Imagine a society where you get to go skiing, mountaineering and yachting. Imagine a society that teaches you leadership, teamwork and survival skills. A society that would have you climbing in Morocco one week, and target shooting in Dartmoor the next. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Now imagine that they pay you for the privilege. That is exactly what the University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) has to offer.
The UOTC is a university society funded by the British Army that allows students to have a taste of what the Army has to offer, but with no long term commitment or possibility of deployment. You can leave at any time and you’ll never be sent to anywhere dangerous, or that you don’t want to go to.
I joined the UOTC in October 2013 in my first year of university, as I had always thought of joining the Armed Forces. The UOTC seemed like a great way to have a look at and experience military life to see if it was for me. Most members however have no intention of joining the Army after finishing at university, with the majority going on to civilian careers after graduate. However, for those members who are looking at a regular career in the Armed Forces or continuing their Army Reserve career, the UOTC offers advice, guidance and help with any queries related to a career in the army.
The UOTC training is split into three years. The military training is split into roughly three blocks, one for each year. Module Alpha equates to basic training and involves basic soldiering skills such as field craft, drill and weapons handling.
Module Bravo, the ‘becoming a leader’ course, includes advanced planning and briefing skills and other elements of leadership training. This culminates in an Officer Cadet being able to lead a team of 30 men and women.
In your third year, Officer Cadets are selected to become instructors to assist in the training of first and second years. Some may even have completed the Army Reserve commissioning course and have been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Reserve.
There are many other military opportunities in the UOTC to undertake along with the standard training. Every summer the unit undertakes a two-week annual camp, which encompasses a week of military training followed by a week of adventure training. Members can also go on regimental visits to units such as the Royal Artillery and other units, to have a look at the different careers which the army has to offer.
Members can also volunteer to attempt more challenging training exercises as well. For example, I have completed an exercise with the Royal Marines as well as also completing Exercise Cambrian Patrol. Both exercises were physically and mentally demanding, but if you are looking for a challenge they are great opportunities to undertake.
However, the UOTC is not all about military training. The unit undertakes a wide variety of both social and adventure training activities. Events such as the annual dinner in February are fantastic opportunities to experience a formal black tie dinner with the company of distinguished figures, from academia, business and the Armed Forces. Certainly not something your average student will experience during their time at university.
The unit also invests heavily in adventure training. From ski-ing in the January break, to caving after annual camp the adventure training opportunities are wide and varied. Members can also pitch ideas for their own adventurous expeditions, with eight already given the go ahead for 2017. These include expeditions such as hiking in Madagascar through to mountaineering in Morocco. If you are prepared to plan for an expedition, the chances are you will get the funding and support to undertake it.
Being a member of the UOTC can also be a great way to gain various qualifications and valuable skills which employers highly value. After completing Module Bravo members are awarded with a CMI Level 5 Leadership and Management qualification, which is highly valued by civilian employers.
Adventure training certification is also available, such as qualifications in skiing, mountaineering and yachting. Overall the experience of being a member of the UOTC is highly valued by civilian employers, who value its emphasis on leadership, management and teamwork.
If you are looking for a challenge, or a chance to look at Army life and gain new experiences outside of typical student activities, then I would highly recommend the UOTC. The experiences and memories you will gain make it by far the most worthwhile society at UEA.