June 21st 2023

Bulwell solider on joining the Army Reserves after the Salisbury poisoning and exercising with NATO

Pte Alan Bulman

‘If you’ve got the itch to join, there’s no harm in applying’ is the encouragement from a Nottingham soldier to those who have ever considered joining the Reserve Forces.

Private Alan Bulman, 30, Bulwell, has enjoyed travel, camaraderie and a sense of adventure since joining the British Army Reserves in 2019.

Exercises and operations at home and abroad have left him eager for more, while the development opportunities have boosted his confidence and employability.

Pte Bulman, who works for ACAS as a Conciliation Officer, applied to join 4 Mercian, a Reserve Battalion within the Mercian Regiment, in 2019.

He said: “There are a number of reasons why I took the decision to join. One of them is I took more and more notice in the media of threats to our country and I was keen to do my bit.

“One of the events that got me thinking was the Salisbury poisoning. This made me realise there are countries undertaking hostile operations within this country and that they are a threat to us.

“I’ve always had the itch to join the Reserves and I finally decided to apply after university having settled into stable civilian employment.”

Pte Bulman at Bulwell Army Reserve Centre.

Integral to Defence and national resilience

The Reserve Forces play a crucial role in national security, from countering security threats, peacekeeping, and humanitarian efforts abroad to supporting communities at home.

Together, the Royal Naval Reserves, Army Reserves, RAF Reserves, and Royal Marines Reserve make up roughly 18% of Britain’s Armed Forces. Each year their contributions are celebrated on Reserves Day, which this year takes place on 21st June.

Three months after applying, Pte Bulman joined C Company, 4 Mercian, which is based out of the Bulwell Army Reserve Centre. Since then he has completed his Combat Infantryman Course, an Assault Pioneer Course involving demolitions and infantry engineering and has got to use support weapons such as the L129A1 Sharpshooter Rifle and L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun.

On average Reservists make an annual commitment of around 27 days or more – worked flexibly – involving regular drill nights at their local centre, training weekends, and an annual camp – all of which Reservists are paid for.

Pte Bulman has put his training into practise on exercises and operations. His first exercise was in Lithuania for Exercise Iron Wolf, an multinational exercise involving more than 3,000 NATO troops.

This 15-day exercise saw soldiers practice various offensive and defence patrols in dense woodland environments, working with armour and infantry fighting vehicles.

The Nottingham Trent University graduate, who was recently presented with the Kohima Warrior trophy in recognition for being his company’s outstanding soldier, said: “Whether it’s training going on exercise or a deployment, there are plenty of opportunities to do something completely different to your day job. It’s one the beauties of the Reserves.

“One of the impressions I had when joining was that you might have to commit for a certain period of time. That’s actually not the case. You can pick and choose what you wish to do, which allows you to work flexibly and take ownership of your own development and what you actually want to achieve in the Reserves rather than being governed by a standardised framework.

“There is an endless list of opportunities. If anything, my frustration is I don’t necessarily have enough time to make the most of all the opportunities I would otherwise like to.”

Benefits of service

Pte Bulman felt a sense of duty and desire to make the world when he joined the Army. But he now understands the Reserves has a lot to offer him.

He added: “I realised a lot of the activities we do are all things that I enjoy. After university, a lot of my friends went back to where they live, and the Reserves has helped me build a new circle of mates.”

When it comes to the skills and qualities developed through service, there is one for Pte Bulman that stands out above all else.

“The opportunities presented by the Reserves – including working with NATO troops and interacting with officers and other soldiers – allows you to build confidence. And my employer benefits from that, especially as I work in conflict management.

“My ability to work in a team and ability to lead teams in quite unique situations have really benefited me and my employer quite greatly. That is certainly something I have transferred into my civilian role, whether through mentoring or problem solving within groups, being a leader or being someone who is trusted to come to for advice.”

Pte Bulman

Adventure training is high up the list of benefits Pte Bulman has most enjoyed in the Army Reserves. He embarked on a trip to Greece to run the Athens Marathon last year, has been coasteering in Wales, and will be climbing in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy later this year. Another big benefit is the physical training.

“Sport is highly promoted in the Army Reserves. Drill nights involve regular PT sessions with Army Personal Training Instructors and you also get a quarter of a day’s pay per week for personal PT sessions. Not many people can say they get paid to use the gym.

“Certainly the benefits I’ve had from the Reserves are immeasurable.

“If you’ve got the itch to join, there’s no harm in applying. It’s important to remember people regret the things they don’t do. If you do apply, the worst that can happen is you end up not enjoying it and you can leave it there. The chances are you will enjoy it and like me you’ll be here several years down the line.”

Captain Jason Longmate, Permanent Staff Administration Officer, C Company, 4 Mercian, added: “Pte Bulman’s experience is echoed around C Company and 4 Mercian. Each Soldier and Officer in C Company no matter what status they are; recruit or trained, get the opportunity to make the most of the Reserve experience.

“The Company has valuable operational experience from deployments from Afghanistan to Estonia and some parts of the world you would not expect to find a Reservist.

“The benefits of these types of opportunities play a key role in national and international security, whilst developing new skills or confidence. The payback to the employers of these Reserve Soldiers and Officers have been tangible. From a soft skill to a new skill, they can all be effective in their work place.”

Use our Reserve Unit Finder to begin your journey today.