by SARWAR ALAM

AS A young boy, Air Trooper Vivek Sangani was attracted to the “exciting and fulfilling” life a career in the public services would bring.

His goal was to become a police officer or a paramedic. However, his ambitions shifted when personnel from the Armed Forces visited his college.

Sangani recalls: “We had people come in from the three services – Royal Navy, Army and RAF. They set up information stalls and we were able to ask them about the careers available in the different services.

“The Army was offering this Look at Life course which involved going and experiencing
army life in different barracksfor two-to-three days.”

Sangani signed up for the course and as someone who had a lifelong fascination and love for helicopters, he says he knew exactly where he wanted to go for work experience.

“The Army Air Corps is one that I went to,” he says.

“I saw what they did on a day-to-day basis and I really liked the lifestyle.

“We did exciting leadership activities such as overcoming different obstacles to get from one side of a bridge to the other. The leadership and discipline aspect really attracted me.

“I also wanted to travel the world. I didn’t want a nine-to-five office job, stuck in the same routine. I am the kind of person who gets bored easily.

“I realised the Army could offer the perfect role for me – to do an exciting job and travel the world to take part in adventure activities and sports.”

Looking back at that experience, the 25-year-old, who has now been in the Army for four years, says it changed his life. And as fate would have it, Sangani is based at the same Army Air Corps base where he went for work experience as a teenager.

“It was definitely life-changing. I never had any plans to get into the armed forces. I was looking more into becoming a police officer or a paramedic. But going on the Look at Life course changed everything and I chose the Army. I was set on the path.”

He adds: “My fascination with helicopters grew after the work experience. I looked up the Army Air Corps and was excited about being part of it and getting the chance to fly Apache helicopters.”

Sangani’s role in the Army is as a communications specialist, someone who is the link between the people on the ground and the Apache pilots.

“At the beginning it was very challenging. I work in the operations room where information is constantly coming in and you have to prioritise quickly. Eventually you get used to it and you become better at it. It’s mentally challenging, and I like that because it keeps you on your toes. It’s a fulfilling job.”

His time in the Army has seen Sangani realise his dream to travel the world and do numerous adventure training activities such as skiing, mountain biking and rock climbing.

“Before I joined the Army I had only been to two places – one was India, and the other was the UK,” he laughs.

“I have managed to travel quite a bit. We have been to America – Los Angeles and San Diego in California – and Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“Switzerland was a six-week ski trip and Austria was also a ski trip.

“I had never tried a winter sport before joining the Army. I had just turned up at the regiment and a week’s skiing trip was about to start so I thought I would give it a try. I really enjoyed it and I have now been on skiing trips every single year.”

“I can’t think of any other employer paying for their employees to go on skiing trips to some of the best ski resorts in the world.”

Sangani says he feels a part of the Army family, but his family, by his own admission,
had their reservations about him joining the service.

“At first my family were worried because they didn’t really know what the Army was all about. When I first told my dad I wanted to join the Army, his first thought was, ‘oh, you’re going to be a solider on the front line, you’re going to end up dying’.”

“However, the Army is not all about that. There are so many jobs within the service. I do communications, but you can be a dentist, a doctor, a lawyer; there are so many different jobs in the Army that are not front-line based.”

Sangani admits that his parents were, like many other people from BAME communities, unaware of what life in the Army is really like. He is working to change that by going into the community and telling his story.

“Most of the time there is a barrier, and information [about the armed forces] is not being passed around. That’s what we try and do when we go into the community,” he explains.

“In my experience, the Army is one of the most diverse and multicultural workplaces in this country. The Army is for everyone.

“It has always had my back and never let me down. I get vegetarian rations, I get time off for Diwali to spend with my friends and family. It’s completely different to what I thought. It’s just a lack of awareness. Whatever job it is, wherever you are from, there is a place in the Army for you.”

His parents’ view of the service has also completely changed and now they accompany
him to Army engagement events, Sangani says.

“My parents are very happy and proud of my achievements. My father admits that the Army is nothing like he pictured in his mind. He knows how great it is because of me.”

As for Sangani, when asked where he sees himself in 10 years’ time, the reply
isn’t surprising.

“In 10 years’ time, if we meet again, I am confident I will say to you that I am an Apache pilot. I will do everything I can to make this happen and I know the Army will do everything it can too. I have faith in the Army.”