An assistant physiotherapy practitioner and a driver for NHS Blood and Transplant are among the British Army’s soldiers gearing up for frontline duties in Afghanistan later this year.
Private Jamie Richards, left, and Private James McGregor are both reservists and combine their military roles with civilian careers.
This month, they begin five weeks pre-deployment training in the Midlands, followed by Mission Rehearsals in Wales in September.
They will be among 16 reservists from 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (4 YORKS) and 16 reservists from 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS) supporting regular soldiers from 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (2 YORKS) in a 500-strong battlegroup. Deployment will be in October.
Jamie, aged 28, of Kirkstall, who is an assistant physiotherapy practitioner at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds said:
“I love my job in the NHS and being in the Reserves is a great way of combining my civilian role with a career in the military. My employers are very supportive and go out of their way to make sure I can fit in my training and other commitments.
“I’m looking forward to being deployed because it will be an opportunity to see the world from a different point of view. I’ve been blessed in so many ways and this deployment is one way of giving back some of what I owe. Also it would seem weird training for all this time and not putting that training to good use.”
Jamie’s employer, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, last year (August 2018) won a coveted Gold Award under the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.
As part of the scheme, the trust has committed to giving reservists ten days additional paid leave each year to enable them to fulfil their annual military training commitments and also pledges to keep jobs open for those going on active deployment.
Jamie’s manager, senior physiotherapist Michelle Thompson, said:
“Jamie’s military experience makes a really positive contribution to our team.
“He has a strong sense of teamwork and is highly organised. What’s also important is the way he helps keep morale high with his positive outlook.”
While he is on deployment, his teammates will cover his absence – something which will mean each taking on extra work. But Michelle said:
“We value what he does as a reservist and that’s why each of us feels committed to doing our bit to enable him to serve the country.”
James, aged 46, lives with his partner Donna and two of this three children in Leeds. He has worked as a driver for NHS Blood and Transplant for 20 years, delivering blood to hospitals to help save and improve lives. He said:
“I joined the Reserves five years ago because it’s something I’d always wanted to do. Age is just a number and I just decided to go for it. I more than keep up with most of the other soldiers in the platoon and most of them are considerably younger.
“Going on deployment means a lot to me. It will be an ambition fulfilled. My partner is supportive because she knows how dedicated and committed I feel towards my role in the Reserves.”
Like Jamie’s employers, James’ employer has policies in place to help him fulfil his commitments as a reservist.
James’ manager, transport and logistics manager Chris Thyer, said:
“I’ve worked with James a long time and I can honestly say that both myself and his workmates are impressed by the commitment and time he’s shown to the Reserves.
“He joined up later in life than many others but we all respect the way he balances his work with us with his family responsibilities and the Reserves.
“Taking into account training, he’ll be away from us for ten months or so and we will all work together to cover for him. We know what he’s doing in Afghanistan is important and that he’ll be putting his training into action.”