I am writing to you to give you my attempt and testing journey of trying to join the British Army Reserve with the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), the oldest regiment in the British Army.
About 3 years ago I called army recruitment and explained that I didn't have a spleen as I was involved in a road traffic accident when I was younger and it ruptured and was therefore removed.
I thoroughly explained about my professional health and fitness background experience and the recruitment centre replied that even though not having a spleen was on the medical rejection list that I would have a good chance of appealing this due to my background. I enlisted with the HAC and proceeded to train religiously every Tuesday evening.
After settling in to the HAC and being thoroughly excited and motivated to become a soldier, and always leading the pack in training, I was ready for my selection weekend at Pirbright. The day before however, I received a call saying that I could not go as my medical records said I didn't have a Spleen. So I immediately went to the Sgnt Major and we organised a plan of action on how to move forward.
Before I go into what medical support I obtained to aid my appeal let me explain my background and why I am more than suitable for life in the military…
I've run my own successful health and lifestyle business for last 20 years where I have a national and international client base and I coach people on their fitness and nutrition - including high profile celebrity clients. I even coach people on how to get fit for the army! I even have clients who fly in from all over the globe to train with me including professional boxers.
My love for this kind of lifestyle started from being made a ‘Queen Scout’ which is the highest award you can receive in the Scouting movement and competing and becoming a county and national canoeing champion, over various distances, and becoming certified as a BCU1/BCU2 qualified canoeing instructor on open water.
At 19 years of age, I went traveling to the Australian outback in 1994 (before the internet and mobile phones were part of everyday life), traveling from southern Australia right up to the Northern Territory where I led a group of friends who had zero bushcraft or camping experience where we spent 3 months camping out every night in the Australian bush. I had to teach them all how to set up tents, make a fire, cook, read maps, how to store water provision's etc…
After an adventurous and challenging 3 months in the outback I then had to earn some money. Because of my boxing background, I became a sparring partner in the professional boxing gyms around Australia. I was privileged to have spent 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week being trained by Legendary Australian boxing trainers Bernie Hall and Max Pescud (later on in my 30's I was trained by Hall Of Fame trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles). I also trained as a fighter at South London's iconic boxing club ‘The Fitzroy Lodge’ in Lambeth for the last 20 years. From learning the trade of being a fighter I was also given the responsibility of training other fighters as well and regularly sparred with Ex-World Heavy Weight Champion David Haye and Ex-European Welter Weight Champion Ted Bami.
On returning from Australia I passed my YMCA Fitness Training award and became a fitness professional and since then I have run my own franchise of having 5 gyms in London's top 5 star Hotel chain, the Firmdale chain, where I managed a team of 30 people.
I'm a fully licensed member in a Japanese organisation called the GENBUKAN, which is a battlefield martial art exploiting armed and unarmed combat which I've trained in for the last 15 years, as well being trained in SPEAR - a modern self defence system for law enforcement, military and first responders.
I'm also an avid outdoors man: I go mountain hiking and wild camping in remote areas, from the Cairngorms to the South Downs, with just a sleeping bag and bare essentials which are well documented on my Instagram page.
After being medically rejected, the Sgt Major and I put together a plan of action and I booked in with a Harley Street surgeon who after a full examination wrote a letter for my appeal stating that I was fully fit, had all the up-to-date vaccinations and that I was in excellent health. He could see no reason why I couldn't join the army.
The Regimental Medical Officer at the HAC also supported my application and his opinion stated that I should be able to proceed and train as a soldier. Lastly, I received a letter from a Colonel George, retired from the medical department at Pirbright, supporting my case and added that I would be an asset due to my physical coaching.
The Sgnt Major at the HAC applied for a medical waiver for me as well. We hoped that with all of the medical professional letters I had to support my case that I would be granted a waiver yet unfortunately it wasn't to be. The whole process had taken 2 years.
The main reason it was rejected from the consultant in occupational medicine at HQ ARTD was that if I was bitten by an insect/animal on an overseas deployment that I would be at more risk than the average soldier. My argument supporting my case was that I've had all of the relevant vaccinations. I have already spent time in India where Malaria is high and I've spent time in the Australian outback where insect and animal bites are common.
I am also from a military family. My father was in the PARA reserves and my granddad served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the Second World War and fought in the North African campaign as well as in Burma.
Lastly, I'm also an actor who has performed in the Harry Potter movies, Waking The Dead, The Tunnel Series, East Enders and many more…
I read about your plight (the Right to Fight campaign) and I think that it’s amazing what you’re doing. I really hope with stories from people like myself and your dedication and energy that this can help in changing the way the army conducts their recruiting process.
- Rod Hunt