Armed Forces Week is an annual event that gives the Nation an opportunity to celebrate the Armed Forces Community. To highlight the fantastic contribution Reservists make to Defence, we are publishing three exclusive articles that give a unique insight into Reservist life. Our first interview is with Royal Marine Reservist, Marine Gregor Leslie, who is based in Edinburgh.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Marine Gregor Leslie and I am a Reservist with Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) Scotland. I work in the hospitality industry in Edinburgh, but I’ve recently returned from two RMR deployments. My first deployment was to Norway for cold weather warfare training. My second deployment was on Exercise GELDERLAND STRIKE in the Netherlands with 43 Commando Royal Marines.
When did you join the Reserves?
I became a Reservist in May 2019, just as I was finishing up at the University of Edinburgh. When I was looking at possible careers I decided I wanted to get my ‘green lid’ (Commando Green Beret) and become part of the Reserves. After the turbulence of the pandemic, it’s great to have subsequently deployed and I’m now looking forward to deploying full-time with the Lead Commando Group of 3 Commando Brigade.
How do you balance your civilian job with your RMR activity?
I find that my civilian job and my Reservist life go hand in hand. Working in hospitality can have very busy periods – we certainly found that during the Six Nations! However, because I work mainly in stock handling I know when my busy periods are going to be so I can work around that.
What does your employer think about your Reservist activity?
Work has actually been fantastic and very flexible with me as they like the skills I bring back. My boss is a really lively guy who always enjoys hearing about the adventures I have been on and he can see that I’m being developed through the training which serves both him and the RMR. Recently I took some of my colleagues skiing, showing them what I had learned from my deployment to Norway. If I hadn’t been taught to ski by the RMR, I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the team in this way.
What else have you enjoyed learning with the RMR?
I’ve had a lot of opportunities to rock climb, which have been amazing and something I’ve then enjoyed in my downtime too. The RMR took us to Foggin Tor (a quarry in Devon) and we were taught vertical assault techniques to overcome natural obstacles. I ended up getting on with one of the mountain leaders, so we’ve since met up to climb together. Last summer we actually climbed in Snowdonia National Park.
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What was your deployment like in Norway?
Norway is an annual deployment for the Royal Marines so I was really keen to do it. The deployment is broken down into three phases. The first phase is the ‘Sustain Phase’ where you learn how to sustain yourself in a cold weather environment. This included sleeping in tents when it was -18 degrees Celsius, a night of survival where you build a quincey (a snow hole), outdoor cooking under the Northern Lights, and practising walking in snowshoes. During the second ‘Movement Phase’ you learn to ski, which is challenging but really enjoyable. Finally, you have the ‘Tactical Phase’ where you wear special snow camouflage and you use all the correct weapons for a cold weather environment. You’re working in all the kit and you’re seeing all the skills coming together, which is hugely rewarding.
What did Exercise GELDERLAND STRIKE involve?
My second deployment was to play enemy for O Squadron, 43 Commando Royal Marines in the Netherlands, which was a fantastic trip. We went by ferry to Rotterdam and set up in the Mainhausen Training Area which has an incredible MOUT (Military Operations in an Urban Theatre) village; it’s a lot bigger than anything we have here in the UK. I got to observe all the tech and gear that 43 Commando deploy with as part of the Commando Force, which included: drones, infra-red/thermal vision capability, the new sharp-shooter rifles, as well as all their new kit.
After your year with 43 Commando, what are you planning to do?
I’ve actually just applied to join Police Scotland, with the aim of becoming a Response Officer. I know my Reservist career will transfer very well into policing, not least because Police Scotland are Armed Forces Covenant signatories and very Forces-friendly. As a Reservist I’ve gained medical and firearms skills, and I’ve learnt to work as part of a team in a high-pressure environment. I’m pretty sure my year as a full-time Reservist with 43 Commando Royal Marines will also prove very useful for a career in policing.
To find out more about this year’s Armed Forces Week, Reserves Day and Armed Forces Day, click here.