Doug Beattie is a decorated veteran from County Armagh, who followed his father into the British Army before leaving to become a best-selling author and now politician.
Now a senior politician for the Ulster Unionist Party, Doug has also penned and published three successful books.
From guarding Hitler’s deputy as a young lad to receiving the Military Cross later in life, there is no doubt that Doug is no ordinary soldier.
A True Army Hero
Doug joined the military at 16, following his father who had served in the British Army for years.
Joining the Royal Irish Rangers (later, known as the Royal Irish Regiment), Doug’s first job was in the 1980s, helping to guard Rudolf Hess, a leading member of the Nazi party, in a Berlin Prison.
Later in his career, Doug served around the world, including military ‘hot spots’ of Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
While deployed in Iraq, he prevented a lynching, earning him the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
In 2006, Doug was sent to Afghanistan where he worked with the Afghan Police to take back the town of Garmsir – a strategically-important location – from the Taliban.
Expected to take two days, the operation went on for two weeks with the soldiers enduring exhaustion and ferocious fighting. Doug often found himself as one of three men against the enemy. His bravery won him the Military Cross. Doug said:
“I never thought I would be awarded the Military Cross. I never thought I would stand in front of the queen to receive it.
"All of these things have blended to make me the person I am now.”
Instead of taking his planned retirement, Doug returned to the frontline in Afghanistan in 2008, and again in 2010.
Amid the activity in 2008, Doug wrote his first best-selling book, 'No Ordinary Soldier', about the battle for Garmsir.
A year later he published 'Task Force Helmand', which delves into what he witnessed on his second tour of Afghanistan. Four years ago, he wrote 'Reaper', his first novel.
Doug retired in 2016 after 34 years of service. He’d found a new passion in politics while based back home in Northern Ireland and it was time to pour his energy into a new career.
Moving Into Politics
When still in the military, Doug joined the Ulster Unionist Party and was elected to his local council in 2015.
In 2016, when he was elected as member of the Legislative Assembly for Upper Bann constituency in the Northern Ireland Assembly, he dedicated his time fully to politics.
Like so many other veterans who have gone to build highly successful second careers, he cites the military understanding of structure and discipline as essential skills. He said:
“The one thing that's really interesting about the military is that it arms you far more than you realise. There’s structure; you know who’s in charge, what you need to achieve and by when.
"And in many ways, it's up to you how you're going to achieve a goal within the parameters that have been set up.”
Doug adds: “To be able to write three books, I needed a degree of discipline and that came from the military; to take yourself away from all of the other distractions, and to sit down and write.”
His political achievements have also been underpinned by his Army experience, especially an ability to engage with a huge range of people.
Doug also believes the military taught him how to assess and judge situations before taking action, which is also essential in politics.
Doug isn’t alone as a veteran in Northern Ireland politics; his party leader, Steve Aiken, is a former nuclear submarine commander in the Royal Navy.
Although from different branches of the Armed Forces, their skills weave together nicely. Doug said:
“We use them to run the party and to run policies, and to be able to engage with other people.
"I mean, it's incredibly natural to do so; it doesn't feel like a military thing.
"But when you look back at it, something has absolutely been born out of a career within the military.”
And The Next Adventure?
With such an exciting and varied career already behind him, you’d expect Doug would be yearning to put his feet up when his political career is over. Not a chance. He says:
“Well, I don't know what's next. You know, I'm not dead in the water yet.
"And if I step out of politics in the next two years, or maybe even before, you know, I'm still open to that next great adventure, no matter where that is because I think I've got an awful lot to offer.”
Doug thanks the military for giving him his “incredible life”. If and when he moves on, it’s likely to be another role that allows him to serve people and country.
This story is part of Life After Service, a week-long campaign where BFBS will be running positive stories about ex-service people across all its media channels.