A second year college student from Newport has found the recipe for successful studies by becoming a chef with the Army Reserve.

When not in full-time education, Camilla Olsen has used her spare hours to boost her CV and learn a new trade with the 217 Battery of 104th Regiment Royal Artillery in Raglan Barracks.

The 19-year-old chef will wear her multi-terrain pattern uniform to the Crosskeys Campus of Coleg Gwent today as she celebrates Reserves Day, a nationwide celebration of their contribution to the armed forces.

“I joined almost a year ago and I can honestly say that it’s the best thing I’ve done. I’m very proud to be a reservist,” said Camilla, who is studying for public services qualifications. “As a reservist, I can also live a normal civilian life and do what I normally do on a day to day basis.”

Reservists commit to a minimum annual requirement of 27 days to train and serve alongside regular personnel in the armed forces. They find a balance to fit their roles around everyday normalities, such as education, employment or family life.

Camilla said: “Becoming a chef has been worth it and very fun. The main reason I joined was to gain more skills and qualifications for my future. It has all been completely new to me and I’ve had a lot of training.

“The army has been so flexible around my college work and they put that first, so I get the best opportunities from both worlds. We all agree that education comes first and being a reservist has given me transferable skills to help my studying.”

Camilla, or Private Olsen as she’s known in her unit, became a qualified chef after passing two weeks of training. Chefs play an essential role by ensuring that service personnel are provided with healthy meals wherever they are and whatever the conditions they’re in.

There are 2,200 reservists in Wales who are valued members of the Defence family. Across the United Kingdom, reservists make up approximately one sixth of the Armed Forces and have a vital role in protecting the safety of the country.

In Camilla’s role, she has also boosted her future job prospects by learning about administration, finance and storage, as well as enjoying opportunities to travel. The wide-ranging experiences offer skills that are transferable to all sorts of civilian lives.

“I work in a team and take on the role of a leader, so I’ve gained communication skills and become more confident speaking in front of people,” said Camilla, who has helped to feed more than 300 people at a training exercise. “My time management, writing and ICT skills have improved and these have all been useful for my studies.

“The thing that motivates me the most is being pushed to be the best person I could possibly be. The reserves has made me fitter, physically and mentally healthier ad given me a much better understanding of personal discipline.”

This week, a series of nationwide events will culminate with the national Armed Forces Day at Llandudno on Saturday 30 June. Use #SaluteOurForces to join in the online activities. To find out more about joining the Reserve Forces in Wales, click here.

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