Meet Captain Nadir Wahab from the BBC One Soldier Training Team
(Image: BBC/Label 1/Ryan McNamara)
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Captain Nadir Wahab
He started training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2018 and was commissioned into The Rifles Regiment. Captain Wahab has been an Infantry Platoon Commander on overseas exercises, and deployed to Op CABRIT in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence on the border with Russia.
He holds a MEng in Maritime Engineering with Naval Architecture from the University of Southampton and is currently learning Arabic.
Why did you want to get involved with the series?
It's a great opportunity to show what we do here because it's such a massive thing turning civilians into soldiers. We don't always notice the personal changes in the recruits over the six months because we see them every day. But the parents always mention to us that their children have grown up so much and look like different people. So, it's nice to capture that and actually show what we do.
Viewers will gain unprecedented access to the soldiers’ training, won't they?
The series provides a privileged insight into how we convert civilians into soldiers. It’s quite an insular community. There are guards on the gate, and no one can just walk in here and watch on a spare day off. So, this offers a unique view of the workings of basic training. It's been going on for 400 - 500 years, and it's changed massively over that time. But there are still some aspects that are probably very similar as well.
What sort of changes do the young recruits undergo?
Pure grit, determination and confidence in themselves is what we try to instill. Humour is such a big part of military life, but they know when to be serious and when not to be serious. And when they are serious, you can see they have grown up. They hold their shoulders, and they speak with confidence. That is the biggest change that the parents see.
What other changes do you observe in the recruits?
People come here from so many different backgrounds, and some will be used to waking up at nine or ten o'clock, so waking up at five and vacuuming your room is not what they're used to at all! We see them change as they start to take on a real sense of urgency when they're doing stuff. We call it “cutting about” - which means that even when you're walking from A to B, you walk with purpose. You relax in your rest time. But when it's work time, you move with purpose, and you get things done quickly and efficiently. You do see a change there. The walking from A to B in week one and in week 27 is massively different.
What parts of basic training have evolved in recent years?
On this course actually, we gave them more access to their phones than usual because we understand the importance of their support networks and their family. The military environment is so different to what they're used to. Not only are the recruits coming here and being in a military environment, they also have less access to their phones. So, by giving them more access to their phones, their support network can be included in their journey and the recruits can rely on them. When they feel like giving up every now and then, their friends and family actually know what they've been going through because they've been communicating more. They often are the ones who tell them to stick at it.
The stereotype attached to army training is that it is all about the corporals shouting at the recruits. Do you think this series will help to overturn that image?
Yes. Probably the snapshots that people have taken previously from basic training are about shouting. When there are high-pressure scenarios, sometimes to project your voice across the battlefield, you do have to shout. So, there is some shouting in basic training. But that is always followed up by a slow, transformational chat to make sure everyone's understanding what's happening. Training has really changed over the past 20 years.
Certainly, this training team made sure that if we ever did anything in the heat of the moment, afterwards there was a transactional message that we delivered, in slow time, when people weren't cold and wet, and they could actually receive information properly. They were coached, and we made sure that they understood the lesson they were supposed to be learning.
As a trainer, is it crucial to maintain a sense of decency?
Massively. Not only does a section commander play the role of trainer, they also play the role of an older brother or sister or friend. You find yourself playing mum and dad in my role as well. There are so many different roles. If your older brother shouts at you, you're not going to listen. So sometimes you need to connect on an emotional level, on a human level. Not all the time, obviously, but it's super useful to be able to do that from time to time.
What element of the job do you find most rewarding?
In instructing in general, when you look back over the course that you've delivered and you see the larger change in the recruits, that's probably the most satisfying aspect. As we see in this series, many people struggle with certain aspects of the training, but the answer isn't that they give up. They keep trying, and with good coaching and often help from their friends and their fellow recruits, they get through it. That's actually why people become trainers. Seeing that improvement is one of the benefits.
What do you think you've learned in your years of service that you are especially eager to impart to the recruits?
I've learned that the most pertinent thing to basic training is that you often see people around you who you might think are the finished articles, but everyone keeps learning. Often soldiers feel uncomfortable taking a step up in responsibility, but that's what people have done for thousands of years. It's almost like I tell them to play the character of a trained soldier, and that's what they slowly become. It feels unnatural at first because it's not what they'd ordinarily do, but they soon find it within themselves to play the character of the second in command or the point riflemen. It may feel like an unnatural jump, but with a bit of confidence in the reality that everyone's still learning and no one's the finished article, they do progress. They're willing to go and fail because failing often teaches us the biggest lessons.
What are the most important qualities that you're looking for in new recruits?
The first is definitely motivation - they need to want to be here. Because they will go through tough times, and if they don't want to be here, then there's very little chance that they’ll finish. The second one would definitely be a sense of humour. Because a sense of humour allows the recruits to bond quickly with the people around them. They're trapped in a new environment with a bunch of people who are also in the same circumstances. When they arrive, they'll probably find themselves very early the next morning ironing some clothes for the first time and looking up and laughing at everyone else doing the same thing in this ridiculous scenario, and that helps them to bond better. When things do go wrong in the army, that's important. The British Army sense of humour is what the rest of the world knows us for. Our chins are held high, and we laugh in the face of adversity.
This five-part series charts the transformation of the recruits as they leave friends and family behind for the British Army’s Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Amongst them is an ex-aspiring footballer from Middlesbrough, a former fast-food restaurant worker, a 20-year-old whose mother is a pacifist, and an 18-year-old woman who hails from a military family and is eager to follow in the footsteps of her father.
Women have only been permitted to join frontline infantry roles since 2018, and they must meet the same standards as men.
The 45 recruits tackle punishing obstacle courses, handle and fire weapons, undergo rigorous inspections, and crucially, learn how to kill at close quarters using only a bayonet.
Under the watchful eyes of Lieutenant Wahab, Sergeant McIntosh and Corporal White, recruits face the reality of what it means to be a frontline soldier at a time when war is raging in Europe for the first time in a generation. Some will stay the course as they achieve things they never dreamed themselves capable of, and others will struggle at the first hurdle.
Soldier is a BBC Factual and BBC England co-commission and has been produced by Label1, makers of the multi-award-winning BBC series ‘Hospital’. The first episode airs on Thursday 5 October at 9pm on BBC One and the series will then run weekly.
The series producer is Kim Rossiter and the series director is Paul Wells. It is executive produced by Fran Baker, Lorraine Charker-Phillips and Simon Dickson. The commissioning editors for the BBC are Jack Bootle and Tony Parker
Source BBC One
September 28, 2023 4:00am ET by BBC One