Kenya: Special Calling for Kenyan Who Served in British Military

After nine years of distinguished service in Her Majesty's Armed Forces (HM Forces') Royal Navy, Jackson Simatei's military career was cut short by an illness.

During his tour of duty, he had won multiple commendations for his service and his career was just taking an upward trajectory when he was medically discharged in 2014 because of a condition he got in the battlefield.

This added his name to the tally of 14,000 military personnel who leave the forces every year as a result of retirement, voluntary discharge, medical discharge and outright termination of service.

As he expected, Mr Simatei's transition from one of Britain's most coveted careers to a civilian was marred by many challenges; such as trouble obtaining accommodation, getting a new civilian job that would match his skills and at the same time battling the illness that led to his discharge.

Helping hand

It is his experience back then that drove the 46-year-old former soldier to extend a helping hand to veterans both in the UK, at home in Kenya and across the world.

"It was a tough period for me, having to adapt to the new life while battling my condition. Luckily, I got help from The Poppy Factory, a military charity that helps Wounded, Injured and Sick veterans," he explains.

After vital career advice and specialist training by the Greenwich Hospital, he got a job in Central London and gradually transitioned into the civilian world.

"After the experience and recognising that it was not exclusive to me, I decided to give back to the society. I have been in charity ever since," he says, adding that his work earned him an ambassadorial title at the Greenwich Hospital in 2017.

He was also part of a group that founded an organisation of serving HM Forces members and veterans from Kenya.

Met Theresa May

For his charitable work, Mr Simatei was hosted by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May in November 2016.

"I had a chance to discuss with the PM the various ways service leavers and veterans can be helped settle well in the civilian world.

"I was also hosted by Her Majesty the Queen at a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2018," he says.

Mr Simatei notes that from his experience, most service leavers are trained and accustomed to military way of life, with complete medical and social care.

But the transition from this lifestyle, he says, is usually very challenging, especially for those who have no family support.

"To help, we make them understand how to navigate the complex processes of acquiring accommodation or even where to get further medical treatment," he says.


He reveals that some veterans leave the service with post-traumatic stress disorder, life-long physical injuries, depression and other conditions, making it hard for them to adjust to their new lives.

"I signpost those who are in dire need of housing to the correct charities or government agencies. I also guide service leavers and veterans on how to tailor their CVs to match the right jobs by translating their military skills into easily understood street language, removing any military jargon," he told the Nation.

"We also share upcoming military industry days hosted by various companies and corporations across London and beyond."

"In such events, the attendees are given further guidance on available jobs in the industry, recruitment processes and timescales. They also get the opportunity to meet with potential employers/hiring managers," he says, adding that he and other veterans in London still participate in charity events during the Armed Forces days and other national military days.

Brought up in village

Having been brought up in a village at the foothills of Cherangany Hills in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Mr Simatei attended Jemunada Primary School and later joined Lelboinet Boys.

"After school, I worked in Mombasa and Nairobi for seven years before going abroad for further studies. All along, though, I had ambition of serving in the military, but this was not possible in Kenya," he says.

In 2004, Mr Simatei was approached by an athletics colleague who advised him to join the military, but he was hesitant at first.

"After meeting with a naval officer at the recruitment office, he convinced me that the Royal Navy would be an ideal choice - as long as I upped my swimming skills. Once all the clearance and application processes were completed, I started my basic training in May 2005 at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, Devon," he says.

He went ahead to complete further logistics and supply chain management training, qualifying as a supply chain specialist and later as a global logistics manager.

Aptitude for languages

When his superiors found out that he had an aptitude for learning languages, he was fast-tracked to study modern standard Arabic at the Defence School of Languages from 2006 to 2007, where he graduated with high NATO standard.

He later completed his postgraduate education and graduated with MA degree in International Liaison and Communication in 2013.

Mr Simatei was deployed to active duty in Iraq in 2007. He was later deployed to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. He has served in various roles in warships. His last military posting was with fleet operations command in London. His dream is that one day he will relocate to Kenya and help develop the nation.

"My main ambition is to see to it that Kenyan military veterans are treated with respect, recognised for their sacrifice and appreciated by the government and the public at large," he says, noting that it is shameful that since the first and second world war ended, Kenyan heroes are not recognised at all.

"Parliament is yet to formulate a legal framework for the welfare of the veterans and their dependants," he says, urging the government to establish a veterans' affairs agency so as to accord them the support they deserve.

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