On Wednesday 28th February 2001, I made my way from Tunbridge Wells (where I was then living) to Ditton to make enquiries about joining the Territorial Army medical unit that was based there.
I was interviewed by the then Permanent Staff Administration Officer, a Captain, who explained to me the role of the Squadron and what I could expect if I was to serve with them. One advantage that I did have was that I knew two of the Officers that were already serving with them.
At the end of the interview, and almost as an afterthought, he said to me "By the way, there is the possibility that you could be deployed, but don't worry about it too much, as it hasn't happened since the Second World War".
I left with the world's supply of paperwork and the process of joining began. This included an interview with the Commanding Officer who told me that whilst he was happy that I commission, he thought that it would do me good to do the Phase 1 training that the soldiers do.
In August of 2001 I received my 8-figure Army number and three days later, on 1st September, departed to Devon on my first Annual Camp.
And then it all changed. Ten days after arriving in Devon, a group of nineteen men hijacked four passenger aircraft, two of which were flown into the World Trade Centre in New York, one into the Pentagon in Virginia and the last of which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, initiating the "War on Terror".
Security was immediately increased and I remember the speculation in the mess that at some point UK Armed Forces would be involved in a conflict in Afghanistan (at this point it was known that Al-Qaeda had established training camps in the country) and that there was a possibility that even Territorial units would be involved.
However, even after the British involvement commenced in November 2001, we were not called upon and carried on the usual round of training during drill nights, weekends and annual camps.
I completed my Phase 1 training in the early part of 2002, attended a Commissioning Board in the May and was Commissioned as a Captain in July of 2002, receiving my 6-figure Officer number, and was Gazetted in August of that year.
At the beginning of 2003, there was much activity due to the imminent invasion of Iraq. I received call up papers at the beginning of February, reporting to the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre (RTMC) eleven days later.
For various reasons, I was not deployed on Telic 1, so returned home and concentrated on preparing the Squadron for deployment on Telic 2 in the June of 2003, although I again didn't deploy. However, I remained at RTMC as a Nursing Officer in the Medical Centre, performing medicals on all those who had, or were about to, deploy.
I did get my opportunity and deployed on Telic 3, arriving in Iraq on the morning of Friday 14th November 2003, for a six month tour, returning home in April 2004 (to discover I was getting divorced) with just sixteen days of R&R in the January in the meantime.
On my return, it was back to the usual round of training, including a week's adventurous training in Canada in 2005, and medical cover for the Nijmegen Marches in 2010 as well as several courses. All in all I had an interesting, varied and enjoyable time.
But the pinnacle of all of this was when I was promoted to Major and appointed as Officer Commanding (OC) of the Squadron, as reported here in 2009, a post that I have held for more than three years and which has now come to an end, leading to this ramble.
Last Wednesday was my last drill night as OC. I relinquish command on Sunday, the new OC taking command officially on Monday and the handover/takeover happening on Tuesday. So this week has been very strange, clearing my office of all my pictures etc. And although I won't be leaving the Squadron immediately, it is likely that the twelve years that I have spent as a member of the Squadron will be over by the end of next month.
So what's next? Well, I have applied for some posts as a SO2, which my attendance at Staff College last year should help, but the boarding for this does not happen until mid-April, hence my remaining at the Squadron. If I am successful, I will carry out this role for the duration of the contract and then, hopefully, move to one of the Field Hospitals having been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
So whilst I do feel a certain amount of sadness to be leaving the Unit that has been my military "home" for pretty much all of my Reservist career, I look forward to facing the future challenges.
2013 is definitely proving to be a year of change!