News: Scotsman retires from British Army, finds new home as New Zealand soldier
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
WAIOURU MILITARY TRAINING CAMP, New Zealand – It is common to see a number of soldiers gathered around Staff Sgt. William L. McDougall at any time. The 47-year-old Scotsman from Stirling, Scotland, brings a wealth of experience and technical ability to the New Zealand Army.
Before serving six years in the New Zealand Army, McDougall retired from the British Army after 22 years of service as control equipment technician. He has served in many places around the world, including Germany, the Falklands, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.
McDougall acquired a diverse set of skills and is able to fix just about anything, said U.S. Marine Cpl. Brian T. Jenkins, an artillery mechanic with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.
Jenkins, a 29-year-old native of Trumbull, Conn., said he immediately clicked with McDougall when they were paired for training during Exercise Brimstone, an annual training event held at Waiouru by the 16th Field Regiment. He visited Scotland several times with his Scottish wife, and he immediately recognized the accent. Jenkins stressed how impressed he was with McDougall’s technical skills.
“He’s knowledgeable about worldwide artillery systems,” explained Jenkins. “This guy does everything. I am very, very impressed. I would like to be able to do that for myself.”
McDougall began his career as an 18-year-old soldier repairing fire control systems for tanks. His first assignment was in Germany, where he gained a love for skiing and travelling.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” McDougall said. “I never left the U.K. or Scotland before the Army. As a young kid in a new country, it was a bit of an adventure at the time. I was able to travel all over Europe.”
His military service also took him overseas. As a young soldier, McDougall trained several times in Alberta, Canada, where the British Army maintained a large training range at Calgary. He participated in Exercise Medicine Man there, maintaining the fire control systems on tanks, including the Chieftain Main Battle Tank, the primary battle tank in the British Army.
McDougall recalled one of the coldest training exercises he experienced in the winter of 1987 at Calgary. The temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Celsius, freezing a Chieftain Main Battle Tank to the ground. With the tracks stuck in place, McDougall placed explosive charges around the tracks and blasted them off, allowing his armored recovery vehicle to tow it away.
In January of 1991, McDougall joined the 7th Armored Brigade during Operation Granby, the British pincer movement alongside American Army tanks during Operation Desert Storm. McDougall helped keep the vehicles moving and dug fighting positions each night while the tanks moved forward on the east to encircle Iraqi forces. At night, he watched tanks fire and saw artillery shells and missiles light up the sky.
“It was quite pretty,” said McDougall. “Very pretty. I was entertained. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but once it kicked in, the adrenaline took over.”
In 2003, McDougall earned a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Sunderland in England. Though he could have landed a well-paying engineering job after retiring, he wanted to continue military service because the lifestyle became engrained in him at a young age.
McDougall looked abroad for more opportunities for service within the British Commonwealth. He travelled to New Zealand in September of 2006, where he was met with a landscape and culture he preferred very much, he said. The rolling hills and cool climate of New Zealand looked almost identical to Scotland, and Scottish culture is prominent and celebrated in New Zealand more fervently than in Scotland, he added. During his first week living in Palmerston North, the city hosted the National Bagpipe Championships.
“The first thing I think was they must have known I was coming!” exclaimed McDougall.
He enlisted in the New Zealand Army and spent two years in rigorous training courses. McDougall is currently assigned to the 2nd Workshop Company, 2nd Combat Service and Support Battalion, where he is providing support to the 16th Field Regiment at Linton Army Camp. He enjoys being able to serve in a beautiful country that is a new home for him.
“The drill and lifestyle becomes a part of you,” explained McDougall. “I’m grateful to be here. I don’t regret it one bit.”
McDougall is currently providing support to New Zealand gunners from 163 Battery, 16th Field Regiment and U.S. Marines from Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment during Exercise Galvanic Kiwi. Galvanic Kiwi is a U.S. Marine Corps and New Zealand Army training exchange designed to enhance interoperability and foster military-to-military relations between the U.S. and New Zealand.