Student stories - fully commissioned in the Army Reserve
The face of our new website and 'See Things Differently' campaign, law student Lucy Upton was commissioned into the Army Reserve as a second lieutenant this summer, after successfully completing the Army Reserve Commissioning Course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
She was previously an officer cadet in the Tayforth University Officer Training Corps (UOTC), and it only becomes possible to attempt the commissioning course if officer cadets pass the Army Officer Selection Board, which is where all potential Regular Army officers undergo selection, and is the only direct route into Sandhurst.
Lucy’s commission was a huge achievement, as only 85 Officer Cadets completed the course from the whole of the UK.
The Army Reserve – which used to be known as the Territorial Army – provides support to the Regular Army both at home and abroad, and has been involved in almost every major operation throughout its history operating alongside the Regular Army.
Although officer cadets in the UOTC are members of the Army Reserve and paid when on duty, they cannot be mobilised for active service.
This has all now changed for Lucy as a fully commissioned officer in the Army Reserve.
Here, she tells us about her experience and what it’s like juggling her Army commitments with her studies and part time job.
What made you get involved with the UOTC?
“I was involved with the Army Cadet Force – or ACF – from about the age of 14, which was my first proper exposure to anything military, other than hearing stories from my parents who both left the Army before I was born. I spent four years with The Black Watch detachment of Angus and Dundee Battalion ACF before joining Tayforth UOTC in 2012.
“My dad had mentioned the UOTC to me before as he had been part of it himself after leaving the Regular Army so I was aware of it. I just hadn’t actually considered joining until I saw them at the Freshers Fayre.
“The idea of getting paid to do something I enjoy as well as the other benefits such as meeting new people and doing adventurous training was very appealing to me. I also like to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone a little bit so this was another attraction. The great thing about it is you don’t have to have any previous experience at all – the majority of people in the UOTC don’t.
“The idea of being in the Army has always been in the back of my mind as something I might consider in the future. I suppose it was more of a question of whether I would join the Regulars or the Reserves. I’ve swayed between the two for the past couple of years whilst I’ve been exposed to other career options, but I’m fairly certain I will join the Regular Army once I graduate."
What does being in the UOTC involve?
“It’s difficult to summarise as there is so much that the UOTC does! It’s not like any other student society – there are so many opportunities to try new things. The organisation is centred around basic military training that is geared towards preparing those of us who want to become officers for the commissioning course at Sandhurst.
“Another big thing we do is sports and adventurous training such as skiing and sailing. Things you maybe wouldn’t expect like formal dinners and helping out at the Commonwealth Games are amongst the other things that we get involved in. It’s very diverse.
“We meet every Wednesday from 7pm – 9pm and our bar is usually open after that for socialising. In addition we do a training weekend every fortnight or so and have two annual camps in the summer and winter. These are not compulsory, you just attend what you can and the more you attend the better.”
What did the training at Sandhurst involve?
“From the moment you step through the doors until the day you walk up the steps the training forces you to think and act like a leader. It ranges from challenging physical training to long exercises in the field, constantly testing your determination and desire to lead men and women.
“As well as physical challenges there comes the mental challenge of lectures and lessons on topics such as the morality of killing, and communication and behavioural science, giving your leadership an academic grounding.”
How do you balance all these demands with your studies?
“It’s all about effective time management. I have definitely got it wrong in the past, especially with trying to balance my part time job as well. It can be difficult, but it is definitely manageable and achieved by many within the UOTC.
“You learn how to prioritise and you learn what your personal limitations are. The UOTC is very accommodating and would always encourage you to put your studies first."
Should others get involved in the UOTC?
“I would certainly encourage other students to get involved with the UOTC. Speaking from personal experience it has really helped me gain excellent skills that I can put on my CV to help me stand out from other graduates in the job market. I used to be very shy and timid and would never have imagined that I would be able to complete the commissioning process, but the UOTC really helped me to believe in myself. Particularly my fellow officer cadets who were incredibly motivating and supportive. It’s such a fantastic release from the pressures of studying and you will meet some amazing people from many different backgrounds. ”
Come to Abertay!
“I would definitely recommend Abertay. It is quite a small university which can have its disadvantages but the Law course is great. If you are more practically minded like me and are better at coursework and presentations than exams then this is definitely a course for you. Also Dundee is the best place to be a student, pretty much everything is within walking distance, accommodation is relatively cheap and the student nightlife is great.”
More information about our law degree can be found on our course pages: