They’ve served on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now former soldiers Jason Donaldson and Luke Appleby are drawing on the skills, discipline and leadership qualities they honed as NCOs in the Coldstream Guards to run security services business Equilibrium Risk in Huddersfield.
Jason and Luke, whose business is based at York House, Leeds Road, lead a seven-strong core team – and a wider network of trusted associates – to provide all manner of security services ranging from CCTV surveillance, document shredding and alarm response to cyber security, manned guarding and VIP protection.
Both Jason and Luke hail from military families.
Jason, 40, who lives at Marsh, says: “My parents were in the forces, but I spent most of my childhood in Doncaster. When I wanted to join the army, I was underweight, so I did all sorts – working as an apprentice plant mechanic and in fruit and veg shops and serving with the Yorkshire Volunteers in the TA.”
He went on to join the Guards after a rigorous training course and in a 16-year career rose to the rank of platoon sergeant.
Luke, 37, who has a home in Kirkheaton, says: “I’m from an army family. My father served in the Coldstream Guards and growing up we moved home every two years depending on where he was posted, including Northern Ireland and Hong Kong.
“As a teenager, I didn’t particularly want to join up. I didn’t understand the army at that age. But I’ve always been an outdoor person. I joined the TA and then made the jump to the Guards.”
Jason and Luke served in the same platoon – including sharing outpost duty in Iraq. Luke, who also rose to the rank of sergeant, says: “It was an interesting time!”
They saw service in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and the Falklands – as well as doing their fair share of ceremonial duties, such as taking part in Trooping the Colour. That was more of a chore than a pleasure. “The novelty soon wears off,” says Luke.
Jason left the forces after a 16-year career while Luke followed suit after a slight hearing loss meant he could no longer be deployed overseas. Being restricted to duties in the UK held no appeal.
Jason says: “I had injured myself on another rigorous training course and spent 12 months recovering from that. I was looking to do something else.”
Luke and Jason stayed in touch and found work in the private sector – protecting shipping and drilling platforms from pirates off the east coast of Africa and oilfields from attack in the Middle East. Despite the apparent danger and “a few scrapes”, Jason says the pirates were generally unwilling to tangle with British security forces.
The two returned to the UK in April last year and began formulating plans for Equilibrium Risk.
“We were working from each other’s kitchens to begin with, but there were too many distractions,” says Luke. “Then we found this office at York House – which is a good starting point. We took the office in November and moved in the following month. We’ve now got the space to sit down and meet people. It’s close to the town centre and it has good access to the motorway.”
Under the terms of its licence, Equilibrium Risk personnel can operate in “civvies” and drive unmarked vehicles – unlike many security firms where staff are uniformed and vehicles are clearly branded.
Says Jason: “We try to do everything as discreetly as possible. We chose the name Equilibrium Risk to avoid using the ‘confrontational’ tone of some security company names.”
The firm’s low-profile approach pays dividends when it comes to patrolling outside premises and merging with the crowd. Among its assignments, Equilibrium Risk has been engaged by BBC and Sky to provide low-key protection for TV news crews in potentially volatile situations. “We blend with the team by carrying TV equipment like any other member of the production crew,” says Jason.
Security as a concept comes naturally to the guys. “In the forces, we used to get briefings from GCHQ about using laptops and mobiles. We’ve always been aware of the dangers.”
Jason and Luke also see the benefits of bringing military thinking to the business arena.
The discipline, meticulous preparation, attention to detail and team work that are vital before going out on patrol in Afghanistan are transferrable skills that hold the growing businesses in good stead, says Jason.
“In the army, we learned interpreting skills, how to work with people. We got medical training and training in digital communications.”
The team at Equilibrium Risk include other ex-servicemen and former police officers, who bring relevant skills to the job.
Said jason: “We want to become the go-to company in Yorkshire.”
While Equilibrium Risk draws most of its customers from the West Yorkshire area, it also has clients in Lancashire and further afield.
On the homefront, Jason and partner Vicki have two children – Harry, who is six and three-year-old Eva. The family enjoy holidays in Europe with Barcelona a favourigte destination.
Luke is married to Yvonne and the couple have four children – Ellie, 11, Caleb, six, Solomon, five and Amos, four. “We spend time as a family as much as possible,” says Luke.
“I also like adventure sports, but there hasn’t been much opportunity recently – so I’ve got a kayak in the garage gathering dust and bikes that I will get back to riding at some point!”
Names: Tony Appleby and Jason Donald
Work: Specialist security and risk management
Site: York House, Leeds Road, Huddersfield
Phone: 01484 505321