The Quarterly Village Publication produced by Barrow upon Soar Community Association.
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People

Spotlight on Jez

Our ‘People’ stories often turn the spotlight on older people in the village and their achievements over a long lifetime. Ginnie Willcocks is pleased to redress the balance with her feature on Jez, who has already packed a lot into his life and has become a Royal Marine at the ripe old age of 24.

When Jez left school he decided that he’d had enough of studying and wanted to see something of the world so left for a season of Summer Camp in America. He then travelled north to Toronto where he stayed with relatives and managed to find work to pay his way in Canada for five months.

He returned to the UK and did some part-time work at Loughborough University sports centre and managed to get some casual, paid work as a Life Guard at the Leisure Centre in East Leake. His enthusiasm for this work was noticed and encouraged by the offer of full time work as a Life Guard and was followed by the management offering him the opportunity to train as a Gym Instructor. Jez’s career began to develop in the leisure industry but he wanted to have some time off to travel. This time Africa was to be his destination.

He spent a month in Africa, initially teaching English to African children through a link with a charity that his family support in The Gambia. Although this experience was a huge culture shock for him Jez felt completely safe. The people had very little in the way of money and possessions but he was made extremely welcome and was treated like one of the family. The children loved him, especially when they discovered that he was interested in sport, then all they wanted to do was play football. Jez recalls that they only had one ball and they would have crazy games of football with 50 boys and girls of all ages and sizes.

Jez returned to teaching PE and swimming and training on a part-time basis for a Diploma in Teaching Exercise and Fitness but he felt that his life needed more so he investigated joining the marines. After virtually a year of having to prove his fitness, due to a health problem he’d had as a child, Jez was able to travel to the marines training centre at Lympstone for three days of very strenuous, very intensive, almost non-stop fitness training, to gain knowledge about the Royal Marines and for the marines to find out about him. This was an assessment, to discover whether a person can cope with the tough 32 week Marine’s training programme, for the individual and the organisation.

Jez came home and waited for the phone call to tell him whether he’d been accepted. He heard from several of the friends he’d made during his trial days who had been accepted. Rather than just sit at home and wait, he returned to Africa for a week and came back to England on December 4 2006 at 2am. As soon as he landed he picked up a voicemail message telling him to report to the recruiting office in Leicester, later that same day. When he arrived there - a little jetlagged - he was given the start date for his Marines training which was to be January 22 2007.

Many of the recruits who started with Jez would be together for the next 32 weeks, they would learn to laugh with each other and at each other and would develop a rapport that would help them achieve their goal, the hard won ‘green beret’. They would learn that endurance matters more than physique and that - if and when they successfully completed the 32 week training programme - they would be committed to a minimum of four years as a Royal Marine.

Due to a devastating injury to his ankle during a live firing exercise on Dartmoor just a week before his final test, Jez’s training came to an abrupt halt. At the time, his comrades thought he’d been shot, such are the rumours among service personnel. It was five months before his ankle was healed and he was completely physically fit to attempt the final week of assessments. The last trials consist of an endurance speed march, followed by negotiating two miles of tunnels, ditches and hills then another speed march back to camp, all of this within 75 minutes. Then a rest day. The third day a nine-mile speed march carrying a considerable amount of weight and rifle while Day 4 is the tarzan assault course showing your knowledge of how to use ropes. The final day consists of a 30 mile trek beginning at 4am, in the freezing cold, in only your shirt, carrying 21 lbs of webbing, a day sack and rifle. The course has to be completed within eight hours. Jez completed this with time to spare and a very sore heel caused by a blister that materialised during the first few miles.

At the end of the course Jez was overjoyed at his success, especially when presented with his reward, the precious ‘green beret’ or ‘green lid’ as they are affectionately called by the marines. Due to his elation at attaining his goal the pain in his heel was hardly noticeable on his journey by coach back to Lympstone. A week of ‘drill’, ready for the official passing out ceremony followed; this is affectionately called the ‘fifth commando test’. This week also gives the new marines the opportunity to consume rather large, well earned, quantities of beer. Jez said it was his and his family’s proudest moment when he officially received his green beret.

At the time I was speaking to Jez, he was a short time away from setting off on his first tour of duty to a destination which cannot be revealed. I’d like to thank Jez for taking the time to talk with me in a very modest fashion, giving me the opportunity to share his experiences. I was amazed at his achievements and I’m sure you’ll join with me in wishing him every success in his career as a Royal Marine.

Jez cannot be named and photographed for security reasons.