Don’t be afraid of the badges! Why rank bias holds veterans back.

In the Royal Navy, sailors are awarded a good conduct badge for every four years of exemplary service (or undetected crime as some Navy guys are apt to point out).  Up to three of these gold chevrons can be awarded and worn proudly on the left arm.  They look just like the sergeant stripes used by the British Army and Royal Air Force, but, just to keep things simple, they have nothing to do with rank.  A “three-badgeman” is an intimidating character for junior sailors who have a long way to go to accumulate the same level of experience and respect.  To put them at their ease, experienced sailors often tell newbies “Don’t be afraid of the badges”.  This was in recognition of the fact that although experience commands respect, it should not create fear which stops people from growing.  As good as the Armed Forces are at coaching and developing their people, they are often crippled by this fear of badges when they leave the services.  Rank-bias has service leavers looking for jobs on a par with their military rank when they leave.  There is a genuine fear of attempting to go for jobs which are seen as too high a level.  The result is unnecessarily narrow job searches and waste of talent.  Why is this and what can be done about it?

The jury seems to be out on veterans’ chances outside of the Armed Forces.  A recent report by the British Legion (here) states that service leavers are twice as likely to be unemployed as the rest of society.  Jon Warren, an academic writing for the Royal Society of Public Health back in 2014, observed that the vast majority of service leavers transition quickly and successfully.  This was echoed in Deloitte’s influential report of 2016, Veterans’ Work (here).  But, as Deloitte noted, there is a talent gap.  Many ex-military men and women have skills which are greatly desired in the digital economy and yet consistently have to settle with jobs which are lower paid than their skills warrant.  While much is being done to both improve the understanding of veterans as a pool of talent, and to help veterans translate their skills, there still seems to be something missing.  I think rank bias is a factor and here is why.

Promotion and career mobility

To work in the Armed Forces is to constantly prepare for the next rank.  Military people spend, on average, just two and half years in each job.  Constantly changing jobs creates a portfolio of skills for the next level.  In addition, soldiers, sailors and airmen are frequently sent on professional courses and leadership development to qualify for promotion.  This occurs after on-the-job training and studying for professional exams, aimed at the next rank.  Additionally appraisals are written each year  generating around 100 000 annual reports which are read, sifted and reviewed at promotion boards every year.   Service personnel have to go through this process every year.  Once selected, it can take a year for that promotion to be effective.  The time it takes to build a case for promotion to wearing the next rank can be considerable, so UK Armed Forces personnel plan ahead, indeed there is usually a career plan for their whole time in the services.

Promotion in the services is merit led.  Promotion outside of the services is usually requirements led.  I do not mean to say that the forces do not promote to meet requirement, or that civilian employers do not consider merit; I am simply stating the priority of each factor.  People in the Armed Forces are not generally promoted to fill a specific job.  Requirement is not directly linked to individual promotion.  Individuals are promoted, based on a definition of merit which focuses on leadership skills and professional experience.  In most civilian companies a requirement is identified and an effort is made to recruit someone for that role.  Individuals who may be below that pay grade or level can apply if they think they have the right credentials.  Of course, the recruiting process will consider merit but the driving force is requirement.  Both systems will ultimately choose whomever is considered to be the best prospect for promotion, but they do it a fundamentally different way which conditions people to behave differently.  This is a big problem for service leavers when they have to grapple with these new circumstances outside of the military.

I mentioned earlier that the military change jobs regularly.  It is worth pointing out that there is no formal selection for job changes.  Unlike the civilian world, a sideways move is just part of life.  Individuals are selected for a specific job based on availability and qualification.  It is not competitive and it is not really the individual’s choice (although preferences are observed where possible).  A sideways move in business, however, requires a rigourous selection process and the candidate still has to be the best prospect for that role.  Because promotion and job changes are really two different processes, the military mind may tend to see applying for a job as a lateral move and not a promotion.  A military promotion is something that happens after considerable diligence and no small amount of fanfare.  Of course, in business a veteran is not going to be told that she can apply for a job at a higher grade. 


