Become A Reservist

As you’ll already know, Reservists are regarded as members of the Military, even though they do not necessarily have a full-time role.  Although they are civilians, Reservists usually go for training on an annual basis to refresh and update their skills, with plenty of Armed Forces Service-leavers choosing to become Reservists simply to ‘keep their hand in’, so to speak.

All three branches of the British Armed Forces have volunteer Reserves who will work a stipulated number of weekends in the Army Reserve, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines Reserve or RAF Reserve every month based in roles that often reflect the skills they use back on civvy street.

The Reserve Forces make up around one sixth of the British Armed Forces personnel. They provide a vital resource to the Armed Forces in their role of protecting national security since many Reservists have excellent capability in areas such as medical or other specialist skills relating to cybersecurity etc.

According to the official Armed Forces Day website (25 June 2016) Reservists are currently supporting operations worldwide including in Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina and as part of the UK’s effort to counter Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Being a Reserve is as rewarding as it is challenging. You’ll continue to train and deploy alongside Regulars, balancing civilian life with a Military career to ensure readiness to Serve if the country requires.

The Army Reserve

The Army Reserve is the largest of the Reserve Forces and has a defined role to provide highly trained soldiers who can work alongside Regulars on missions in both the UK and overseas. In fact, in almost every major operation in its history, the Regular Army has used Reservists.

The Army Reserve is likely to be expanded over the next few years and will be required to work even more closely with the rest of the Army. This means that there will be more opportunities for people who want to utilise their skills within the unique Military context.

Commonly, Reservists are civilians who volunteer a set number of weekends each month and so on whilst 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.

The focus of the Army Reserve is the local Army Reserve Centre. This is where soldiers work and train, although they will travel as they gain experience. Army Reserve Centres each have Military tasks and jobs within their remit and could therefore be home to a detachment or part of a company, squadron or battery of over 100 soldiers or a regiment of over 500 soldiers.

Reserve units are split into three types: Regional Units who tend to recruit locally (and are most common), National Units recruit from the whole of the UK and provide highly specialised services and skills. Thirdly, Sponsored Reserves are a category created by the Reserve Forces Act, 1996 allowing certain support or specialist tasks to be carried out by trained civilian professionals.

(Anyone thinking of joining usually has a choice of at least two types of unit, depending on how far they are prepared to travel to attend training.)

Royal Naval Reserve

The Royal Naval Reserve are especially interested in maintaining contact with ex-Regulars that have been well trained and will have picked up valuable skills – so valuable in fact that they want to retain them. A Naval background opens up a number of specialist Royal Naval Reserve jobs that will provide opportunities to Serve at sea, as well as on shore.

Nevertheless if you wanted to try a different role than that which you practiced in your Naval Service the Royal Naval Reserve provides an opportunity to come back in a different role to learn the different skills required.

Service-leavers clearly get the best pick of the roles available based on their experience and skills. These jobs could realistically see you back in roles relating to communications for example, whereby you could once again be handling classified information and making a proper contribution. Indeed, even as a Reservist there will be some requirement to make a specific commitment to the Service in both time and separation from your civilian life.

All applications to the Royal Naval Reserve are considered on merit and what you have to offer as an individual rather than your qualifications and so on, however, you should not be older than 45 years.

After successfully completing the minimum training to the necessary standard you’ll also qualify for a yearly tax-free bonus known as a ‘bounty ’on top of the pay you get for each quarter day that you train. It’s currently £395 for your first year, rising to £1,556 a year after five years of Service.

Royal Marines Reserves (RMR)

The RMR consists of some 750 trained ranks distributed among the four units within the UK. About 10% of the RMR work with the Regular Corps on long-term attachments in Regular units of the Royal Marines. (All the volunteers within the RMR must pass through the same rigorous Commando course as the Regulars.)

Tel: 0345 600 3222

Royal Air Force Reserves

Reserves can be mobilised on expeditionary operations at any time during each 12-year contract just like their colleagues in the Regular RAF. Deployment could mean going to a UK, overseas or temporary base for up to six months, plus another six months for pre-deployment training.

Reserves commit a minimum of 27 days per year on a renewable 12 year basis. Each year includes a 15-day block for general RAF training, and at least 12 weekend or holiday days for additional training, trade training, or training exercises.

The time you spend with the Reserves might see you travelling with your unit, filling in for another member of the RAF, or working alongside Regulars and Reserves from other Services. Equally, you could also be selected as part of a small team dedicated to a particular job, or a big disaster relief mission, for example.

While there are sometimes opportunities to train overseas during the annual 15-day training block, most of your time will be spent on a nearby RAF base – with each one focusing on its own role, from front-line operations to training establishments.

Roles are available for individuals up to54 years old.

The maximum period you’ll be away from your employer is one year and you can find advice and guidance about this on the Defence Relationship Management website.

