As humans we seek belonging above all else. In our professional, physical, emotional and spiritual relationships. We survive, we achieve and we love through belonging.
Our relationships within these domains are seasonal. More nuanced than the output of a planet’s axial tilt. We can embark on a new professional season with little or no change to a physical one. And we are often unsure of when our seasons may change.
John Lennon wrote in the song Beautiful Boy – “life is what happens to you, when your making other plans.” And sometimes an event, a decision, or simply “life happening” can project every domain where we seek belonging, into a new season.
My guest on this episode of the podcast; (Sgt.) Gavin Watson was making other plans and life happened.
A former Royal Engineer and veteran of Her Majesty’s armed forces. Gavin was deployed in one of the first waves of military action into Afghanistan. He undertook two further in-action deployments in Iraq. Several tours of duty over a 16 year career, forged an identity. A belonging. And eventually a curiosity to explore a new professional season.
Royal Engineers are problem solvers. First ones in. Last ones out. They clear land mines. They defuse bombs. They build bridges. They keep the army moving, equipped and logistically ready to engage. Engineers are experts in assessing and reacting to an environment. Be that, above ground or underwater.
Gavin’s ambition was to join the Army divers. A unit within the Royal Engineer Corps. that solve problems; underwater. His remarkable aptitude saw him excel in the initial stages of training. However, the demands of diving brought to surface a physical constraint. One that would project him into a new season across all the domains where he once seeked belonging.
A few days after the UK and US exit from Afghanistan. Gavin posted a story. A window into the Army’s humanitarian achievements. From building schools to playgrounds. And providing security that enabled a generation of Afghan’s to enable their own ambitions. Free from political and religious aggression.
His post was in response to a media narrative that questioned if the Afghan war was worth it? One that judged the success of the war on it’s political ambitions as opposed to its humanitarian achievements.
And why does that post matter? Because it underpins the foundation of this conversation.
I never felt scared or endangered, but I didn’t realise how much essential danger I was in.Gavin Watson
I’ve had Gavin on my radar for a conversation on the podcast for a while. I was introduced to Gavin through his podcast. A platform that empowers veterans to share their stories. A platform that often reminds us that the war of the mind is a battle that soldiers are not necessarily trained to combat.
This exchange was my opportunity to explore, share and learn from Gavin’s remarkable re-entry into civvy life. An exchange that highlights that life is designed to be a story of achievement. Not without adversity, but despite adversity.
Gavin channeled his adversity into Archery. And brought home a range of Gold and Silver medals from both the Invictus and Warrior Games. Wonderfully crafted symbols that accompany his medals of service. He kindly shared these on the day. And they feature in our conversation.
This is also a conversation that highlights that overcoming adversity is achieved by innovating and adapting to a situation. When our belonging is disrupted, we launch into a new season. We often need to heal, recover and find new answers. New solutions to new problems. And at times new solutions to old problems.
Gavin has an inspiring energy. An accomplished individual who has developed a ferocious appetite to combat change. The range of stills captured by the man behind the lens – Bob Greaves – truly capture’s Gavin’s presence. A presence that never left our home.
The day culminated in a moment where Gavin spent time with my children. Attentively sitting with my son. Answering the inquisitive and sensitive questions of a curious 8-year old. Questions full of empathy. Questions that will support veterans in finding a new belonging. A belonging amongst a society they served to protect. Though more often, a society that has often become alien to them.
I hope this conversation provides us with the confidence to compassionately engage with veterans. Those that exchanged their youth for service to Queen and country. Those that lost friends along the way. And those that protect the freedoms symbolised by the crown. Ones that enable us to realise our own ambitions, free from political and religious extremism.
And above all I hope this conversation reminds us that acclimation is difficult. But through adversity achievement can be awe inspiring.
Blessings and love,
Warning: This episode contains explicit language.
RESOURCESGavin Watson: Instagram | LinkedIn
Military Veterans Podcast: Website | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | Apple Podcasts | YouTube
Instagram Post: A Generation That We Helped
Darren Carew Interview: Part 1 | Part 2
YouTube: Invictus Games 2016 fighting talk
YouTube: Prince Harry explains how he got the Queen to do Invictus Games video
Website: Archery GB
Website: MoD Corps of Royal Engineers
Website: MoD Protected Patrol Vehicles
WikiJob: British Army Recruit Battery Test
Oxford Academic: The Use of Psychological Decompression in Military Operational Environments
Shropshire Star: Archers target cash prize at Telford show
MoD News: Exercise Vobster Dive puts Sappers to the test
BBC News: Tony Blair says withdrawal was driven by imbecilic slogan
BBC News: Calls to UK veterans mental health helpline double
Man Behind The Lens – Bob Greaves: Website | Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | Email