Another deeply psychological factor is that service men and women spend their working lives in an environment where rank is very prominent.  Not only do military people spend a lot of their time working for promotion and managing the development of their juniors, everybody wears their rank on their uniform.  There is really no getting away from it.  Although the modern military has developed highly agile decision making structures for combat situations, the administration of the forces is still very much hierarchical.  Rank dictates who may make which decisions.  Rank in the military is a big indicator of perceived worth or value.  So it dominates service life.  It can hardly be any wonder that veterans are so rank conscious when they leave.


I have always considered military men and women to be highly self-aware.  After almost 30 years of military scrutiny, appraisal and testing, I think I pretty much know everything about my own strengths and weaknesses.  It is only as I left the services that I became aware of an important caveat.  I certainly think that the constant appraisal and feedback received during a military career is a big advantage for veterans.  The UK Armed Forces also have a well-developed ‘Lessons Identified’ culture which supports self-awareness.  Despite this, a lot of information about one’s military worth comes from outside the self.  It may be accurate but it still creates a dependency on outside forces to determine one’s value.  Compare this with business.  That initial impetus to go for a job comes from within.  Someone becomes aware of an opportunity and decides, based on experience and personal qualities, that they have a chance to bag that job.  Now compare the service leaver competing for a job with non-military candidates. For the latter, a self-driven appreciation of merit has become a habit over years in “civvy street”.  It starts to become clear how the behaviour of these two cases could be radically different.   Military self-awareness is well developed but tends to be self-critical and dependent on outside cues.

What can be done?

There is already a considerable amount of support for service leavers.  There are a large number of charities and social enterprises working on the business case for employing veterans.  To find out more, take a look at my infographic here.  All of these organisations and many more are doing very important work which has improved the lot of veterans greatly.  Additionally, the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) works alongside the three services to help veterans transfer their skills to business.  I have been looking into and writing about the aspects of military training which can translate directly into business with little or no extra training.  In my opinion, there are a number of businesses who simply do not know what they are missing.  But I am hardly alone in this viewpoint.

CTP and partners also make service leavers aware of the psychological aspects of the transition.  However, I do not believe that the resettlement package is equal to the induction process.  When service men and women join, they go through an extensive re-programming process to integrate them with the culture of the Armed Forces.  There is no equivalent process to integrate them with culture of business.  Such a package could emphasise the need for self-led self-awareness and it might increase leaver confidence to go for ambitious goals.

Civilian Work Attachments (CWA) are a good alternative.  CWAs are already available for service leavers.  They involve using time allotted for retraining courses to spend with a civilian business.  These attachments which could be up to seven weeks long are a great way for veterans to learn more about business culture and the recruitment process.  They allow service leavers to try out their skills in a controlled and risk-free environment, building confidence in the process.  Many veterans are genuinely surprised that skills we take for granted, such as information security, are not guaranteed in the wider business environment.  It also provides a great ambassadorial role for veterans, allowing businesses to learn just how useful it is having a veteran around.  The only downside is that companies amenable to taking service leavers on for an attachment are usually those who already have a military hiring pipeline and are already convinced.

Of course, it is also important that service leavers take responsibility for their transition.  For myself, and for most of the veterans I know, it is a difficult and dislocating process.  The journey (sorry for using the word) is an internal one and the process of writing a CV, preparing for interview etc.  is the easy bit.  Veterans need to take time to reflect on the differences between them as a military man or woman and their civilian identity.  This takes time, many veterans regret that they were so busy during their transition that they never took the time to get back to refer to their personal values and let go of their military identity.  Above all else, as the door to civilian employment opens, stride through it, say “hello” and don’t be afraid of the badges.


Find out more from Matt Offord at Consult Coscoroba


Organic CBD Oil:
Usage Methods and Pros and Cons
By:  The Hempuralist (USA Based Veteran Owned Business)


Organic CBD oil is becoming more popular as laws and restrictions on marijuana are being lifted throughout the United States.  The benefits of cannabinoids (CBD) have been known for some time, and more research is always being conducted and is leading scientists to new discoveries about the wealth of benefits to CBD oil.

