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Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Friday February 23, 2007
Army recruits
"The Midlands have historically been very good recruiters. "
Dr David Dunn
Tour of duty - Army recruits in action in the field

Army recruits

The Midlands is one of the most fertile recruiting grounds for Britain's Armed forces.

Four and a half thousand would-be soldiers sign up every year.

Even the very real prospect of serving - and possibly dying - in Iraq or Afghanistan isn't putting them off.

Inside Out meets some of the newest recruits, and finds out what makes them so willing to serve their country.

You're in the army now...

Signaller Anthony Mullinex is 17-years-old, and has just finished his training.

Four months ago he was working in a Birmingham call centre:

"It was a dead end job. Going in every day, sitting behind a computer.

"That's when I started thinking I wanted to do something different."

Fellow recruit Matthew Fieldhouse, 18, has also completed his training at Whittingdon Barracks, near Lichfield.

Anthony Mullinex
Anthony Mullinex - new army recruit in full uniform

"I didn't really make it in college, so I came out, and I didn't really know what to do with myself.

"I went to the careers office and started speaking to the army.

"I signed the forms and a month later I was here."

They're not alone.

Birmingham's recruitment office does better than anywhere else in the country, and expects to have recruited more than 1,200 into the regular army by the end of the financial year.

From father to son

Dr David Dunn of Birmingham University says it's a tradition passed down through generations:

"The Midlands have historically been very good recruiters.

"And if your parents, uncles or grandfathers are in the armed forces, it's much more likely you'll join.

"The Midlands secondary education is also unusual in the UK. There's a lot of separate gender education.

"In boys' schools there's a male bonding ethos similar to the army. There are also many grammar schools with combined cadet forces."

For the current crop of recruits, the prospect of being sent to war is higher than it has been for decades.

In the thick of the action

Army recruitment office
West Midlands - fertile army recruitment ground

With conflict continuing in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are more British troops out on operations than at any time the in the last 50 years.

But it doesn't seem to be putting applicants off.

Lieutenant Colonel John Moody, Commander of Regional Recruiting, isn't surprised:

"If you join the army, you can expect to go on operations, and there are a lot of people who are up for that challenge.

"It doesn't put a lot of them off. Indeed it has the reverse effect, and well done them."

For some of these young recruits, their journey could end in tragedy.

Losing a son

Philip Hewett
Philip Hewett - died in military service in Iraq

Sue Smith's son Philip Hewett died in Iraq in 2005.

She doesn't regret his decision to join the army:

"When he was a bricklayer, he got really depressed with life. He felt there was no purpose.

"He didn't want to be a nobody - he wanted to feel he'd accomplished something.

"The three years he was in the army were the best years for him.

"I wouldn't say that now on reflection I'd do the same thing again, but he was old enough to make that decision himself whether I agreed with it or not."

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