“I didn’t really get much job satisfaction out of what I was doing, so I joined the Army for a more exciting life and the chance to get a lot more opportunities,” the 29-year-old father-of-three said. “I chose to join The Parachute Regiment because it’s more challenging and I felt it would make me even more proud, knowing that I’ve pushed myself further to be part of a unit with such a strong reputation.”
“I don’t think it was a situation that we could have specifically prepared for but I think, for me, the reason why we were able to adapt was because the training we have has given us the confidence and resilience to be ready to do whatever is asked.” Private Shayne Wilkinson, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment
To become a paratrooper, Shayne completed the 30-week-long PARA Combat Infantry Course at Infantry Training Centre Catterick, learning the skills of an infantry soldier with the additional physical and mental challenge of P Company. From a 20-mile loaded march to the trainasium, an aerial confidence course, the infamous eight events of test week show a soldier has the robustness required for airborne operations. Shayne passed with flying colours to scoop the prestigious award as Champion Recruit.
“The experience at Catterick was, I would say good, but a lot of times it’s not when you are cold, wet and tired! Looking back, it gave me the skills I needed and a level of confidence and discipline that I didn’t have before.”
After a short break with his family, Shayne joined 3 PARA in Colchester in August and completed an induction course before the unit stood down for summer leave.
“The wife and I were sitting on the sofa watching a film when the phone rang, my corporal said we were going to Afghanistan, and I was out of the door straight away. I didn’t say goodbye to the kids, just packed a bag and drove straight back to camp, then we all just got our kit and set off, I’d say that was my first day of proper work at 3 PARA.”
Troops were deployed on Operation Pitting, tasked to evacuate British people and entitled Afghans as the Taliban took over Afghanistan.
“In Kabul, I was doing crowd management and processing the people coming through for evacuation; it was all about trying to keep a huge crowd of people safe,” he said. “It was very physically and mentally demanding: they were all long days with not much rest, you’re carrying a lot of kit all the time, you’re hot and dehydrated and having to deal with people in a very desperate situation.
“I don’t think it was a situation that we could have specifically prepared for but I think, for me, the reason why we were able to adapt was because the training we had gave us the confidence and resilience to be ready to do whatever is asked.”
Reflecting on the change in his life, Shayne said: “If I could go back and talk to my old self, I would say try to stop flapping as much and have a little bit more self-confidence and trust in yourself. Now, if something unexpected or difficult was to pop up, I’ve got it engrained in me to think ‘yeah, I can deal with that’.
“My family is shocked at the change in me. A lot of people thought I was a bit mad to make such a change, but they’re very proud of what I’ve become. I would say to anyone who wants to do something different in their life to not create boundaries or limits, but just crack on and give it a try. You’ll be surprised and proud of what you can do.”