The Marines as an education

Since becoming involved in the TV business, I’ve often wondered if I’m at a disadvantage or an advantage coming from a military background and not a university. I’ve thought about it enough that it’s prompted me to write this blog entry at least. The reason it’s played so much on my mind is that for the most part within my working community I’m quite often the only one without a degree. This makes me feel insecure.


It sometimes even makes me feel out of my depth. Embroiled in a world that I don’t always feel I belong to. I’m sure there are others out there who feel the same in different industries? Fortunately for me I’m not the type of guy that would ever let a thought like this develop into anything more than an interesting topic for debate.

So I lack the degree qualification. I also lack the few years of study getting to understand the crux of the job. These are pretty significant things to be lacking in such a competitive field! But let’s think about what I do bring to the table. The most crucial, I think, is that the Marines gave me the chance to really experience the world in all its ugliness and beauty.

Springing to mind are the vividest of memories which I’ll share.

When I think of beauty, I remember Norway. I was training in Arctic warfare and survival. It was just before Christmas and I was 160 miles within the Arctic circle with temperatures often dropping to -52 Celsius. I stood at the peak of a very high ridge line in the early hours of the morning, looking out over a breathtaking snow covered and moonlit tundra with not a road, house or single light in view. I remember feeling no wind at all and no noise. You could hear a pin drop and I’ve never experienced peace like it before. It was a lovely experience.

On the flip side to this – and many other moments like it – I had a tour of duty in Sierra Leone and remember witnessing how awful humans can be as I walked through the streets of Freetown seeing a ridiculously large number of people without arms, legs, ears, fingers.

We would look up into the back streets and there would be small groups of men who would gesture with their fingers across their throat at you. You could tell this is place that has been through evil times. I’ve been to many places but never witnessed poverty and fear like it.

Being a broadcaster is all about having something to broadcast about, and having this past life gives me an almost infinite number of things to talk about – an invaluable asset in a world of storytelling. It means I have something no one else has.

This point alone is enough to lay my mind at rest before you even consider the range of good qualities ex military personnel have like discipline, punctuality, and determination. These are all qualities I’ve had programmed in from training for the Marines – you simply don’t make the grade if these skills don’t form your default settings.

So if you gave me the choice today knowing what I’d be doing now, of joining the Marines after school or higher education, I’d say experience over qualifications any day of the week.