Territorial Army soldier returns to 'civvy street'
A Shropshire reserve soldier, who is also a self-employed mechanic, has described the difficulties he has faced in building up his business again after returning from service in Afghanistan.
L/Cpl Ian Nicholls who will receive a campaign medal from the Queen on Wednesday, was serving alongside other members of the Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry.
While deployed, TA troops' jobs are protected by law, but those owning their own businesses face a tough choice.
Ian Nicholls chose to sell up his garage business and then start from scratch on his return.
The 40-year-old mechanic, based in Telford, had spent five years building up his business before leaving for Afghanistan in November.
Based in the Nad-e Ali region, L/Cpl Nicholls commanded a high-tech surveillance detachment working side-by-side with full-time troops from the Royal Irish Regiment.
In April he returned home to Madeley in Telford, but found work as a mechanic hard to come by.
"The great abyss was when I came back. There's not the work that was there when I left," he said.
Army 'not to blame'
Over the last three months L/Cpl Nicholls said he had found it a challenge to support his family.
"I used to have a big garage, with five or six people working for me.
"If I had that garage now, I don't think I'd have the work to employ those people," he said.
L/Cpl Nicholls said he did not blame the army, but the state of the economy on his return had noticeably changed in just three and a half months.
The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry (RMLY), based in Dawley, is currently recruiting, ahead of another planned tour to Afghanistan in late 2012.
RMLY Recruiting Cpl Christopher Fisher said he had seen an increase over the last ten years in the number of people wanting to join.
Two or three people walked into its Dawley headquarters every week wanting to join the regiment, he said.
But nationally the recruitment and retention of troops has been a problem.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the fighting strength of the TA had fallen to 14,000 but the government has said it will spend £1.5bn over the next 10 years recruiting and training reserve forces.
By 2020 Dr Fox said TA troops would make up 30% of a 120,000-strong British army, with a cut in the number of regular soldiers.