How Do Potential Army Officers Decide Which Regiment To Join?

Forces News joined a group of Potential Officers visiting 2 Mercian in Cyprus, to see if the battalion is right for them...

Each year around 600 young men and women enter the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst with the hope of becoming British Army officers.

But who decides which regiment they ultimately join?

Part of that decision comes from a series of visits the Potential Officers (POs) make to units they are interested in.

It is a traditional part of Army recruitment and an opportunity to see if they are a good match for the regiment or battalion.

Forces News joined a group of POs on their visit to 2 Mercian in Cyprus at their HQ at Episkopi Garrison to see if the battalion is for them.

POs (left to right): James McKinney, Alex Graves and Peter Millward

Before embarking upon 44 weeks of rigorous Sandhurst training next spring, 21-year-old Peter Millward has made the journey from Derbyshire to Episkopi to see if he is the right fit for 2 Mercian.

Along with the other POs, the Sports Science graduate will make two visits to selected regiments during his time at Sandhurst, applying to join them in his second term. Once he has honed in a preferred regiment, Peter will contact the senior officers at a specific battalion.

Those officers will be made aware of PO performance levels through communication with Sandhurst, with the candidates split into three performance categories. Peter says:

 "It's kind of like an interview process - if you've interviewed well enough and your report is coming back good, then you should be on your way to your chosen regiment."

Peter Millward and the group are shown the weapons used by 2 Mercian soldiers.

But the interview is a two-way process, POs encouraged to use the opportunity to explore different aspects of the Army and make sure they make their life-changing decision is the correct one for them. 

At 19, Alex Graveshas finished his A-Levels and has been observing the different regiments from life as a supermarket worker in Sussex. Now the group's youngest PO is keeping his options open before Sandhurst.

Alex has "broadened" his approach since planning to join the Engineers. Recent visits have turned his head to life as an Infantryman after interviews with several regiments:

"I'm trying to keep my options broad for when I get to Sandhurst as I might go to exercise and get cold and wet and decide the infantry is not for me!"

Having met each PO for an informal chat, 2 Mercian Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis, welcomes the mutual desire to impress between the battalion and its visitors.

"The way I describe it is it's a bit like Tinder.

"Both parties are looking at each other and are all trying to work out which way to flick - left or right. 

"We both flick right and when they go to Sandhurst, there will be another set of interviews."

Finally, the Regimental Selection Board assigns individuals to their regiment, so they know where they are headed once they have passed through as British Army Officers.

PO speaks to CO of 2 Mercian Regiment 070819 CREDIT BFBS
PO James McKinney speaks to 2 Mercian CO, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis.

In addition to visits to the armoury and command tasks in the gym, the POs meet serving officers who have been through the process.

James McKinney, from Cheshire,is one of those asking questions about military life at 2 Mercian. Having been drawn to the Royal Marines in the past, a stint in a desk-job reignited James' military motivation.

"Originally, I did go for [the] Marines when I was 17, passed everything and then smashed my knee up, so that put me out for a while."

The 20-year-old completed an apprenticeship soon after, before a brief spell in project management. From here, a potential life as an Army Officer turned his head:

"The Army was always really what I wanted - when you think of the military, you think of a soldier and when you think of the Army you think of the infantry." 

Whilst a long training process awaits the POs back home, a range of new opportunities awaits them at the end of the 44 weeks at Sandhurst.