foreign colleagues, who got the military culture. This was great in terms of making the move from the military, almost seamless. We were all out working on essentially a continuous operation and as soon as you got your head around that, things were not far off military service. Throw in the addition of a bar on our camp and it was just like old times.
Cue one day and the need for a few of us to undergo Dangerous Air Cargo (DAC) refresher training and the arrival of our instructor Oz, a former RAF man from my own trade group and as it turns out fellow fan of the club my football magazine covered.
Oz came over for two days to run the course and we hit it off needless to say. I gave him some of the magazines we published to take back with him to Dubai to read and enjoy in his own time, thinking nothing more of it.
We stayed in touch and as a result of the working visas issued to us by the company we worked for, we had to visit Dubai once a month to renew the said visas. This meant I’d be regularly in Dubai and Oz stated his boss wanted to see me about the magazines I’d given him.
It turned out, Oz’s boss was also a fan of our football club and loved the magazines he had shown him over in Dubai. He wanted a meeting with me at one of Dubai’s classy hotels over lunch and I had no idea why. I presumed he’d be after sponsorship or advertising which we offered within the magazine.
I was wrong. Our informal meeting soon turned into a “Dragon’s Den” style inquest, something I was nowhere near ready for, yet I answered the questions off the top of my head, to the best of my ability.
I left the meeting with a potential new investor for my media business who wanted 51% of the company, which he would pay for and mentioned the possibility of me working on this full time.
The company I was working for had decided to close down the Kabul office and move operations elsewhere, all whilst I was on leave back in the UK. It came as a bit of a body blow, as I had enjoyed the banter and daily operations of our small unit. That said, unlike others within the company, I saw no use in arguing the decision or trying to appeal against it. It was a foreign owned company in a hire and fire culture of civilian contractors, so I kept my mouth shut and got on with the decision.
We offered locations to relocate to and I chose Camp Bastion due to the fact many UK lads worked there and of course my old muckers from the RAF would also still be present to work alongside. This was all agreed with the company, whilst they sorted out my fellow workers kicking up a fuss about leaving Kabul.
You can imagine my surprise then, when on returning to Kabul for one of the last stints, I was told I was due in Bagram to go and work there in three days. So, it isn’t just the forces that mess you about then!
Bagram was a former Soviet air base, now led by US Forces and associated companies. I’d be working with a mix of Americans, Canadians and Filipino workers loading aircraft, living in an ISO container at the back end of the Afghan winter with very little heating facilities.
Even the Americans transiting through labelled the place as a dump. I was still needed on occasions back in Kabul to help shut down the office, a chance I’d regularly jump at to get out of this alien place.
One of encounters I was required to go back to Kabul for was to help with basically a legal gun running transportation of cargo from the Afghan capital to Kandahar. I decided to jump in the lead vehicle at the very last minute to go to the airport to load the weapons. We arrived there but the vehicle I was supposed to be in, did not.
That vehicle was stopped at an Afghan police checkpoint and when they spotted AK47’s without serial numbers, the two vehicle occupants were arrested and dumped in the nearest local prison. I should have been in that vehicle and it hit home that that could have easily been me…alarm bells were now ringing.
I made the trip dropping off the weapons, flew back to Kabul, then Bagram and back to my ISO container dorm. I was now clearly eager to get out of here and leave this company, I had seen just about enough and I had too much back home in the form of my baby daughter to continue risking things out here.
At the same time, I had raised safety concerns about the loading of some of the aircraft with a lot of the workers under my control, cutting corners and not heeding safety advice. These concerns were not listened to and dismissed and sadly one of my predictions that one day, a major accident would take place, came true, a year or so later, when cargo shifted aboard a Boeing 747, resulting in the cargo airliner to smash into the ground. It sent a chill up my spine on hearing the news and going back to my time there, it was not something I was prepared to put up with or sign off on my watch.
I knew my investor for the magazine wanted me back in the UK at some point to carry out his vision of expanding the company and the portfolio of titles. Now was the time for me to give him a nudge and get me out of Bagram.
I was due back in Dubai once more to renew visas and I took the opportunity to meet him once more and move things along. It was agreed then that I would leave my role in Afghanistan in a month or so, however on returning back to Bagram, the situation was dreadful both in terms of safety and living conditions and it came to a head one day resulting in my flight out of there back to Dubai for a one month pay off and see out my notice.
That was that I would be returning to the UK to finally land my dream role of magazine production, working mainly for myself.
Yet, the underlying theme I want to make clear is, if it had not been by chance, I had met Oz, he was a supporter of the same football team as I, then this opportunity may never have happened, well I know fine well it wouldn’t have happened.
Some may call it a stroke of luck, others may say I created my own luck by creating the magazines in the first instance, but it was a fortunate set of circumstances, which allowed me to escape Afghanistan.
I had left the RAF to jump into this role, the two former RAF colleagues who helped get me the role had left the company in this time period too, I had been moved to another location and messed about and I could have sacrificed my service for it all and ended up in limbo because I did not plan ahead when I made the decision to leave the military.
What followed was a knock-on effect jumping into the new magazine role not having fully checked out the fall out and cons of this idea should it not succeed. In the end two years later, having expended the company to four magazine titles, I found the investor wanted more and more magazines but would not invest the required funds to implement this.
At the same time by chance another opportunity came knocking in the role of Sports Editor at a large newspaper chain, which I could not turn down as things had not gone to plan with my own media company. This role with the newspaper did not work out as I jumped in once more, which led to a role being offered in Sierra Leone now at the start of 2015 as part of the Ebola relief crisis from the UK Government.
This would be a short-term contract again on great wages with this again being danger money of a different kind…one of working alongside a deadly disease. This meant another job required before the role I know find myself totally resettled and happy with at Pathfinder International magazine.
The lack of planning from the first element of my transition from the military affected the array of roles since. Whilst I have never been out of work and landed some great senior management roles, I can not hide away from the fact that the old adage of prior preparation prevents poor performance came true here.
If you are going to leave, then be bold and make that decision, but please plan ahead for every eventual outcome that may lie ahead. Decide on your area of work you want to move into, but plan based on industry news as to whom may be the best employer in this sector, locations they are based, will your spouse be able to settle there – a multitude of factors to take into consideration.
Decide…but plan, plan and plan some more!
Read the entire April 2021 issue of Pathfinder International for free HERE!