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How one former soldier transitioned from the military frontline to the trenches of politics

How one former soldier transitioned from the military frontline to the trenches of politics

Scott Awad spent 21 years in the military before taking up his role in Westminster

3 min read

During 21 years in the army, Scott Awad never expected he would find himself working at the heart of politics.

Having left university in 2000, Awad undertook officer training at Sandhurst before being commissioned to the Royal Engineers in August 2001.

One month later, the September 11 attacks shattered his expectations of a quiet service, and after his first combat tour in Iraq he transferred to the infantry, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Yorkshire Regiment.

After two decades, and with a young family, Awad was looking for a career change when he heard about a job opportunity in Parliament. The role was deputy chief of staff to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

“What won me over was getting to the final two, which involved an interview with Sir Lindsay. I respected him very quickly and he’s quite inspirational,” Awad says. “It’s been the dream career shift, and already feels like the army was a long time ago. There’s an incredible amount to learn, and every day is very much a school day.”

Having started in his new job in 2021, Awad transitioned from commanding troops through combat to a workday which includes accompanying Sir Lindsay to the Chamber, where he acts as his spotter for bobbing MPs hoping to catch his attention.

A unique challenge involved in the role is the expectation he will learn the faces and names of each of the more than 600 Members in the Chamber at any one time.

“Mr Speaker said he would give me 18 months to learn all the names. I think I would say I’m more than 50 per cent there, maybe 60 per cent,” he says.

“It didn’t help at the start with everyone wearing masks; that made it slightly trickier to identify them by their eyes and their hair, but it’s about spending as much time in there as possible and getting to know them.”

Despite his experiences serving in Iraq and Northern Ireland, Awad says his first time in the packed Commons Chamber was still an intimidating experience.

“I won’t lie to you, it was terrifying,” he admits. “I stepped in and it was full, and it gets quite claustrophobic and imposing. Suddenly, I’ve got the whips and Members stood around me next to the chair. You’ve got people bustling and trying to spot who’s trying to catch the Speaker’s eye. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, but I’m a believer that the best way to learn is to do it.”

Awad is one of many ex-military personnel working in Parliament across a diverse range of roles, but the figure is smaller than in the past – a situation Hoyle is keen to remedy. Having signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, the Speaker is leading a charge to encourage more former members of the military to consider a career in one of the many jobs available on the estate.

“Whether it’s engineers, chefs, security, or management roles, there is a considerable amount of transferable skills,” Awad says.

The former solider believes the transferable skills associated with the forces make Parliament an ideal place for ex-military personnel to work.

“Military personnel bring discipline. They bring that understanding of how to speak to people and an organisation that they can be relied upon when asked to do things. They bring that integrity that the military prides itself on,” he adds.

Part of those efforts include engaging with forces organisations, including veterans’ groups and military media to spread the word about the potential to work in Westminster.

“It lets them understand more about the opportunities that are available here. I had never considered working here, but I would say to anyone leaving the military to not rule it out. It’s a great place to work.”

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