I joined the navy in 2009. I joined as a warfare specialist. It seemed interesting at the time. I was on my way to a job interview at Debenhams, and I didn’t want to work there.
I went on three operations, one in the Falklands, one in the Middle East and another in the Caribbean.
I had to sit an aptitude test with pretty basic questions. Then I went down to Plymouth for phase one training to learn things like marching discipline.
Then you do phase two – professional training going through radar, censors, and other technical issues. Once you’ve completed the full 32 weeks, you go and join your first ship. You quickly learn that what came before was completely useless and you have to start again.
Personally, I was excluded from three schools. I was always disobedient. You find the culture on board very different from anything you’ve seen before.
When it comes to military visits to schools, I’m opposed to them. One reason is capacity, legal capacity of brain development and how we absorb information. At 13, 14 or 15 you’re still developing. You can make erratic decisions. A cynical person would say that’s why they’re going in there [to schools].
We should be asking for risk assessments for people joining the military who are 16 or 17. There’s plenty of research that has shown risks of mental health issues or drug dependence for 16 or 17 year olds that far outweigh those who join at 18.
Eventually I was medically discharged from the navy. It started when I wanted to leave and I put in my notice. They said no. They said I had to go on a nine month deployment. I didn’t renew my passport, so they told me I had to spend the whole nine months on board. It was like a jail sentence.
So when we arrived at Puerto Rico, and the ship was docked, I jumped over the side and slid down a rope on the side of the ship. Lights were flashing. There were people shouting. But I made it and ran through the security.
I stayed in a hotel and had a brilliant time. You could call that a breakdown of sorts, an intentional one. I went back and was told ‘You’ll be going away. You’ve committed some criminal things here,’ but I just said ‘no comment’ to all the questions. Eventually they told me I was ‘incompatible with service life’, which makes sense.
The military’s like teflon. The general public seem wary to criticise the forces, but people in the armed forces are constantly critical – of the lack of equipment, of low pay, on constant deployment. It’s strange.
I suppose there’s a slick propaganda system. I’m not a fan of many of the veterans charities either. They become apologists for government policies. Instead of standing up for veterans, they’re just coping with them.
I think we should stop giving money to Help for Heroes. They’re involved in the groups responsible for this mess. The banquets with arms dealers like BAE Systems and Thales? It’s deplorable and abhorrent.
Connor McAllister is a member of Veterans For Peace UK.