Before we get into the benefits and any potential downsides, let’s first take a look at what organic CBD oil actually is.  Most people are aware of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the main ingredient in marijuana that contains psychoactive properties.  CBD (cannabinoid) is another component in the marijuana plant.  CBD oil is not psychoactive and provide a host of homeopathic, herbal benefits.

CBD is extracted from marijuana buds and trimmings through an extraction process and can be used to infuse different types of products ranging from skin products like lotions and ointments to ingestible products like edibles and vaping solutions.

Organic CBD Oil Pros

Because there are so many methods of using organic CBD oil, we’re going to divide the benefits into the manner in which the oil is being applied or consumed.

Topical Lotions and Ointments:

Used as a topical ointment, CBD oil has the potential to treat skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis.  Additionally, lotions and oils containing CBD can be used to relieve itchy or dry skin and can act as a type of soothing anesthetic for isolated points caused by muscle spasms or nerve damage.  CBD oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, so lotion containing the oil is ideal for massaging delicate, swollen areas.

Organic CBD Oil Capsules:

Some manufacturers of organic CBD oil create gel-tabs for easy consumption.  Consuming CBD oil via a pill is a great way to get some of the benefits.  CBD istherapeutic and can help to greatly reduce symptoms that make you hurt.  CBD oil is also helpful in relieving nausea and vomiting and has been shown to help reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures.  Mental health benefits have been reported, as well.  Anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, PTSD, schizo-effective disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric conditions have been made manageable by organic CBD oil pills and other ingestible forms of CBD oil.

Organic CBD Oil for Vaping:

Vaping is a popular practice among certain social circles, and the availability of CBD oil is increasing its popularity.  One of the greatest benefits of vaping CBD oil is that it’s difficult for spectators to identify that you are vaping organic CBD oil rather than nicotine based propylene glycol.  This allows an individual to demonstrate ‘socially acceptable behavior’ while vaping CBD oil in a state in which possession and distribution of marijuana are still illegal.

Like the capsules, vaping can be an excellent way to distribute essential CBD oil to your body.  Consistent vaping can help to reduce anxiety and help with other psychiatric symptoms.  Patients with epilepsy who ingest organic CBD oil regularly report far less seizures than they did before implementing CBD into their seizure prevention regimen.  Vaping CBD oil can also help to stimulate a healthy appetite, and – unlike THC – it won’t necessarily result in overconsumption, because the body experiences more of a logical hunger than a case of frenzy-inducing munchies.

Organic CBD Oil Based Edibles:

Edibles are a popular way for patients to consume organic CBD oil.  Tasty treats of all types are baked at very specific temperatures so the integrity of the chemical can be maintained.  The benefits of edibles are the same as the other ingestible methods.  In addition to baked goods, there are candies, drinks, honey, sweetener, and many other products containing CBD.

Organic CBD Oil Cons

We are going to take a look at each item from the previous list one more time.  On our second look, we will consider some of the cons of each method.

Topical Lotions and Ointments:

Relying on CBD oil as a topical solution doesn’t really have many downsides.  The primary concern for most individuals is the scent.  While some products are scented and mostly mask the smell of marijuana, others are not so incognito.  In many parts of the United States, marijuana is now legal, or at least decriminalized, and this concern isn’t always valid.  There are places, though, where it may not be the greatest idea to walk around smelling like you took a bath in some dank oil.

Very few people are actually allergic to organic CBD oil, although it is possible.  If you have sensitive skin and are prone to allergies against certain foods or (more importantly) herbs, you may want to have a discussion with your doctor before applying a topical solution containing organic CBD oil.

Organic CBD Oil Capsules:

While CBD is not psychoactive like THC, there is still the potential for drowsiness.  It’s important to adhere to the same rules you would as if you were taking sedatives or narcotics for the first time.  Don’t plan on driving or operate heavy machinery, just in case it makes you too tired or puts you in a state of supreme relaxation.

Organic CBD Oil for Vaping:

The most important thing for you to know is: Organic CBD oil is much thicker than standard nicotine oil used in vape pens.  If you want to use a standard e-cigarette or vape mod just to see what vaping CBD oil is all about, it won’t do much damage.  If you plan on consistently vaping CBD oil, though, you may want to invest in a vape pen or mod specifically designed for CBD oil.

