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Dstl careers: Nick Richardson – Case study

After serving for 33 years in the Regular Army, Nick transferred to the Reserves in 2020 when he joined the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). He wanted to continue to add value in a niche but immensely rewarding role. 

Having previously been Commander of the Army Adventurous Training Group and involved in supporting Adaptive Adventurous Training (ApAT) as a ski instructor, Nick secured a similar role in the Reserves:

ApAT uses activities such as skiing, rock climbing and canoeing as part of the rehabilitation and recovery of service personnel that have been injured or are unwell. It was initially focused on people that had suffered injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, but over the years it has widened to include service personnel involved in training and other accidents and those that have become unwell (physically or mentally, for other reasons).

I lead on improving the policy and delivery of the ApAT as well as organising the ski training courses that take place each year. I am also heavily involved in mentoring and managing the pool of specially trained and qualified instructors.

Nick’s decade long experience with ApAT and sudden pause to activity brought on by the pandemic spurred him on to get his area of expertise going again in the Reserves:

The current Commander Army AT Group recognised that need too and supported my application to join the team as a Reservist to do just that. I’d seen first-hand what a transformative impact it can have on someone’s rehabilitation and recovery.

My highlight is seeing people with severe injuries and illnesses, that are not always visible, make real advances in both their physical and mental wellbeing, in a very short time. That might be seeing someone adjusting to life in a wheelchair, realising that they can keep skiing and enjoying the freedom it brings as well as the chance to interact with others. Or, it could be providing someone with a severe life limiting illness with the opportunity to enjoy what many of us would see as a normal activity before they are discharged to a care home.

Although it’s very hard work mentally and physically, it is immensely rewarding and fulfilling. For me, like many of the instructors, it is one of key reasons I keep serving.

Nick fits his work with the Reserves alongside his role at Dstl too:

I am the Capability Assurance Principal at Dstl, which means I am responsible for delivering the External Review College and the Capability Health Assurance Activity that helps to ensure the science and technology that the organisation delivers is the best it can be. I examine the health of our capabilities and identify where they could be improved. I am grateful that I am allowed the time off from doing that work to be in the Reserves – it certainly keeps me enthused and motivated to deliver in my ‘day job’.

At Dstl, we do so much to equip, train and protect service personnel as they go about their duties and deploy on operations. It is somewhat fitting that I am in a position to help support those who have suffered, often as a result of their service.

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