Following the British Ex-Forces in Business Awards, the world’s largest celebration of ex-military in second careers, the SA Group team have been reflecting on the valuable skills that veterans bring to their business, and how their recruitment underpins the key values of the company.

SA Group has been supporting veterans with their new careers since its inception and understands the challenges that arise from returning to civilian life. The company has been awarded a Gold Award from the Armed Forces Covenant in recognition of its active support to veterans with their resettlement programme.

Members of the SA Group team attended the awards and between them have over 50 medals and hundreds of years of combined service. Within these achievements is The Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service, a British military award that recognises meritorious service during, or in support of, operations. This honour was awarded to Lead Consultant Paul Wilcock who served in the Army for 13 years including a tour in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia from March to September 1995.

Paul’s account: “The tour itself was a testing time and has had a lasting effect on me. I feel myself react to the sound of Automatic weapons being fired on ranges, and I will always remember that while we were in Gorazde the Massacre of 8,000 lives in Srebrenica also occurred.

“The real impact of warfare was felt when overnight a full trench system appeared on the hills around us as the Bosnian Muslims prepared to defend. The Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) controlled the movement of all convoys into Gorazde and these stopped for over 7 weeks, and the fuel situation worsened. Then the opposition decided they wanted to tighten the grip on the enclave and advanced on our troops around the area, some of which were able to evacuate back to the main camp, but others were overrun with some taken hostage. At this point the situation was considered unsafe in the camp as there were insufficient shelters should we come under direct fire. The Commanding Officer decided to evacuate the majority of troops from the camp which meant that myself and one other would remain behind to manage the Communications Centre.

“Enduring memories of the evening the evacuation took place include the eerie walk through the camp in total blackout past lines of troops waiting to walk; cleaning weapons with the realisation that we might actually need them; and the alarm we felt after hearing a jet flying over, despite warnings from the opposition about this.

“The two of us worked long shifts and had to keep the camp generator going as well as creating an emergency operations room in the local town for the Battalion Headquarters including testing the Portable Satellite System in a built-up area. We also visited the homes of some of the locals who had helped in the camp and worked as interpreters.

“The opposition often bombed the place with artillery shells, and we regularly had to take cover. We always had ‘Red, Red, Red’ messages ready to send at the push of a button. One day a shell hit a building close to the front entrance, which had us all running for cover, and when we returned to the Centre we had no communications at all as the blast wave had knocked the satellite dish offline. A week or so later I attempted to repair the Satellite dish and became the target of direct sniper fire.

“We were always ready to evacuate should it come to that, but after a time some of the troops returned to the camp. The engineers were among the first and they quickly worked to build more shelters by digging containers below ground level and covering them over. It was a while before the remaining troops returned. Eventually the BSA started allowing convoys through again with the first bringing vital fuel supplies.

“These are some of my significant memories. It is an experience that will live with me forever and I was fortunate enough to be recommended for an award for the work we did there.”

Another valued member of the SA Group team, Robin White, served in the Armed Forces for over 27 years and tours included Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bosnia, Iraq, Macedonia and Kosovo.

Robin has received 7 medals in total including The Gulf War Medal, a campaign medal for issue to British forces who served in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during Operation Granby (the Liberation of Kuwait) in 1990.

He also received the NATO Former Yugoslavia and Kosovo Medals authorised by the Secretary General of NATO for specific operations relating to those territories.

“Kosovo was probably my most memorable operational tour as I was responsible for reconnaissance of all UK communications sites within Macedonia and the border of Kosovo. During this tour I organised the rebuilding of a school that I passed daily where the ceiling of a classroom had collapsed.”

In addition, Robin received the Iraq Medal, and the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan which was awarded for 2 tours of Afghanistan. Other medals include the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal which recognises the good conduct of armed forces personnel MoD over a 15-year period.

Photos (L to R) War artwork by Kevin Lyles for 230 Signal Squadron which includes Robin White on the right. Paul Wilcock receiving his Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service