Every journey within the Armed Forces is different.
Each reason for joining is unique, as is every reason to stay or to leave.
Reasons, or choices, may fall into ‘genres’ but each remains personal and that is because the Armed Forces are made up of individuals. Even after training to become one team, we are all still individuals – and therein lies our strength.
I am but one individual in a huge team. I have worked in smaller teams over the years and what has kept me going, for better or for worse, are the central beliefs of the wider team.
I have always joked when asked if I have ever been to Iraq or Afghanistan, to serve, that ‘No, I have a husband to do that for me.’ What they don’t go on to enquire is what was my role?
I’ve decided to share just a little.
From aspirations aged 16, through Au Pairing to Art College to freelance photographer I kept coming back to the Army. I had to ‘scratch that itch’. In September 1991 I was part of what is now referred to as ‘Ironing Board Sunday’.
At the time the Regular Army wasn’t providing me with the personal opportunities that I wanted to take. As the first female MLRS Troop Commander I was ‘paving a way’, I was reminded of this on many occasion, but I wanted to use my creative and photography skills. This lay in the Territorial Army.
2 months after leaving the Regular Army I was in my dream job with 24 Air Mobile Brigade based in Croatia, operating in Bosnia, as a Mobile News Team writer with a civilian photographer.
Thus began my journey as a Media Specialist in the Army. In 1995 it was a role that was, genuinely, laughed at on many occasions. But I loved it.
When I married in 1997 I hadn’t realised just how flexible my role in the Territorial Army could be. Just how perfect it was, as I had married someone in the Army; I have always been able to find a job. Luckily for me the 16 years we spent in Germany meant that I was able to develop a network to support me as an Army Media & Communications Specialist.
In 2002 changes were afoot. Life started to become quite focused as my husband was working in the staff of Headquarters 1st Armoured Division. They were to be the lead element of what we refer to as Operation TELIC in Iraq.
This threw up a dilemma. Of course I wanted to deploy but we had a 2-years and 18 month old and my husband was about to go too. I was asked the question, did I want to: deploy, stand-fast or support the rear operations?
The solution! I could offer my support…but I lived in Germany.
I had been following developments in the HQ through my husband, listening to the anxieties of the families and heard the rumours grow. I had found my job: I would be the media specialist informing families ‘the internal audience’ as to what was happening. What happened next was the catalyst I needed.
I suggested this to someone whose response was: I will tell you and you can tell the wives at the bus-stop’!
That was the ‘inspiration’ I needed. I asked a friend to look after my children, I donned my uniform and walked into the HQ 1st Armoured Division that was preparing for war and asked to speak to the lead for Media & Communications, who was going to deploy. It was simple, I offered:
‘You need to keep the families informed as to what is happening and I am the person to do it.’
‘It’s never been done before’, was the response.
‘Which is why we should do it now’, I replied.
Many will have come across the family support systems for operations that spread through the Brigades: Home Rat (7th Armoured Brigade), 4 HOME (4th Armoured Brigade), HOME 20 (20th Armoured Brigade). They all stemmed from that one conversation.
This has been my contribution through my TA / Reserve service. No, I have not been on ‘the frontline’ but I have fought many battles in support of families.
I have used my position of being trained as a soldier, being privileged to serve as an officer and the honour of being a military spouse to ensure that wherever we are posted I endeavour to do something that will make life a little more understood; by both civilian communities in which we live and the spouses who are invaluable to the military community.
My walls have the reminders that this ‘huge team’, that I referred to right at the beginning, recognised the work that I did, for which I still feel hugely honoured. As General Sir David Richards said as he presented me with his ‘Commander-in-Chief Commendation’ (paraphrasing due to 4-children-memory-loss!): ‘to have one of these awards is an achievement, to have 2 meant that I did some more research as it is most unusual.’
The first was for my service on Rear Operations to Headquarters 1st Armoured Division in 2003 as the led the British Army in Iraq. This was awarded to ‘Major Wendy Faux’ for work in Media & Communications.
The second was for the work I did when 4th Armoured Brigade deployed to Iraq in 2007-2008. This was awarded to ‘Mrs Wendy Faux’.
The two together sum up Reserve Service – you bring all-of-you to whichever job you find yourself in. We cannot be separated in to ‘Reservist’ and ‘Civilian’. We add omnidirectional value because of who we are as an individual.
I may no longer be the ‘face of choice’ to recruit but I hope that being a 54-year old mother of 4, (sadly with a large margin for improvement on fitness!) married to a serving soldier demonstrates that there is longevity in a Reservist Career. To ‘retain’ is as important as ‘recruit’.
I may have been recruited as ‘a trailblazer’ but I have been retained through the flexibility, choice and freedoms of Reserve Service.