Skills are taken to a new level

There are some 600 Reservists combining their civilian life with service in the Royal Marines – and they are expanding their experience in new and challenging ways

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As a lawyer working in the oil and gas industry, Robbie Kennedy navigates daily one of the most complex, fast­paced, and demanding global sectors. As Captain Kennedy, the Officer Commanding Aberdeen Detachment of the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) Scotland, he is also a part-time but fully-trained Commando, experiencing, he says, “the best of both worlds”.

The RMR unit, which draws recruits from across Scotland and the rest of the UK, provides the Royal Navy with a rigorously trained General Reserve, vol­unteers who have all passed the same tests of mental and physical ability as the regulars, to earn the Green Beret.

For Kennedy, Senior Legal Coun­sel for GDF SUEZ E&P UK Ltd, part of the ENGIE Group, in Aberdeen, such an achievement had been the stuff of boy­hood dreams. “I joined the RMR in early 2006 while I was completing my Masters Degree in Law,” he explains.

“From a young age, my interest was drawn to the Royal Marines, the chal­lenge of earning the coveted Green Beret, the reputation, professionalism and history of the corps and the pros­pect of serving within one of the most esteemed and respected military organi­sations in the world – all things I aspired to growing up.
“On completing my studies, however, I chose to pursue a legal career, but the RMR presented an opportunity to expe­rience the best of both worlds.”

It’s clearly an arrangement that also benefits both his employer, and the RMR. Kennedy’s breadth of experience, and range of transferable skills, serve to underline how Reservists can impact on the quality of the Armed Forces, while also having a positive effect on their own individual civilian careers.

“As a Royal Marines Reservist you have the opportunity to push yourself to the limit, physically and mentally, and undertake challenges which oth­erwise would not present themselves in civilian life, such as serving on for­ward operations,” says Kennedy. “You learn fundamental life skills such as leadership, commitment, resilience, versatility, composure, clear thinking and professionalism – all attributes that serve well in any civilian career, and are welcomed by employers.

“In my career as an oil and gas lawyer, I often utilise such skills and experi­ences; serving on operations demanded clear thinking under pressure and my role as officer in command of a detach­ment requires leadership, objectivity and professionalism; just a few of the skills I have learned in the RMR that serve me well in my career. The RMR has benefited me tremendously, both in terms of experiences and transfer­able skills.”

Marine Will Barratt, also with the Aberdeen Detachment RMR Scotland, and a business development advisor with Maersk Oil, shares this view. Barratt had been keen to join the RMR for some time, and after spending several years working abroad he joined the detachment in 2011 on his return to the UK.
“It is about more than a way to spend my spare time,” he says. “You become part of a wider force with a long and decorated history, with an associated emphasis on training to a standard in keeping with everything this represents.

“A good number of the skills I have picked up in training are readily transfera­ble into a corporate environment, so there are clear benefits to my civilian career. Taking one example, the mental resilience developed through training can bring val­uable perspective when managing diverse projects under strict deadlines.”

The fact is, perhaps contrary to some outside perception, that becoming part of the RMR demands significant effort and commitment, as the initial training enables recruits to develop physically, grow in confidence, and also gain skills. However, as Commandos, RMR recruits also learn increasingly challenging mil­itary skills and survival techniques in tough environments, such as the jungle – or the Arctic.

“As a Reservist you are very much part of the Royal Marines Corps family,” says Kennedy. “We have the same standards, culture and traditions as our regular counterparts, and we very much serve the purpose of augmenting the regu­lar Corps and bridging the gap between the civilian and military communities. As the officer in command of a detach­ment of 20, I am very fortunate to serve alongside ex-regulars and Reservists with a range of civilian occupations, circumstances and experiences among them. The RMR epitomises the individ­ual diversity, but collective uniformity of Reservists.”

Being part of that “Corps family”, however, can mean more than just giving up some spare time. The commit­ment, says Kennedy, can be demanding, so Reservists rely heavily on the support of their families and employers to give up their evenings, weekends, holidays and perhaps longer periods of time for operational duty. “The demands on personal time can be significant,” says Barratt. “So ultimately it is up to the individual to manage the commit­ment based on their own priorities at any given time.”

Kennedy, who has his own family, knows just how much of a challenge in itself that can be. “When I served on a seven month operation in Afghani­stan, GDF SUEZ E&P UK Ltd were hugely supportive in releasing me for my mobi­lisation period and then welcoming me back to work with open arms on my return, a great testament to them as an employer,” he says.

“My greatest challenge, however, was being away from my wife, son and the rest of my family for such a long period, but their continuous love and support kept me focused to the end. I am ever grateful for the all-round support I receive as a Reservist.”

There are around 600 RM Reservists currently combining their civilian day jobs with serving part-time, with some 10 per cent of them serving on long-term attachments in regular Royal Marines units. RMR recruits come from a vari­ety of backgrounds and don’t need to have any previous military experience, although the RMR does include former Royal Marines and Regular Soldiers and others who may have transferred in from the Army Reserve.

Highland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association represents the interests of Reserve Forces in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The RMR in Highland RFCA’s area is made up of detachments in Aberdeen and Dundee who train on Wednesday evenings and, together with other RMR Scot­land detachments, are also involved in monthly weekend training.

It’s a commitment Barratt describes as “extremely worthwhile”. Kennedy adds: “During my RMR career, I have fully embraced the opportunities it can offer and in return I have enjoyed unfor­gettable experiences, acquired valuable life skills and have become part of one of the world’s most respected military organisations, all in parallel to pursuing my civilian career.”

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