Reserves Day

The contribution Reservists make to the British Armed Forces often goes unrecognised. The annual Reserves Day was created to highlight and recognise the valuable contribution Reservists make to our Armed Forces. Each year, Reserves Day takes place on the Wednesday before Armed Forces Day. This year it falls on 23 June 2016.


Just like the Regular Services and their relationship to Reserves, there are also three distinct Forces-supported approaches to helping young people to develop skills and qualities and make better life choices. The emphasis behind volunteering for youth groups such as Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Cadets is simply to use your own skills and attitude to bring out the best in young people.

All of the groups for young people supported by the Services are currently flourishing and so there’s likely to be a real need for people with the right profile for the mentorship they require. The Army Cadets currently number around 41,000 cadets (aged 12-18) in over 1,600 locations in communities all around the UK and is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organisations.  The Sea Cadets meanwhile, is the UK’s largest maritime youth charity, working in over 400 units with 14,000 cadets aged between 10 and 18.

The Combined Cadets Force is also supported in over 300 schools all over the UK.

If you’re looking for a rewarding spare-time activity and can give up one or two evenings a week and want to do something different with your free time, this could be for you.

The Air Cadets website sums it up succinctly, saying: “We’re always on the lookout for high-calibre individuals to become volunteers, helping to run the activities that play such an important role in the lives of our young members.”

Interview – David Craven      

David Craven is a full time RAF Reservist and is Base Hangar Operations Manager at RAF Brize Norton. He tells us about how he came back to the Air Force post redundancy.

Can we talk briefly about your Military background and why you decided to join the RAF Reserves?

I joined the Royal Air Force in December 1981 Serving at various stations both overseas and at home and I left the RAF after 30 years’ Service in December 2011 as a Chief Technician.

I had joined the RAF to serve a full career but unfortunately as a consequence of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010 I was caught up in the resulting redundancy process which coincided with the end of my 30 year engagement. This resulted in me looking to potential future roles in the civilian world where my Service gained knowledge and experience could be put to good use.

Having obtained a management role in the corrugated casing manufacturing industry it soon became clear how much I missed the Service way of life and the people. It was then coincidentally whilst I was checking the Full Time Reserve Service (FTRS) vacancies that my current position jumped off the page at me and I applied for it and was successful – and the rest is history.

What does your current role involve?

I look after the internal running of operations within the hangar. We have different aircraft being maintained in the facility and it’s just making sure that they have everything they need to do their job. I also look after the infrastructure of the building. It’s the biggest hangar in the Royal Air Force – at a quarter of a mile long from end to end or 20,000 square feet. It’s one of the biggest cantilever hangar constructions around. 

That’s a big role. So even as a Reservist you’re making an important contribution…

I hope I do. I see myself not just as a Reservist but as playing a full part. The various levels of Reserve mean you can do certain things in the Air Force, for example, I’m classified as a Home Commitment Reservist – where they look generally for people who live in the local area around an RAF station to take up a position. In my case I lived 90 miles away from Brize Norton so I was employed exceptionally – because of my previous experience at RAF Cottesmore.

There are also other positions such as Limited Commission Reservists where you’re allowed to be deployed for a portion of the year. It’s more pay – and then you have Full Commitment Reservists who are treated just as a Regular; you get all the same pay and benefits but it’s normally on a temporary basis.

I’m not deployable with limited allowances so it’s quite different from being a Regular – which I miss.

Is it rare to find a full time Reservist role?

I think full time Reservists are becoming a more and more commonplace part of the RAF. So you have your part time Reservists, some of whom are on 180-days a year contracts, so they work three days a week. I think the MoD and the Government want to increase the Reserves to about 30% so they are recruiting quite actively.

Do you work with other Reservists from the civilian community?

I do have friends and colleagues on the station who are Reservists and full time RAF as well and the relationships are very good. Reservists are not that dissimilar from Regulars and I find that Reservists are quickly integrated into both Station and Service life which results in solid teamwork.

We’re doing the job, to do a job for the RAF – and that’s our prime aim and responsibility. In terms of civilian companies, as far as I’m aware, they’re quite happy with the way the Reserve system works and communication between the MoD, RAF and the employer. 

What are the main advantages of being a Reserve over a Regular?

It depends what you want to do and what your personal family life is like. If you take a role as a part time, 180 days a year person, that may well fit in with your home life or with doing another role or whatever – but for people like me who want to play a full part in the Royal Air Force, being a full time Reservist is a good way to get back in, doing what you enjoy – working with aircraft and people, the mentality and ethos and the way of life – the can-do sort of attitude that we have in the Military.  

NB: What I would recommend though would be that Service-leavers should seek out financial advice regarding how becoming a Reservist might affect their pensions or Early Departure Payments etc. Speak with the Defence Business Services via Unit Administration offices or seek independent financial advice.

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