Major Ian McAuliffe knows more than most about the importance of being all present and correct.
From his time in Afghanistan when he was responsible for a £25m inventory including Bastion Field Hospital to running out as part of the British TA rugby team – his 39 years as an Army reservist, which has taken him to countries all over the world, have certainly been varied.
The 59-year-old from Neath, is just one of the 2,200 reserves in Wales, who play a vital role as part of the Defence Family. As Armed Forces Week begins today we look ahead to Reserves Day on Wednesday when the nation will celebrate the people who spend some of their spare time protecting the United Kingdom at home and overseas.
Ian, whose civilian job is working for the RFCA for Wales as a member of the Professional Support Staff for Dyfed and Glamorgan ACF, serves with 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital.
He said, “I use all of my skills learnt as a reservist in my everyday workplace – the skills learnt and courses attended are all transferable to my full-time career. The guidance you gain from the reserves helps you greatly in the decisions you make in life.
“During my reserve career I have held every position from private soldier in the infantry raising to become the quartermaster and finally take over command of a company before transferring to the Army Medical Services and taking command of a squadron.”
These skills have come to the fore in recent months, while Ian has been mobilised as part of the COVID Support Force, heading up 203 Field Hospital’s Medical Planning team in Cardiff working to Joint Military Command Wales.
So why did Ian join the reserves nearly 40 years ago – a decision that has led him to visit all corners of the UK and countries including France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Slovakia, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Cyprus, Uzbekistan, America, Gibraltar, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Italy and Jersey.
“You travel to places and take part in activities you would never ever do unless you’re part of this great family,” he said.
“Being a member of the reserve forces has made me a far better person and assisted me in many decisions I have made in my life for both myself and my family. You meet people from all walks of life and make friends for ever. I have met people from royalty and pop stars to some of the poorest people in the world. None of this would have been possible without the support of both my family and my employers,” said Ian, who celebrated his ruby wedding anniversary with his wife Sharon last year. They have two children and three grandchildren.
“My proudest achievements within the reserves have ranged from sporting as the captain of numerous service rugby teams from company to divisional level and representing the British TA, to serving as the quartermaster (technical) for the United Kingdom Medical Group in Afghanistan. Also seeing soldiers that I have trained and mentored going on to achieve great things in their lives. And of course, in 2016 being awarded at Buckingham Palace by the Princess Royal the Queens Volunteer Reserve Medal (QVRM).
“If you want a challenging and exciting time where you meet and make lots of new friends, learn new skills, work with exceptional people from all walks of life and get the opportunity to travel to great places – then you should join the reserves.”