There are a list of activities that are usually synonymous with a university student’s summer. For some university students, such as Ben Tong and Mahmoud El-Gindy, this list could be extended to include parachuting over Germany, running through the woods with a rifle on a military exercise, going on courses that can enhance your CV and a whole host of exciting endeavours – all while being paid. Ben and Mahmoud are both Officer Cadets with the Manchester And Salford Universities Officer Training Corps (MSUOTC), part of the North West Officers’ Training Regiment, an organisation that boasts around 300 students from across Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster.
This summer, both Ben and Mahmoud went to Sennelager, one of the British Army bases in Germany, to throw themselves out of a plane for the hell of it (admittedly with a parachute attached). Usually, such a trip would be a once in a lifetime expense. Both of these gentlemen went for free along with 23 other Officer Cadets—and they can go again next year if they want. This week-long event, nicknamed “Ex LION LEAP” (the lion being the symbol of MSUOTC) is just one of many that the Universities Officer Training Corps organises for its Officer Cadets. Everybody has the chance to do many forms of “Adventurous Training” (AT) with the UOTC. On our annual camp we all enjoyed hill walking, rock climbing, squirrelling (similar to caving), kayaking and mountain biking.
If there’s something you want to do it is almost guaranteed that the staff at MSUOTC will be on hand to help get funding and organise all the things you’ll need, from transport to accommodation. As well as this, the UOTC helps those who wish to take part in more usual sports, with the unit competing in the annual Queens Cup competition at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst at football, rugby, hockey and netball. This can all be balanced with university studies—both Ben and Mahmoud went to Germany after their exams, Ben studying Geography at the University of Manchester and Mahmoud studying Contemporary Military and International History at the University of Salford. Not your average student’s summer.
AT is not the only pursuit that the UOTC has to offer. For all Officer Cadets, a form of military training (while maintaining a sense of fun and perspective) at weekends throughout the term is required. Don’t worry, the UOTC can’t send Ben and Mahmoud (or any of our other Officer Cadets) on military service as theyare classed as ‘Group B’ Staff, which is undeployable—but still paid. In fact, military service after your time at the UOTC is not mandatory, and many of the Cadets eventually join the Army with little to no initial intention of joining the Regular Army.
For those who are interested in the military life, the UOTC can help propel us through our careers, with Mahmoud returning to Germany this summer in order to complete the “Summer Leader” course, meaning that he is now only a 3 week course at Sandhurst away from commissioning as a Second Lieutenant with the Army Reserves. Whether it’s helping to understand the intense application forms, preparing us for selection or liaising with the unit we’re attempting to join, the staff at the UOTC will provide all the support we could hope for.
Alongside regular trips to the Curry Mile, our socials can range from running between pubs dressed as foxes, hounds or in tweed, through trips to the Dogs and several formal black tie dinners, including the annual Regimental Dinner, steeped in hundreds of years of British Army traditions and free wine. Our Commanding Officer, Colonel Hayman, once spoke to us about contrast, and it is never as obvious in life as it is with the UOTC. One night we were drinking wine at our dinner, then even more drinking together in the mess, everybody dressed in their finest black tie attire. Mere days later we were all in our uniforms, the dirt ground into the fabric and mud clinging to our clothes as we sprint across fields and through trees on exercise. The variety of our lives since joining the UOTC is staggering.
So as you can see, while our Officer Cadets may look like average students (and for most of their lives they are), their stories from their summers could not be more different from other peoples’. Anybody can enjoy the opportunities that the UOTC can offer, as we accept recruits in September every year.
Post provided by Manchester and Salford Universities Officer Training Corps.