Armed Forces veterans who volunteered to help the NHS with its Covid vaccination campaign

Sponsored Editorial: Produced in association with the UK Government

Getting your booster shot remains the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from Covid-19 – and many of our Armed Forces veterans are offering their skills in vaccine deployment.

From assistance to vaccination centers to the construction of new health bases, including planning and logistics, their contribution is essential.

Army, Navy and RAF veterans, who gain transferable skills and experience through their work in the armed forces, have joined forces to fight for crucial boosters for all.

Many veterans also continue to demonstrate a spirit of service, stemming from their military service in our country, volunteering their time to community, charity or broader public sector efforts.

Steve Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “I thank all these veterans for this effort and remind everyone that the best defense against Covid is to be strengthened now.”

GET BOOSTED NOW: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay

“I BELIEVE WE ALWAYS HAVE THIS SENSE OF SERVICE”

Sally Orange, Major (Army Reserves), retired,

Since leaving the army three years ago, physiotherapist Sally Orange has returned to the NHS to help deal with the pandemic at a facility in Nightingale and the nationwide rollout of the vaccine.

“As a veteran I believe we still have that sense of service,” said Sally, who joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1998 and has been a qualified physiotherapist throughout her 22-year career, playing a role central to the recovery and rehabilitation of many service members returning from conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Knowing that there was a massive national effort to be able to fight the virus through the deployment of the vaccine, I did not hesitate to get involved.

“Another benefit of volunteering is that it has really helped me maintain my mental well-being as it prevents me from being isolated.”

MAJOR HELP: Sally attends the Nightingale Hospital in London
MAJOR HELP: Sally attends the Nightingale Hospital in London

Sally, 48, trained to give people their shots and the paperwork involved in deployment. Through her work at a hospital in Nightingale, she has seen firsthand the devastation and heartache that Covid-19 has caused.

“If you are hesitant about getting vaccinated, it is still worth going to your local walk-in vaccination centre, where everything will be explained to you.

“You will be able to ask all your questions and get answers in a language you understand rather than with a lot of medical jargon,” assured the National Ambassador of the Army Cadet Force.

Well known for her endurance challenges, including running 70 marathons around the world, Sally has raised over £500,000.

HELPING HAND: Sally Orange
HELPING HAND: Sally Orange

JAB BOOSTER IS VITAL

Every adult should receive a Covid-19 booster shot, as two doses of the vaccine do not provide enough protection against catching the Omicron variant.

Check your eligibility and find out how to book at nhs.uk/covidvaccination

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: Alex Turnbull
LEADING BY EXAMPLE: Alex Turnbull

A SENSE OF DUTY AND THE WANT TO DO THE WORK

Alex Turnbull, reservist (3rd Battalion Royal Welsh)

A sense of duty drove Alex Turnbull to “enlist” in the vaccine deployment program.

A reserve with the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh for six years, Alex was tasked with overseeing mobile PCR testing units across Scotland.

“I was also on the front line explaining the testing process to members of the public. Most recently I managed military support to the Scottish Ambulance Service,” he said.

“You are always ready to intervene if necessary. Since Covid is such a big deal, I was more than happy to support the cause. I felt a sense of duty. »

Alex, 24, is aware of the importance of the recall shot.

“I encourage everyone to do so. It’s the right thing to do to keep us safe while working on the front lines. It’s also the right thing to do to keep others safe,” he said.

“Getting the booster is part of learning about living with the virus and getting back to some sort of normal life.”

His role has been to transport paramedics from one station to another no matter the circumstances and his military experience is invaluable in this case.

“Even when there was deep snow and ice on the ground, we still got the job done (assuming it was safe to do so) – and got the paramedics to their posts on time. We all share a sense of duty and an ethic of service. We all want the job done.

SENSE OF DUTY: Alex Turnbull helps keep others safe
SENSE OF DUTY: Alex Turnbull helps keep others safe

“WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO IGNITE A SIXPENCE”

Rebecca Dennett, Squadron Leader (Royal Air Force), retired

Squadron Leader Rebecca Dennett’s 12 years with the RAF have stood her in good stead for her role in the vaccination deployment.

“We have a lot of transferable skills and useful experience, especially the ability to light a sixpence,” said Rebecca, an intensive care nurse before joining the ward.

“The vaccine program was operating in a space where science was still rolling out the responses and the military is being trained to work in ever-changing situations,” she said.

In the RAF, she worked in medical evacuation as an intensive care nurse.

USEFUL EXPERIENCE: Rebecca Dennett Photo: Gareth Iwan Jones
USEFUL EXPERIENCE: Rebecca Dennett Photo: Gareth Iwan Jones

“That meant I was a critical care nurse in the air, which requires very specific focus and resilience, which could be put to good use in the vaccination program.”

Deputy director of the flu and Covid vaccination program for NHS England and NHS Improvement East of England, Rebecca manages a team of 50 people, including other veterans.

“The team knows how much of a difference boosters make and responded with incredible effort by delivering the booster in December – one day we delivered 104,000 doses,” continued Rebecca, 40.

“The public response has been incredible. More than eight out of ten eligible people have now received their supplementary protection.

“We need to remember those who want it but have busy lives and haven’t gotten it on board yet, so we’re here for them, pushing it and providing awareness.”

LEADERSHIP TRAINING: Jake Wade
LEADERSHIP TRAINING: Jake Wade

A SKILL THE COUNTRY CAN USE

Jake Wade (former Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Army Medical Corps)

After 25 years in the Navy and Royal Marines, Jake Wade was transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps to be “specifically involved in secondary healthcare and mental health support”.

After the Gulf War, Kurdistan and Kosovo, he joined the NHS in 2019 to oversee the control and distribution of personal protective equipment.

“My knowledge of logistics came to the fore in making sure community midwives and health visitors had the PPE they needed,” said Jake, 56.

“In some cases, work required me to go out, to make deliveries myself in the van! There was simply no one to do it. You felt like you were making a real difference.

Jake then helped to establish the Regional Vaccination Operations Cell in the East Midlands before becoming Deputy Program Manager for Assurance, Improvement and Strategy.

ACTIVE DUTY: Jake Wade in his Navy days
ACTIVE DUTY: Jake Wade in his Navy days

“The benefit of having ex-military on the team is that they’ve had leadership and management training as part of the routine.”

And, about the veterans, he added: “You have a group of people who drop everything when asked, whatever family commitment they have, and go get the job done. I don’t think there is a better resource for the country to draw on.

“Retirees have a skill set that the country can use. When you retire from the military, you don’t stop everything you do. This does not mean that you can no longer use this expertise to volunteer.