Army officer at a glance
Around 40 per week
Part-time and full-time. Obviously there is the chance for overseas deployment!
Being of moderate fitness
Respect for others
Leadership (remember it takes many forms)
Confidence and humour
Loyalty, integrity, commitment, sympathy
What were your first career steps and how did that work out?
Upon graduating from the RVC, I was lucky enough to be part of a team that ran the VetFit study at the RVC. I spent the summer working on the study and then was off to join the Army! In my first year with the Army, I cofounded VetFit with Charlie Mays, and started talking at various events and trying to promote positive Wellbeing in the veterinary profession through exercise, fun and positive thought. Whilst I spent time building my clinical skills with various civilian and military practices, we finished the study at the RVC and looked at expanding it and got a chance to at the WellVet weekend where we discussed our aims and managed to get everyone to have a fun workout session in the rain!
So how did you decide to become a vet in the army and focus on fitness?
I have known I wanted to join the Army for a long time, even before university. I have always been and still am drawn in by the chance to travel (I spent several sunny weeks in Cyprus last year), the chance to play sport, the part to work as part of a team but also the opportunity and privilege to lead a team of dog handlers and veterinary technicians.
VetFit was born out of my passion for sport and social activity whilst at university. Charlie and I were intrigued to find out why it seemed that less people were doing team sports at university despite larger year sizes, effectively leading to the VetFit study. I captained the Men's Rugby team for several years and worked closely with the Student Union and knew that I didn't want to stop having fun in sport and getting other people into sport once I finished university.
What did you need to do to get into this career path?
To join the Army, I had to pass Army Officer Selection Board. This involves having moderate fitness, demonstrate an ability to work in a team, work under pressure and some display of leadership. For VetFit, Charlie and I are working through several Personal Training qualifications as well as reading lots of psychology books combined with exercise books! But the main thing is actually getting out and talking to people, be them vets, nurses or students and finding what makes them tick!
You need to have genuine empathy and compassion for others rather than just a desire to ‘educate’ as coaching is about giving people space and support while they work through their challenges rather than training them
Were there any barriers to entry and how did you overcome them?
The hardest thing about joining the Army was getting signed off as medically fit after too many rugby injuries! Fortunately perseverance paid off! The hardest thing about VetFit is running it around my full time job. However it is a passion of mine, and knowing that I enjoy what I do, fortunately never makes it feel like extra work for me but rather just doing something I know will make me smile!
What are the best bits about your current role and are there any downsides?
In my current role I am working as a Troop Commander, managing and leading a Troop (roughly 20-30 people) of Dog Handlers and their dogs. I love this part of the job as I get to work with fantastic people on a day to day basis that never fail to surprise me. It’s my job to instigate the day to day running of the Troop and the training of the soldiers and the dogs in the Troop, including their basic veterinary education. This means I often do lots of teaching, something I have found that I really enjoy, as well as leading the troops over the assault course!
A downside would be that I am particularly limited with my clinical case load, seeing only a very small number of fit young dogs, however everything else I do outweighs this. Whenever I work for VetFit it always brings a smile to my face and is something that I always truly look forward to! It's so satisfying to hear from people that they may have even taken on board one little thing we said, or even know that we have made people find a way to laugh and have fun for 30 minutes. I'm a bit of an extrovert and its my chance to talk to others and listen to what they have to say and bounce ideas off each other.
Could you give us an overview of a typical day/tasks?
My normal day starts with Physical Training with the troops, either running, or in the gym or in the swimming pool. From then on it’s onto the morning brief and every day I may have different jobs to do but always try and make sure I get a chance to see the troops train their dogs!
What sort of person would thrive in this career path?
Those with a keen interest in what makes people tick, psychology and mindset. You need to have genuine empathy and compassion for others rather than just a desire to ‘educate’ as coaching is about giving people space and support while they work through their challenges rather than training them.
A non-judgmental attitude and an ability to know yourself and your own thinking preferences is useful as each client may need you to communicate with them differently. In that way it’s not too dissimilar to consulting!
What advice would you give to someone becoming an army officer?
Being a Veterinary Officer, you have to be someone that enjoys working as part of a larger team, be keen to always challenge not only yourself but also those around you. Someone that wants something a little different, and the chance to learn all sorts of skills other than veterinary. For example, I am hoping to become an Equality and Diversity instructor later in the year!
VetFit, and working in wellbeing generally, needs people that really enjoy what they do and are keen to help others, which naturally most vets are. However you need to not be afraid to deal with difficult circumstances you might find yourself in, but, it’s important to remember that you will never have all the answers! The main thing is about being upbeat and actually just trying to have fun in everything you do!