There are no natural soldiers, no natural sailors or aviators. These specialised jobs require formal training, initially in a classroom and then in the operational field of exercise. These service personnel must, of course, be able to fit into a team, but first, they must be specially trained. Then, they can be foisted into a regiment, squadron, battery, or at least into a unit before being allowed to practice their trade.

The British army’s primary focus is to build leaders, and anyone who has done a few years in the services will have gained extensive leadership knowledge. As a career strategist, I have worked with hundreds of service leavers and carefully observed the career path of thousands of service leavers in the marketplace. Underneath it all is the ability to belong; this, unfortunately, is not a science but a need that was first highlighted by the famous Abraham Maslow just after WW1 with his famous pyramid of the hierarchy of needs and belonging sits right in the middle between needs- physiological, safety and growth love and belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

According to the census of 2021, more than 48,000 Foreign & Commonwealth veterans live in the UK, with another 14,000 still serving in the armed forces today. So why is belonging essential for us, and how can units, garrisons and commanders be part of making foreign and commonwealth individuals feel more part of an organisation?

For most F & C service personnel, belonging to a unit, company, or squadron is not a fashion or a tradition but an imperative. It is not a question of fitting in but of committing; those in the armed forces are engaged personally and professionally almost 24/7 a day. As General Sir Richard Barrons says in his foreword of ‘Leavers to Leaders’, we live lives with very little separation between life and work, where everybody relies on each other- where everybody relies on the man or woman next to them in the fight, as well as for their family, unit and country.

OP BELONGING is the community support arm of the Leavers to Leaders International Network. We work with selected organisations to support our Foreign & Commonwealth personnel to overcome the seven hostile environments in which they could fall victim during their career transition, such as :

  • Access to Employment & DWP
  • Access to Housing & Local authorities
  • Access to Health & Wellbeing
  • Access to Finance & Funding
  • Access to Travel & Commuting
  • Access to Education & Internship
  • Access to Justice System Support
  • Access to Law & Solicitors
  • Access to ILR & Visa
  • Access to Citizenship

The latest report by the RED CROSS ‘Barrier to belonging‘ shows that people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds born in the UK are more likely to belong when they are valued, included, safe and able to join a community. This is where OP: BELONGING comes in as part of the social arms of Leavers to Leaders. We work in partnership with local authorities, regional organisations, and British communities so their families and themselves can integrate into societies, belong to the country they serve, and sacrifice their youth. Their support ranges from career counselling, job placement assistance & community integration programmes.