Serve On's International Response Team has an exciting new group of recruits.
Twenty-three new faces will start training in December having been chosen from those who took part in our two selection weekends, in October and November.
Each gruelling three-day process pushed the candidates close to the limits of endurance, both mentally and physically, and while not everyone was ultimately chosen to join the IRT, all those who took part did themselves proud, giving the selection staff some tough decisions to make.
The weather in November, in particular, made the weekend’s activities especially challenging but both weekends were deliberately tough as we conducted our search for new talent.
Exercise director Rab and all the directing staff who gave up their time to plan and run the weekends, getting as little sleep as the candidates, did a great job, and we were particularly grateful to our friend Ed Bailey for the use of his farm, bordering the ancient monument of Stonehenge, for both weekends.
So, thanks to all who took part, congratulations to all those who are about to begin their IRT training, and we still welcome those who were not chosen for the IRT but who very clearly demonstrated that they have much to offer Serve On.
Serve On IRT Member, ambassador and members' representative Pete Dunning said: "The selection we have for people who want to join Serve On IRT is tough, but we need to make it tough.
"When we are out on operations there is often little chance for our people to get much sleep within the first 72 hours so we need to know that people can still function as a team member whilst they are cold, wet, tired, hungry and more.
"People come from all different walks of life, with different mindsets and different approaches, to join Serve On and we welcome all of their contributions.
"Congratulations to everyone who has passed selection and we all look forward to getting to know them a bit more and training them to be a fully-fledged IRT members of Serve On. "
The rigours of our two selection weekends failed to dampen the enthusiasm of our excellent candidates and hopefully everyone who put themselves through the selection process got something good out of it.
It seemed like it from their exhausted reactions when we spoke to them at the end of their selection courses.
Here are just some of the views they expressed:
Anton Welcome: “It was sensational. I really enjoyed it. It was everything I expected and more. It was the best way to really get you prepared for things you never thought you would experience.”
Tori Boyle: “It was absolutely bloody brilliant. All of us were unanimous in saying that afterwards. For me it was the first opportunity I have had to really test myself to the extreme. (Serve On is) an incredible organisation… (it would be great) to be part of the charity and to do something first hand rather than just donating.”
Lucy Hawkins: “I thought it was absolutely brilliant. It pushed me to my limits in every sphere, working with different teams, assessing myself and assessing others. How often do you get an opportunity like that as an adult, to have so much invested in us?”
Elle Wilson: “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was good to be back doing operational work. I really enjoyed it. I suppose I did have a bit of an idea what it might be like but there were very different tasks.”
Laura Edwards: “It has been great. A really, really good experience. Obviously it has been hard but I can honestly say I don’t regret it and tomorrow’s aches and pains will definitely have been worth it.”
Phil Harris: “It was absolutely brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was hard work, and not just physically. It is the never quite knowing what is coming next and always having to be on the ball. Having been with the CRT it was more or less what I expected but it showed to me the gaps in my knowledge.”
Ben Hille: “It was very intensive. Full-on. The last scenario in particular was very realistic and there was a lot of pressure throughout, but in a good way. I am amazed at what you can do after three days of no food or sleep, working with a good bunch of people, both the directing staff and the other candidates.”
Diane Patrick: “It was really well-planned and put together. It was far more strenuous than I would ever have thought it would be. It surprised me how hard-core it was. Part of me understands why but part of me also thinks maybe it was too much.”
Toni Najdoski: “I thought it was good. Really, really good. It was a super experience; a real challenge and the weather made it even more so. It was a good mix of activities and a good bunch of people. It was thoroughly enjoyable and really challenging. A lot of us recognised where we could improve but also surprised ourselves with what we could achieve. We rarely get a chance to challenge ourselves like that in our ordinary lives. It was fantastic and I really enjoyed it.”
Dionne Procter: “I think it is was mentally and physically challenging and I think if you are a shy person it definitely brings you out of that. It was awesome; a great experience and one of the best – and worst – things I have experienced. You are definitely pushed to your limits.”
Pete Benkwitz: “I would say that, as a team-building experience and a challenge, I think everyone who put themselves forward to do something so daft should be proud that they got through it because it is a massive achievement. It is a sneak preview of the reality of what Serve On do.”
David Sanderson: “I have done some very bad things but this is one of the most intense physical endurance activities I have done. I found running from London to Brighton last year, carrying 25kgs, far easier. But it was enjoyable.”
Andre Pereira: “I have learned a lot of things I never knew before. The most important thing about the weekend for me was the people I met, both the staff and my fellow candidates. In some ways I learned to cooperate a bit better, which is great.”