Junior Soldier Jannee Perkins RE

“The Army’s full of fun and friendship – if you can get through the first six weeks!”

I’ve been worried my whole life that I wouldn’t get a good job because I wasn’t doing well at school. The Army has taken those limits away.”


Junior Soldier (JS) Jannee Perkins turned 17 in the middle of completing the ‘Short Course’ at the Army Foundation College (AFC) Harrogate – the British Army’s only Junior Entry initial training establishment – and recently graduated after successfully completing the 23-week programme, which combines military training with personal development and education for under-19s.

“I wanted a better life for myself – that’s why I joined the Army,” explained JS Perkins. “My mum’s always wanted what’s best for me and she’s done a lot to get me to where I am, so I just wanted to prove to her and my family that it wasn’t all in vain.”

One of her earliest memories is of boarding a flight from Jamaica to the UK with her mum when she was just two years old, after which the family settled in Wolverhampton where relatives were already based. “I wasn’t a girly child – I was always helping my mum build things and used to line up my teddies perfectly. I was very independent and didn’t want any help from anyone.”

Many of the personal development opportunities at AFC Harrogate have been about working as part of a team and JS Perkins has had to learn how to rely on other people during her time on the course. “A highlight for me was one of the team tasks, where we had to climb up on a high pillar, hold hands and lean back from it into space. We all had to trust each other,” she explained. “That was the day I became best friends with another girl here, because we understood that we were both scared – we were all scared actually. We didn’t want to do it, but we had to get the courage to do it. And we realised things are not as bad as you think they’re going to be when you’re all doing it together. That’s what the Army is all about – you’re not by yourself anymore, you’re part of a team.”

Another way the junior soldiers learn about the importance of teamwork is through educational visits. “We went to the Normandy Beaches in France to learn about D-Day, which was one of the best times I’ve had here, it was beautiful,” she explained. “We visited the War Graves and heard stories about those who died – it really helped to show that people on both sides were in the same situation and they all had to follow orders.”

The opportunity to travel has been another big reason behind JS Perkins’ decision to join the Army – and the Royal Engineers in particular. “I went to an Open Day where I learnt about how much the Engineers do, how they were always ahead of the front line, and I thought it was remarkable. I’ve never seen something so amazing and it just inspired me,” she explained. “They also have good sports teams and a really wide variety of jobs. If you’re a hands-on person – it’s got to be the Engineers.”

That will involve Phase Two trade training, after her initial Phase One – or basic – training. With two intakes a year, Jannee Perkins’ time at AFC Harrogate began in September 2023. “The first six weeks is the most difficult part. You learn a lot and you don’t get much of a break – it’s just work, work, work. But you become very close with everyone else because you’re all in the same situation,” she said. “But after that, it becomes more fun – you have your evenings and weekends back and it becomes easier to do it all because you’re now with people who have become your friends.”

JS Perkins thinks the friendships she’s made so far in her Army career have already helped her progress further than she has before. “I thought I had good friends before but, being here, I see what friends really are. My mate here is 100% a friend – she’s straight up and looks out for me,” explained JS Perkins. “Coming here teaches you discipline and you can keep each other in check. Having those boundaries in place makes life easier – you can have more fun because you know where the line is.”

As one of the Army’s newest – and youngest – trained soldiers, would JS Perkins recommend it to other people? “100% join the Army. At first you might struggle, but you have to move past it,” she said. “The limitation is your brain – if you can overcome that and develop a positive mindset, everything will be easier, you’ll be able to focus on the important things without being distracted, and you can move forward.”