Today is Reserves Day which recognises the contributions that individuals in the Reserves Forces make across the world. Recently, reservists in Defence played a crucial role in supporting the NHS and other government departments in the fight against Coronavirus. Reservists also provide humanitarian efforts abroad to support communities and work to protect national security.
Reservists are made up of individuals from different backgrounds and communities across the world. They are deployed alongside regular troops in operations across the world, giving up their free time to serve their nation.
My role as the Officer Commanding has included preparing reserve soldiers for deployment to support in the fight against Coronavirus. During the Covid-19 crisis, over 105 Reservists from the 6 Regiment Army Air Corps, which is part of the Joint Helicopter Command, volunteered to provide support to 1 Aviation Brigade. The Brigade set up an Aviation Task Force across the UK to airlift casualties to and from hospitals for the NHS. Four of these reservists have been mobilised and the rest remained on standby to assist when required.
The soldiers are already trained to support Army Aviation. They are trained to fight and operate in difficult conditions and the Regiment provides additional training to ensure that soldiers have the skills required to support when needed. We also ensured that all medical and training records were up-to-date. Most of our soldiers are trained as ground crew, medics, drivers, clerical staff and chefs.
Prior to COVID-19 the soldiers were preparing to deploy on Exercise Defender overseas in Europe. This exercise is a US Army led joint, multinational exercise that deploys over 2,600 UK service personnel who train with NATO allies to ensure that NATO remains ready and able to respond to any current and future threats. We’ll start preparing for these exercises soon which will be located in the UK and USA. The main role of 6 Regt AAC is to provide support to the AAC Regiments on operations and field exercises.
During the lockdown we developed a comprehensive virtual training programme using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This was used to provide soldiers with weekly briefing meetings and skills training exercises. We used the STRAVA app to allow our soldiers to carry out physical training sessions by taking part in challenging running and cycling events. This has proven to be a great success and will become another tool to utilise when things start getting back to normal.
Although we only mobilised four reservists, the other volunteers were fully prepared to provide support. It’s a very brave offer, considering the severity of the virus, especially as a lot of our reservists have a family and day job.
We take the wellbeing of our soldiers very seriously and have constantly communicated and engaged with individuals throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. We’re now working hard to continue with the training throughout this difficult time and will remain on standby to provide support wherever and whenever required. I have found DIO to be very supportive of my role as a reservist and have been given the flexibility in my role to conduct my reservist activities.
The Reserve Forces offers a range of training, skills and experience that can be used to improve performance in the workplace. There’s a chance to travel overseas, see how the Armed Forces operate, gain transferable skills and challenge yourself in a way that you may never have before.