A SOLDIER who grew up in Eastbourne has turned his life around from being a teenage tearaway to a highly-trained professional who is set to serve in Afghanistan.
Gunner Jim Williams, 24, who serves with 58 (Eyre’s) Battery, part of 12 Regiment Royal Artillery, grew up in Eastbourne and by his own admission fell in with the wrong crowd.
He said, “At the age of 14 I realised I had two choices to make on being expelled from school.
“I could either carry on down the wrong road of being a bad lad doing drugs and alcohol, or I could pull myself up.”
Knowing that he was still entitled, at that age, to free education Jim walked into Sussex Downs Vocational College where he persuaded them into enrolling him onto a foundation course in English, maths and IT.
He then went on to complete further courses in bricklaying and, significantly, a B-Tec in Public and Uniformed Services.
After completing the courses Jim moved to Newquay and met up with his biological grandfather, Robert, who had been a Para with the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.
He took him in, as Jim had been sleeping rough on the beaches, and from that moment on the seed was sown for Jim’s Army aspirations.
He inspired Jim so much that he decided to walk into a recruiting office in 2008 and signed up to enlist with the Royal Artillery.
Jim has just spent two weeks in Cyprus taking part in the initial stages of preparing himself and his fellow colleagues for the rigours of deployment to Afghanistan.
He has been getting back to basics learning counter-insurgency skills and drills which he may be called to put into practice for real when serving in Helmand, likely to be next year. The exercise was carried out on the Mediterranean island to get the troops used to operating in a hot climate with all the extra demands that puts upon them. Jim added, “This is now my family, everyone looks out for each other and I have a fantastic sense of belonging.”