An army reservist employed by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council will hold coffee morning to talk about her journey from Abercynon to Afghanistan.
Karen Spencer-Jenkins is using today’s event to talk to colleagues and mark Reserves Day, a nationwide celebration of the contribution reservists make to the Armed Forces.
“I love serving my country and I’m proud to wear the uniform, especially to work to raise awareness,” said Karen, who is one of 2,200 reservists in Wales. “I want to positively contribute to the security and safety of the United Kingdom.
“I realised I wanted to be a part of a big, positive influence when I watched a documentary about the Armed Forces’ humanitarian and peacekeeping support. I wanted to help others and I haven’t looked back since.”
Despite having no previous military experience when she signed up to join the British Army in 2011, Karen has thrived and now holds the rank of Corporal as a Combat Medical Technician with the Royal Army Medical Corps, tending to medical emergencies.
Karen previously spent six months delivering essential supplies on Operation Herrick 18 in Afghanistan as a driver for 249 HQ Squadron of 157 (Welsh) Regiment Royal Logistic Corps. It was a very different workplace from her desk in Abercynon, where Karen is a Principal Officer of Quality Assurance and Risk Management.
She said: “To come back to work after it was a massive eye opener. You’ve got to have so much discipline on operational tour because that’s what keeps people safe. The working hours are long, sometimes it would be 18 hour days and the rest is short.
“It was a change of pace but I did settle back in when I came back. All the girls in the office had welcome banners waiting for me and they’d kept in touch with letters.
“My colleagues are really flattering when they see me in uniform. I get a bit embarrassed when they call me GI Jane and Wonder Woman but it’s far from that, I’m just like everyone else and I do this in my spare time.”
In Karen’s role as a reservist, she’s received access to a diverse spectrum of world-class adventurous training. Her scheduled has included white water rafting and Mountain Biking in Austria and Karen will undertake a kayaking expedition to her portfolio.
There will also be opportunities to deploy to Germany, Kenya and Cyprus in the near future, which will be included in her minimum annual requirement of 27 days service.
Through the training, Karen has gained a file full of qualifications, including a HGV driving license and Class 1 Combat Medical Technician. Next, Karen will embark on the UK Military Command, Leadership, and Management Course.
She said: “There’s always something going on. Even though we do skills and drills on a regular basis, no two situations are ever the same. So, we’re always preparing for the unknown. Every day is a learning day. Being a reservist, no matter how much experience you have, there is always something different thrown at you.
“My work ethos is get your head down and get on with it, my colleagues share that as well. Always do your best, that’s what the army has instilled in me.”
There are over 400 people based at Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s office in Abercynon. Karen is keen for some of her colleagues to find out more about the benefits of being a reservist.
She said: “I am constantly growing as a person. I’m always looking for the next challenge and development opportunity. I care about others before myself. I realised now I can achieve anything if I work hard enough and although money doesn’t motivate me, I have the added bonus of getting paid for doing something I love.”
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council have signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly. They received Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold Award for their efforts in 2017.
There will be a number of events held in Wales and the United Kingdom this week, culminating with Armed Forces Day in Llandudno on Saturday 30 June. Use #SaluteOurForces and join in the activities online.