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From fast food worker to troop commander

From fast-food restaurant to riding military horses around London and performing guard duties, Lieutenant Joe Gregg now manages a troop of 30 soldiers.

Joe worked part-time in a fish and chip shop and a Chinese take-away while completing his school studies, as well as making weekly appearances on BBC Radio Orkney as a sports reporter. 

My ambitions changed dramatically... LIEUTENANT JOE GREGG, 19TH REGIMENT ROYAL ARTILLERY

He joined the Army at the age of 18, initially joining the Household Cavalry as a soldier, with the intention of becoming a farrier.

The Orkney native had already been looking into becoming a farrier when his dad, who had served in the Territorial Army (what is now called the Reserves), suggested he pursue the trade through the Army.

Joe said, "When I first joined, my day-to-day was having the privilege to ride horses around London and doing guard duties.

“I loved it, but I came to realise I enjoyed the soldiering aspect more than I had expected. My ambitions changed dramatically, and I transferred to the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery.”

In his current role as Troop Commander no two days are ever the same, he says.

It is probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Lieutenant Joe Gregg, 19th Regiment Royal Artillery

Joe ensures those under his command conduct their duties appropriately and oversees their training to ensure they are ready to deploy anywhere in the world.

Soldiers often ask his advice professionally and personally. "It is probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” he said.

Joe has deployed to Cyprus as part of a United Nations peacekeeping tour and on exercises in Germany and Oman.

"I remember being in Oman as a Scimitar driver and thinking about how I came to be there," he recalls. A Scimitar is a small, armoured vehicle used in hostile terrain by reconnaissance regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps. The vehicle has a crew of three.

Joe said: "In my crew there were individuals from Southampton, Cameroon and Orkney. All from such diverse backgrounds but united by a common purpose. I worked and lived with these men for weeks in the desert and formed bonds with them that are rare in other lines of work.

"There is not a single type of person that joins. There are people from every background and every walk of life here. It’s not like the films where it is portrayed as extremely strict all the time. It is just a normal environment to work in."

The Army has afforded me opportunities that I could not have got anywhere else. Lieutenant Joe Gregg, 19th Regiment Royal Artillery

The former Kirkwall Grammar School pupil’s love of sport is satisfied in the Army. "It’s great that we get to conduct physical training as part of our daily routine, led by professional physical training instructors," he said.

"The Army has afforded me opportunities that I could not have got anywhere else. I learned to play polo through the Army and play at a fraction of the price due to military sports subsidies.

“I also have my own horse which I keep on camp at the Royal Artillery Saddle Club. I get to ride most days when I have the time and we are fortunate enough to have Salisbury Plain on our doorstep to enjoy."

Joe says the Army has taught him to live independently, manage time, himself, and others. His literary skills have improved, and he is also studying part-time for a BSc in Leadership and Strategic Management.

His says his confidence has soared: “Eighteen-year-old Trooper Gregg was not a confident young man. He would shy away from talking to superiors and would choke in front of a large crowd of unknown faces. Twenty-six-year-old Lieutenant Gregg could confidently deliver important briefs and talk to large crowds without staring at the floor."

It was one of the proudest days of my life. LIEUTENANT JOE GREGG, 19TH REGIMENT ROYAL ARTILLERY

On career aspirations he says: "I would like to become a Fire Support Team Commander, being at the “pointy end” of Artillery, calling fire missions onto targets. I would also love to spend time at the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, combining my hobbies with my job.

“To make the most of yourself in the Army, you don’t need a degree or to be highly educated, just willing to learn.”

His most memorable moments include being Field Officer’s Trumpeter for the Queen’s Birthday Parade in 2017. He said: "It was one of the proudest days of my life, I remember riding down The Mall with all of the crowds cheering, thinking about how surreal my life is at times like these."

The biggest challenge he has faced was adapting to a different lifestyle. He had lived in Orkney up until joining the Army and had never been away from home from more than a few weeks.

“The Army has completely changed my life, with so many new and different friends and colleagues that he never imaged prior to joining. The opportunities are unique and not necessarily available in other careers,” he said.

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