Picture: MoD/Crown Copyright
Military Life

Last Day In The Armed Forces: What Is It Really Like?

Want to know what goes on behind closed doors on your final day?

Picture: MoD/Crown Copyright

For many their ‘last day in unit’ can be a bit of a blur, not least because they’ll have been up all night celebrating or drinking the evening away with friends and colleagues.

In reality, the final few days can be a real pain.

Chasing down heads of department for their signatures - confirming that you’re not still in possession of a tank or any other military equipment before you leave.

Going through all of your kit can be a very nostalgic experience, finding items of clothing or kit that are decades old and no longer issued, or that photograph of you and your mate, captured during your first ever deployment.

In the military you spend years accumulating stuff you will now longer need in civvy street.

On your final evening, you may even be lucky enough to be ‘dined out’ – a fancy dinner and drinks with friends, where you are presented with a parting gift and your best friend from your peer group will deliver a speech highlighting your career and achievements.

You will be left wondering where all those years went.

There will most likely be a few emotional moments and farewells, but it is not all sadness. Hell, freedom has arrived.

Here is a list of thing you can now do without being shouted at:

- Walk on the grass

- Walk while talking on your mobile phone

- Eat while you walk

- Smoke a cigarette while walking

- Walk with your hands in your pocket

- Speak to your boss and refer to them by their first name

- Grow facial hair, paint your nails or even dye your hair pink

- Self certify as ill, stay in bed until you're feeling better and not have to go to the Med Centre for them to tell you have the flu

- Wear clothes that have not been ironed

- Book a holiday and not worry about the military caveat: "As long as no last minute deployments come in"

So, your big day has finally arrived …

On your final morning, you’ll be expected to be wearing a suit or smart clothing, then you will summoned to your Commanding Officer’s (CO'S) office – this is where you’ll be met by the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) – where he or she will brief you on your final moments as a serving soldier – at this stage you will still be referred to by your rank and surname.

You will be then be marched into the office and stand in front of the CO's desk. This is where you be personally thanked for your contribution to the regiment and the wider Armed Forces.

When it is time to leave his office, you will now be referred to as ‘Mr, Mrs or Miss …’

After the CO has finished speaking, you will be asked if you would prefer to walk out, or if you’d like to march out.

The majority of people will opt to be marched out of the office, as a sign of their continuing respect. If you have left on bad terms, some may just walk out.

Your final stop before leaving barracks will be the administration office, where you will see the clerk.

You will spend time making sure your details are all correct, write down a forwarding address, hand in your MOD Card 90 (Military ID Card) – now you get to keep your card, although the clerk will snip the corners to denote it is no longer valid.

You will now be formally known as a veteran.

Usually within 6-8 weeks you will receive your official veteran's lapel badge through the post.

Picture: MoD/Crown Copyright
Official Veteran's Badge: Picture MoD/Crown Copyright

But it does not end there. Many who leave the Armed Forces will be added to a long list of names to the Reserve services, and could be potentially called back into service.

Now it is time to move on, some may choose to join the Reserves, or become an Army Cadet Force instructor enabling them to keep a direct link to their military service.

The Military is a big beast and unfortunately some people do sometimes slip through the net, and don’t get the send off they deserve.

If that is the case, do not take it personally. Just remember, after you have left, the regiment and the Armed Forces will keep on rolling.