Darren Finley, ex-Light Infantry corporal, shares a snapshot of his journey after leaving the armed forces. He explains how he became the driving force behind The MOT Group’s decision to provide a potential career path for service leavers and achieve an AFC Silver Award.
I joined the LI when I was 17 and served 9 tours in Northern Ireland. When I left, I felt pretty scared, if I’m honest. The army was all I’d known, and I loved it. Then pressure from my (then) wife to PVR found me on civvy street. Before leaving, I had attended a few career fairs for service leavers and taken a resettlement course in wireless data communications. After various inconsequential roles, I found work as an internal construction engineer for BT. The economy meant redundancy a few years into that role, and I became a revenue inspector for South West Trains. I also signed up as a special constable for the British Transport Police (BTP). When rumours of potential job threats circulated, I grabbed the opportunity to become a full-time police constable for the BTP.
The unexpected death of my wife in 2014 led to a period of spiralling. Depression forced my resignation from the BTP. I moved across the country to a place I had never even visited, and the next few years became a blur of roles as a cycling coach, a campsite warden, and a special needs TA … all while my mental health continued to decline, and I was officially diagnosed with PTSD.
Throughout this time, I’ve been supported by military charities such as SSAFA and Combat Stress, who have provided periodic counselling when things get too much. PTSD isn’t something that can be cured, so you have to learn coping techniques to deal with the constant changes in your mental state. Currently, I’m receiving counselling from the charity Ops Courage(NHS).
One of the ways I’ve found to enhance my mental wellbeing is to focus on others, not me. Another is journalling. The combination of those two led to me producing a mental wellbeing journal based on the SITREP principle (as an ex-soldier, I just couldn’t get on with the standard, flowery gratitude journal format!).
The MOT Group are an incredible family-run (and growing fast) company that provides an MOT compliance consultancy service to MOT centres: they help those businesses get and remain compliant with the regulations enforced by DVSA.
I began freelancing with them two years ago after completing the required Authorised Examiner Consultant course. The structure of the role is perfect for military minds. It’s structured, procedure-led, has very few grey areas and is support based.
When I realised what a great fit this would be as a career for service leavers, we began making plans for that to happen. We approached CTP for guidance; AEC courses are being run from April 2023, and we will be at The National Transition Event at Silverstone in February 2023.
But we believe what may have clinched our AFC Silver Award is the SITREP format mental wellbeing journal I’ve created for army cadets. Sponsored by The MOT Group, it’s currently being rolled out (free) across NI (chosen because of my 9 tours there), and we’re hoping that other cadet groups will embrace it too. The foreword is by the amazing Sally Orange Maj (Retd), Mental Health Campaigner who said:
“… it gives me great pleasure to write the foreword to this journal in the knowledge that it will be of huge value in developing techniques for those interested in managing mental wellbeing….”