An army gunner is a military personnel member who operates an infantry support weapon
An army gunner belongs to The British Royal Regiment of Artillery. The Royal Artillery is responsible for supplying gun power to the army across all disciplines. Army gunners are trained in specialist fields to work with battle helicopters, tanks and infantry and occasionally assist on Royal Navy battle ships. As the combat section of the army, The Royal Artillery describes army gunners as being relied upon for the ‘shock and awe’ aspect of warfare on a battlefield. They are also heavily responsible for ensuring that ammunition is delivered to the frontline.
Army gunners work in an environment which requires high level technological equipment such as unmanned air systems, radars and digital transmitters to find enemy locations and to communicate between each other. Gunners are also trained to use a variety of specialised military weaponry. The job is mostly based outside in military camps and bases, within the community or in combat. Army gunners work in all weather conditions – this can be anything from the searing heat of desert terrain to the extreme cold of arctic conditions as combat zones are most often abroad.
As with any job within the army, a gunner is a soldier and therefore may be required to enter conflict areas. This poses high risks of serious injury and death, as can be expected on the battlefield.
A new entrant to the armed forces earns around £267 a week whilst training. Once trained, the salary rises to £17,515 per annum. As with most jobs, salary increases with experience with a top end gunner earning around £28,000 a year before training to progress to a more senior position. According to the British Army website, within five years of starting as a gunner, it is possible to reach the rank of Sergeant, which carries a starting salary of £32,756.
Army gunners will specialise in a particular field of defence, usually with helicopters, infantry or tanks. This means that each role has particular responsibilities which are unique to that field, but the general role that army gunners fill, can include any of the following:
- Weapon maintenance
- Loading and firing weapons
- Supplying the frontline with weaponry
- Using specialist locating equipment to establish enemy position
- Working within The Royal Artillery gunner team, communicating using technological devices
- Advising seniors and team of weather conditions
- Recording data and logging information – weather, terrain etc
No formal academic qualifications are needed to be an army gunner. Despite this, there are other entry conditions for the army that need to be met, such as nationality, age, residency etc and these can be assessed at Armed Forces Careers Offices.
After this an initial basic assessment will be carried out by a local Army Career Advisor, which includes an interview. The final stage of testing is a two day course at an Army Development and Selection Centre. This two day course assesses physical fitness, personal health and team skills to establish whether you are a suitable candidate for the armed forces. All training will then be completed within the army and further training is on the job. The chance to complete formal academic qualifications such as NVQs and degrees will be given throughout your career in the army. Time out can be taken to study alongside army duties.
SkillsWorking within the Royal Artillery as an army gunner means being 100% dedicated to the job at all times and being entirely absorbed by the career and the people around you. A potential army gunner must:
- Possess excellent teamwork skills
- Be trustworthy and trusting of his team
- Be able to make quick but well thought-out decisions on the spot
- Have a keen eye for detail
- Be physically fit and healthy
- Have the ability to remember instructions and follow them carefully
- Be able to take directions and orders well
- Be prepared to study throughout their career and apply what they have learnt when the situation arises
Working ConditionsArmy gunners will generally work in a team but the daily environment can vary. An army gunner could be required to work in a military base, at a natural disaster site, in the community or in combat. When in combat, the terrain and weather could cover anything on the spectrum from the dry heat of desert terrain to humid tropical climates depending on the conflict location. Day to day work also varies depending on specialisation. Those working with helicopters will mostly be working in the air or around air traffic control areas. Those working within the infantry will be mostly based on the ground.
The working hours for an army gunner are similar to those of people doing shift work – normally an 8 hour stretch per 24 hours. When in combat or on training exercises, gunners are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can be physically and emotionally demanding. Equally, a gunner must remain physically fit which requires fitness training to maintain that peak level of personal health, which can also prove taxing.
Being an army gunner is undoubtedly a dangerous job when in conflict areas. The risk of injury or death is much higher than in the average UK career. Weaponry, bombs and aircrafts all represent threats to personal safety. All gunners are provided with a standardised uniform and equipment as well as subsidised meals and accommodation. Other benefits include free sports facilities, medical and dental care, a pension scheme, subsidised rail travel and 38 days paid holiday a year.
Although no experience is required to enter the army, there are programmes which can prepare you for what to expect from a career in the military. Army Cadets is an army-funded club for young people which focuses on some of the training that the military use. Equally, The Officers’ Training Corp is a university-based scheme to train students for army based jobs. It teaches army drills, weaponry and technology skills.
When the Phase 1 training is completed, new gunners are referred to as ‘Privates’. After 3 years as a private or after completing Phase 2 training, there is the possibility of promotion to Lance Corporal. A Lance Corporal is in charge of a section (around 4 soldiers). From then on up, promotion is granted to those with significant experience, leadership skills and training. Army gunners can work up the ranks to Sergeant level and beyond, leading their own platoons and earning high salaries.
James Duncan is a 23 year old army gunner who has been in the military for over 6 years. Here’s what he says about his job:''I’ve been in the army since I was 16 but in the role I do now, a typical day consists of collecting weather information about my flights and briefing the pilots, collecting flying clothing and flying on various routes. I’m a door gunner so I spend my time in a helicopter. It can be challenging at times; you need to know a lot of information about 3 different types of aircrafts, not to mention all the various weapon systems.
The thing I’ve found about this job that really makes it worth it, is that unlike most jobs, you get to do a lot of travelling. Not only do you get to travel, you get to do it with your closest friends. Being an army gunner, you have a big friend database and you’re meeting new people all the time. It has a flipside though – all the travelling and living in quarters means a lot of time away from home. You start to miss your family and friends back there. And of course, it’s dangerous. War zones aren’t a fun place to be and you have to be prepared to see things you never wanted to see. It can be quite emotionally draining. But it’s not only dangerous in a war zone, bad weather can be a hazard to us so we have to keep our wits about us all the time. And in all fairness, the danger part makes it more exciting to be honest.
One great thing that you don't get in other careers is a huge level of opportunity. The next step is to train and instruct new people stepping into my role, and then I’m looking at pilot selection. There’s always another rung up the ladder to go. And if you decide that you want to make a different career move, you can take the skill set you have and apply for jobs with the air paramedics, police helicopters, all sorts.If I were to give any advice to people potentially looking at being an army gunner, I’d tell them to train and train hard. You need to be both physically and mentally fit to do this job. Being fit gets you very far. Not only that, you need to be confident, hardworking and a real team player. Also study. Studying is key. If you don’t study, you’ll fail the course. And even after you pass, you need to keep reading your notes – you need to know everything you’ve learnt all the time. One thing about being in the army is, you use what you know every day in your job and it can be a matter of life and death if you forget.’’