‘You get a lot from it – friends, trade, skills, experience’ – Rotherham reservist shares his story about life as a mechanic with the British Army
Martin Hargreaves is anything but your typical business analyst, regularly swapping his shirt and tie for combat gear during his role as an army reserve.
Despite initially focusing on a career outside of the armed forces – or ‘civvy street’ as it is better known – the 30-year-old from Doncaster could not get away from the ‘military itch’.
So, around three years ago, he decided to join the British Army as a reserve, taking on the role of Vehicle Mechanic – which allowed him to build on skills already learnt from a love of fixing up dirt bikes, all whilst keeping his day job.
He said: “I had military in the family – my grandfather was Chief Chief Technician as an Aircraft Mechanic for RAF Finningley, so it has always been there, and I’ve had friends in the military as well.
“It has always looked brilliant, and the more I looked into it the more I wanted to do it. There are units scattered around all over the place as well so I had a look at the Army and Air Force, and decided to go as a Vehicle Mechanic in the army.
“I’ve always been into my motocross, so I taught myself to fix up my own machines at quite an early stage.
“You need to work on them all the time, change key components and all the rest of it and as you crash things break as well. So, I wanted to teach myself to not only save money but also as a hobby.
“With that in mind I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about mechanics and do something I enjoy.”
Joining the army as a reservist, Craftsman Hargreaves was given basic soldier training before taking part in ‘trade training’ to become a mechanic, learning how to fix, carry out maintenance, repair and inspect everything from a motorcycle to a tank.
However, as the role of a reserve is only part-time, he is able to continue his career in business analytics throughout the week, attending drill nights on a Tuesday at 146 Divisional Support Company REME in Rotherham and taking part in field exercises and other training on certain weekends.
Cfn Hargreaves said the role has also allowed him to follow his love for motocross in a way that he didn’t expect before joining.
He added: “The army have got all kinds of sport teams, you name a sport they’ve got a team doing it.
“When I joined I saw a poster with someone riding a dirt bike and just enquired and realised that actually there are army events.
“So, I started competing in the army championships that they host every year and they’re great. They’re really supportive of it, they provide a vehicle for transport to get me there and essentially you’re on duty so it is a days pay as well. It is a brilliant opportunity.”
And, although being in the army requires a lot of training, competing in motocross is completely different according to Cfn Hargreaves.
"Motocross is really physically demanding,” he said. “It is funny actually because you can do a lot of training in the gym and be fit but there is a difference between being fit and being bike fit.
“You can be fit in the gym but then get on a bike and it can really tire you out, it really uses your whole body. The races I do are more enduro, run on extended cross-country, off-road courses, rather than motocross.
“The races are around two to three hours in length and it is just about how many laps you can get in in that time.
“I was actually quite competitive last year, I finished in second on my first race and then I was always in the top five. I’m hoping for the first this coming year, it is great fun.”
During his time as an army reserve, Cfn Hargreaves has travelled the country to support other regional units.
He is now looking towards promotion having recently taken part in the Potential Non Commissioned Officers course, competing against both regulars and reserves to come third out of 28, putting him in good stead to move up the ranks.
“It is good way to develop those skills,” he said. “Some of the stuff I do to the bike is complex but that is only one format of it.
“You’re just doing it on a dirt bike whereas in this trade we’re learning to work on all kinds of vehicles so learning a lot more about hydraulic systems and different braking systems.
“When you join you don’t know what to expect, but now I’m in I couldn’t see myself not being in the reserves,” he added. “You get a lot from it – friends, trade, skills, experience – I forget that I get paid to do it a lot of the time.”
He is now encouraging others to sign up an explore the opportunities that being a reserve has to offer.