Shelly Larkin-Lepp originally joined the Army Reserve and liked it so much that in 1985 she decided to join the regular Army. She first joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) as a driver and was later transferred to the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT) when the WRAC disbanded.
Although she initially found her new environment daunting, within a few days the bonds and friendships that would stay with her for life, were being formed and the training and her early experience provided her with the platform that would see her through to this day. For the third time in her career, Shelly changed cap badges again joining the Royal Logistic Corps on its formation in 1993.
Shelly admits that before she joined the army, she was shy and reserved and her 12 years in the Army changed her into the confident and outgoing person she is today. She now teaches people daily and has the confidence to stand up in front of them and speak with authority.
She is in no doubt that she developed that confidence directly from her military training. She said: “I see a lot of girls today who just don’t have that experience that I have been lucky to have and panic if they have to stand up and deliver some training or take part in a discussion and I think that sets me apart from them”.
Shelly is proud of the fact that when her regiment took part in the Changing of the Guard in 1994, she was the first female Quartermaster Sergeant of the Guard. She recalled that in those days there were not as many opportunities for women, but it was changing and is in complete contrast to today where women have the opportunity to be employed in any role in the Army.
Shelly recalled the time when she had surgery on a back injury and ended up in Hedley Court. It is there that she met an occupational therapist called Doreen who said that she had the potential to make a great occupational therapist because she enthused confidence and showed a real interest in the subject.
She recalled: “just before I left the army, I was given a Services Resettlement Bulletin which was a publication that helped service leavers with their second careers and right across the top was ‘occupational therapy’ and I took that as a sign”. Shelly is now working in neurology, mostly across the south of England supporting brain injury and stroke units.
Now, with some years’ experience in the field, Shelly does not consider herself to be a regular, everyday occupational therapist, she describes her approach as being direct and feels that it helps with her communication to the patient. She says that because her instructions are firm, clear and precise they can sometimes come across a little harsh and as such she also needs to draw upon the diplomacy skills she also learnt in the army.
“I have drawn on many of the skills I learnt in the 12 years in the army and have the confidence to get results, but I also needed to draw on other skills such as problem solving, and I was lucky that during my career in the army I did this on a daily basis”.
Since leaving the army Shelly admits she misses the comradery and the team environment that the army provides and considers it to be one of the hardest things about leaving, but she does to this day keep in touch with so many of my former colleagues and when they meet they always reflect on those great days that they were together.