A TEENAGER has achieved his ambition after a helping hand from one of the town's police community support officers.

Chris Singleton, 18, from Lower Stratton has just passed out after completing his army training at Catterick and is joining the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire this week.

It follows six months of hard training, and fitness building but he admits he had no idea what to expect.

He said: "I have always wanted to join the army, because I will get to travel.

"I know I will enjoy it, but I don't know what to expect over the next few weeks, so I am going to keep my head down and get on with it."

Joining up was the culmination of 18 months' work and came about when he was approached by Mandi Coles, the police community support officer in Stratton.

She said: "Stratton is my beat area and I try to meet up and get to know as many of the young people as I can.

"One day I got talking to Chris and he mentioned he wanted to join the army. One day I spotted an army preparation course pack in the Youth Offending Team office and passed it on to him and he actually went and did it."

"Without Mandi's help, I don't think I would have got this far," said Chris.

"I was really nervous about going along to the recruiting office and signing up, but the preparation course really helped.

"There was a bit of a nail-biting time after the preparation course after I had a leg injury and there was a lot of talk between the civvy doctors and the army doctors but that went and I completed the training.

"They will teach me to drive and there will be some great opportunities to play sports too."

Mandi added: "I am really proud to have played a small role in getting him on the course, he's a good lad, and has a bright future ahead of him."

Chris's mum Mandy, 44, agreed, "I am really proud of him joining up, and we were all up there to see him at his passing out parade.

"We even took the video camera along but I was so nervous, the footage is quivering all over the place."

Later this year, Chris is heading off to Canada and in April he is expecting to head out for a tour of duty in Iraq.