Earlier this year, ex-serviceman Jan Coetzee was protecting boats from pirates on the Somalian coast, before swapping tankers for taxis. Standard reporter Ryan Merrifield went to meet him to see what brought on the sea change.
Corporal Coetzee, 34, born in South Africa, toured Af-ghanistan twice during a military career spanning ten years, before spending four months sailing on the Indian Ocean in a brief stint in maritime security.
But earlier this year he decided that he was spending too much time away from his family and set about a more sedate career.
Jan retrained and set up Reliance Taxis, which allows him to be around his wife Janie and their children, four-year-old Alexis and one-year-old Logan.
“I’ve got a young family and it was just too much time away on the ships, Four or five months at a time,” said Jan.
“I started taxiing here after a bit of thinking. People seem to really appreciate that you’ve done something for your country.”
Jan studied engineering in South Africa before moving to the UK and working in security.
He joined the forces in 2005 and was deployed on his first seven-month tour of Afghanistan in 2007.
“The first was with the Force Protection, which is basically when you’ve got a WMIK, which is like a Land Rover, and you escort convoys from base camp to the smaller camps,” Jan told the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.
“They’ve got things on board and you escort them through the desert.”
Jan met his wife Janie in London in 2003, and by the time he was deployed for his second tour of Afghanistan in 2011, she was pregnant with Alexis.
He said it was harder being away for that tour, though the work was less treacherous.
“The second was with Gloucester [Imjin Barracks’ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps]. We did the training at [Camp] Bastion for troops going into theatre.”
On coming home, Jan moved to 29 Regiment in Cir-encester, before deciding to leave the forces following changes to the pension scheme in April last year.
He then began working for a private company, providing armed security on oil tankers.
“It’s almost like a military operation. You’ve got set procedure to follow, it’s not just the wild west.
He said: “You get put on the ship and escort it safely to the destination. You’re usually there about three or four months and you sail the ocean.
“I started on the Comoro Islands, Madeira, Dubai, the Red Sea - all around the high risk area.”
Despite the danger, Jan said most pirates know to stay away from ships with armed guards.
“They don’t really take any chances unless they think there is something really valuable on board. If they see you armed, they will choose softer targets.”
However, after spending another Christmas away from home and with another baby on the way, Jan decided he needed to find something closer to home.
Regarding his new career, Jan said: “I think you’ve got a better chance of starting something different in your mid-thirties.
“I just took my chances now and it’s working out pretty good so far.
“I thought I’m better off doing something else now while my family is still young. You don’t want to take that chance late on.”