General Sir Mike Jackson - If I had to start again ..

I wouldn't swap my army life for anything. I'm a pragmatist - I don't look back and say what I missed. Now it's just a case of 'that chapter is closed, this one's open', and moving on. Operational command was the most rewarding thing I've experienced, and I ended on quite an adventure - Kosovo in 1999.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As a commander in the field, your responsibility is absolute: getting it right gives a great sense of achievement, but it involves risk, and there have been times when, very sadly, I've had to bury friends.

I was, for example, very close to Warrenpoint, location of the deadly attack by the IRA on August bank holiday, 1979. They murdered Mountbatten in the morning, then had a go at the British Army in the afternoon. Eighteen soldiers were killed. That's the hard part, but it is, of course, the nature of the game. Your life depends on your mate, and vice versa.

My father, who fought in the second world war, was clearly an influence on me. I'd always wanted to go to Sandhurst, and did when I was 18. My youngest son has just passed his initial selection there too. I tell him he must be clear about it in his own mind, and not just follow Dad. It's an important decision for a young person, how they see their life unfolding. I just urge him to enjoy it hugely - to the best of my knowledge, you're only here once.

I'm now in what my wife calls 'the afterlife'. I'll miss the great team spirit, sense of belonging and single purpose of the army, but it doesn't seem too difficult to adjust to civilian life. I can now apply my experience at the top of the institution, of defence and working with government, in my consultancy work. I just wish I could find the time to relax with my family. Hope springs eternal ...

- General Sir Mike Jackson, the British army's former chief of the general staff, is now a consultant with PA Consulting, Numis Securities and Risk Advisory Group.

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