TAXI talks to London cab driver and Taxi Charity volunteer, Seb Philp.
Last time we spoke, you told us about completing the Three Peaks Challenge, so what have you been up to recently?
Seb: The Three Peaks Challenge was great fun but both mentally and physically very tiring and I knew that I wanted a new, bigger and better test to shift me out of my comfort zone again. I have found that new challenge becoming an Army Reservist.
Wow! What made you apply to become an Army Reservist?
Seb: I was on a Taxi Charity trip and one of the carers who was supporting a veteran mentioned that he was going to apply to become an Army Reservist and after chatting about it I did some more research online and I decided that this was just what I needed to do. The upper age limit to join is 42 and a half and as I am 41 it was now or never.
What’s the process like?
Seb: I applied online, had a medical over the phone and then a doctor’s medical and after this my application was progressed to the next stage. At an assessment centre, we were given a bleep running test, had to lift weights, our hearing was checked, and we were given a full medical and sat an English test. Fortunately, I passed the assessment and joined the London Regiment A Company and began my training.
What was the training like – did they break you in gently or throw you straight in?
Seb: My first weekend away was in Pirbright where we had a general introduction to the army. This was followed by a week’s intensive training where we learnt how to handle a weapon and had to pass various tests including running 2k under 9.45 minutes, lifting weights and throwing a medicine ball over three metres from a sitting position.
Towards the end of the week, you had to pass a weapons handling test, or you were returned to unit. Fortunately, I passed and took my SA80 rifle on to the 25-metre shooting range for the first time.
So I have to ask… what was your 2k time?
Seb: I was delighted with 7.54 especially as I am at the upper age limit for entry to the reservists.
What were the next stages?
Seb: We then had eight weeks basic training which included the inevitable ‘about turn’, 'stand at ease’, and ‘stand to attention.’ We also had to complete online courses on subjects including navigation, battle drills and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear warfare, and how to use gas masks. After the eight weeks, I went to Grantham for two weeks where the tests and the training got harder. The previous timed 2k run had been on a running track - this time we had no track, and it was more difficult to pace yourself, but I was only 7 seconds slower than my earlier timed run.
Later in the course we had to run 4k with 25kg on our backs in under 45 minutes and then remove 10kg and immediately run another 2k in under 12 minutes. We also did battle drills, first aid training to show us how to save lives in the field, spent four nights in a muddy field in tents, learnt how to clean our weapons, completed patrols and vehicle checks.
What did your family and friends think?
Seb: Actually I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, so it was a huge surprise when my family came up to Grantham for my passing out parade. During the parade we were introduced to the Colonel and Brigadier and had to stand to attention for about an hour waiting for our turn.
How much time do you commit each year?
Seb: The commitment is 27 days a year and as an Army Reservist you may be required to serve full time when needed.
What do you think to life as an army reservist?
Seb: I love it – it’s very sociable and I am enjoying learning more about my trade. At my age, I originally thought that I might train as a chef but when I discovered during the tests that I was fitter than many of the reservists who were years younger than me, I opted instead for the infantry which hopefully might allow me to go to Kenya or the Falklands.
Would you recommend it?
Seb: Definitely, it fits in perfectly with being a cab driver and I wish I had joined years ago.
About the Army Reserve
The Army Reserve is the largest of the Reserve Forces. The Army Reserve provides support to the Regular Army at home and overseas, and throughout its history almost every major operation has seen reservists operate alongside their Regular counterparts.
Army Reserve Soldiers come from all walks of life and work part-time as soldiers for the British Army alongside full-time Regular soldiers.
Regular Reservists are soldiers who have left the Regular army but are recalled in times of need to come back and join operations alongside Regular soldiers.