On Tuesday 6 December 2022, Major Heather Beattie of City of Edinburgh Universities’ Officers’ Training Corps (CEUOTC) received her Lord-Lieutenant’s Certificate of Meritorious Service at Edinburgh City Chambers.
Heading into the final months of an Army Reserve career spanning nearly 20 years, Major Beattie was thrilled to close out this chapter of her life with such a prestigious acknowledgement of her commitment to her country and community.
Lowland RFCA met with Major Beattie to find out more about her time as a Reservist, her experience as a UOTC Company Commander and her plans for the future as a full-time civilian.
What is your name, rank and unit?
My name is Major Heather Beattie and I’m a Company Commander at CEUOTC.
What does receiving a Lord-Lieutenant’s Award mean to you?
I feel very honoured. I’ve been in the Army Reserve for 19 years and now that I’m in the last few months before I finish, it’s a great recognition for all the hard work that I’ve put in during that time.
Tell us a bit about those 19 years as an Army Reservist.
I spent most of my early career in the Royal Army Medical Corps working with a medical unit. After that I moved up to Scotland and decided that I would move to something more local. I applied for a job at CEUOTC and took on the role of Company Commander which I’ve really loved. I’ve put a huge amount of effort into it alongside being a Reservist and having a civilian job as a physiotherapist, but it’s been amazing.
What inspired you to become a Reservist originally?
I wanted a new challenge and by joining the Royal Army Medical Corps, I knew that I could use my skills as a physiotherapist in a military setting. When I deployed to Iraq in 2006 I worked as a physio, so I think it was done out of a wish to enhance my skills, to bring something to the military and then bring other things back to my civilian life such as greater confidence and leadership skills.
How does working with a UOTC differ from other Army Reserve units?
It’s completely different from anything I’ve done before so it was all a bit of a shock for the first six weeks! I did eventually settle in though and then of course COVID-19 hit, so I ended up delivering a lot of training online which is not really ideal. I obviously knew a little bit about the commissioning process before I joined CEUOTC, but the actual training out in the field and all the things that Officer Cadets have to achieve to get their Module A (basic soldiering skills) and Module B (more advanced skills training with a focus on leadership) passes was much more new to me. On top of that there are all the other things that go with training like organising ski trips and dinner nights and looking after the students’ welfare, which is all incredibly important.
It all sounds very exciting, especially the ski trips!
Well we couldn’t go on a ski trip during COVID-19, so last year I started to plan for one and then France locked down again. Needless to say everyone’s been even more excited about it after such a long wait.
What do you love most about being involved with CEUOTC?
It’s the youngsters themselves, they’re such bright, motivated and intelligent people. A lot of them join not because they want to commission into the Regular or Reserve Forces, but for the experience of military training and the different skills it gives them like leadership and problem-solving. There’s a social life for lots of them as well, but they’re generally very enthusiastic and appreciative of all the things that we do for them, so I think that’s the biggest and best part of it for me.
Would you recommend the UOTC to new or current students?
Yes, definitely. Obviously the Officer Cadets don’t deploy on Operations and that’s made clear during the initial joining process, but it’s great to see their enthusiasm and dedication during training. If people don’t want to stay they can leave and of course some of them will choose to leave, but most of them stay and absolutely love it. Some of them will even go on to Sandhurst or will transfer as soldiers into local Reserve units.
It’s easy to see from the CEUOTC social media why a lot of Officer Cadets choose to stay; they’ve had some incredible adventures in the last year!
Yes, after COVID-19 we definitely felt that we deserved some adventures! It was great to even just open the bar and see the social side of CEUOTC coming back. I organised our St Andrew’s dinner this year and we had 100 people sitting down along with eight guests from Cambridge UOTC, so it’s great to be able to share those experiences again. The other UOTCs will then invite us to other things too, so yes, the social life and sporting life and Adventurous Training life have all opened back up again and we’re making the most of it.
Apart from winning a Lord-Lieutenant’s Award, are there any other highlights of your military career that you particularly like to look back on?
Deploying to Iraq was a highlight because any operational deployment is scary to start with but when you come back and feel like you’ve done something for your country it’s like nothing else; that and all the incredible people I’ve met along the way.
Now that you’re stepping away from the Army Reserve, what’s next for you?
I’ve got a mountain bike, a road bike and a gravel bike so I’m going to spend a lot more time riding each of those! As well as that, I’ll have a lot more time to travel and see my family – my mother is 89 and lives down south and my daughter lives in Spain so I’m looking forward to more visits with them. I’ll be doing more skiing in the winter, running, catching up with all the jobs that I haven’t done for the last few years, and having more of a social life again – just getting back to a little bit more normality without feeling like I’m rushing around all the time.