Because it’s so much thicker than nicotine oil, organic CBD oil burns out the wick in the atomizer at a much faster rate than that for which an electronic cigarette or vape mod is intended.

If you are seeking a head high associated with marijuana by vaping, CBD oil is not the route you want to take.  While you may feel a slight sense of euphoria, inhaling CBD oil is nothing like inhaling THC.  It simply doesn’t compare.  Those who ingest CBD oil are seeking relief from medical and/or psychiatric symptoms and want to take advantage of marijuana’s homeopathic benefits without getting stoned or getting an excessive case of the munchies.

Organic CBD Oil Based Edibles:

The primary con to ingesting edibles is the amount of time it takes to be distributed to your system.  If you are using CBD oil as a regular maintenance for a chronic manageable illness or you eat an edible two or three hours before bedtime to help you sleep, that’s one thing.  If your primary reason for using organic CBD oil for relief or help reduce anxiety in the here and now, edibles may not be the best option for you.

One fact to consider, as well, is that not everybody who makes edibles is qualified bakers.  It’s very easy to scorch CBDs during the baking process by using too high of a heat.  Edibles can become quite expensive.  Before buying an entire smorgasbord from one vendor, try just one or two things from that vendor.  Take time to ask about the baking process if possible.  It may be better to find vendors who make their own edibles if you want detailed information on the baking process.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to use organic CBD oil.  Some people use a variety of methods.  It all has to do with your individual lifestyle, habits, and budget.

By:  The Hempuralist



Winter Driving Tips.
By JW Recovery Services.

With so many forecasts of very wintry weather for much of the UK.....

Essential kit to keep in your car:

  • First aid kit
  • Hi vis vest/jacket - visibility is always much worse in snow/icy conditions, especially at dusk.
  • Hat, scarf, gloves, blankets - do you keep spares in case you see someone in distress?!
  • Shovel
  • De-icer/scraper
  • Spare footwear - will your current footwear be up to a long walk in the snow?
  • Food and drink - you could be stuck in traffic for some time!
  • Fuel can - your engine may be running for longer than usual, will you have enough fuel? Always make sure you have more than needed in bad weather.
  • Warning triangle
  • Torch
  • Jump leads or booster pack - for you or to help another!
  • Flask of hot drink - very useful if locks get frozen - don’t pour onto frozen glass though!
  • Phone charger
  • Road map - if you breakdown, will your satnav help you if you have to walk?
  • Water/screenwash - salted roads are much dirtier and you will use a lot more screen wash
  • Footpump/air compressor

Stay safe everyone and be prepared to be able to help others...

And Finally

A word of warning

If you are caught by police driving with snow still on your car (even on the roof), or an officer sees it fall onto the road from your vehicle, you can be given a £60 fine and have three penalty points added to your licence.
The fine falls in line with section 229 of the Highway code which outlines correct guidelines for driving in adverse weather conditions.



The Elevator Pitch:

By Zero Alpha Media

I started Zero Alpha Media on Christmas Eve 2017. It was an important day for my family, but I didn’t want to wait any longer – that’s how important it is to me.


I’ve been involved with various Veterans’ groups for a while now, it’s like returning home. Veterans adapt, improvise and overcome – it’s their trademark. This makes them the ideal people to start businesses; often they’ve made split second decisions more important than any that a FTSE100 CEO will make. They are decisive, innovative and committed. They make some brilliant products and services as their businesses and they give these businesses 100% of their effort.

What Veterans tend to do less well is sell – both themselves and their businesses. Being seen as a ‘big-timer’ and boasting about your business are a big turn off to Veterans, so often brilliant concepts don’t get promoted as they should.

Since leaving the Army, I’ve run social media departments in agencies and I’m currently running PR and Government Affairs for the UK and Ireland division of a multi-billion Euro global renewable energy company. In starting Zero Alpha media, I calculated that years of experience could benefit Veterans and their businesses. Veteran businesses also tend to reinvest inside this country; the urge to serve this country never really leaves.

Zero Alpha Media will only work with Veteran-run organisations; it was started for a purpose and will stick with it. If we can help, get in touch via