Arming the COVID-19 response
Our Armed Forces network aims to bring together employees who are members of the Armed Forces community including veterans, reservists, cadet volunteers, service partners and families.
One of the key aims of our Armed Forces Network is to support our serving Reservist personnel who balance a career at Wood with a military career in the Armed Forces - there is no doubt that the skills and experience mutually benefit both. During COVID-19, members of our Armed Forces Network have been deployed to support their government’s response; donning their military uniforms and taking a sabbatical from their roles at Wood.
We caught up with two members of the Armed Forces Network currently on deployment.
Niall Raeper – project & programme manager
Niall is an ex-Army Regular, having spent six years in the Army as a Royal Engineer Officer. In that time, he mainly dealt with explosive ordnance disposal, including an operational tour in Afghanistan. He still serves as a Reservist, working for Aberdeen University Officer Training Corps, helping educate and lead the Officer Cadets; developing some of the Army’s future leaders.
He was mobilised at the start of the pandemic, providing advice and support to the Scottish Government Health & Social Care as a Military Liaison Officer.
A different day job
Niall said:” In my role at Wood I often work with senior individuals who have very little time to spare and this has come in handy in supporting Scottish Government Health & Social Care at the strategic level, best presenting information and ideas as succinctly as possible to aid timely decision making.”
Each Health Board across Scotland has two Military Liaison Officers, many of them Army Reservists who bring specific knowledge and experience to support the NHS in implementing their response. Several more Military Liaison Officers from across the Armed Forces are working directly with NHS Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service, providing support and a direct link to the military. Sometimes these lead to a Military Assistance to the Civil Authority Task, where soldiers are deployed to assist in practical ways, such as providing manpower at testing sites, or assisting occupational health staff in testing the fit and function of PPE.
Niall continued: “I think it has been a shared learning experience all round, from internally in the team as a mixture of regular and Reservists to our interactions with the Scottish Government. The ability of the Scottish Government to turn around policy is unbelievable, and they have appreciated our candour. It has really felt like a partnership where we have constantly been sharing and learning from each other.
“Wood has always been exceptionally supportive and being mobilised with three days’ notice created challenges, but Wood valued the skills I would bring to the national efforts and the team have supported me throughout my deployment.”
Niall will continue providing support to the fight against COVID-19 as long as he is needed.
Craig Ogden - lead E&I systems engineer
Craig is a serving Reservist as the Second in Command of 16th Battalion, Royal West Australia Regiment and Chair of Wood’s Australia Chapter of the Armed Forces Network. He was assigned to the West Australian task force for the Australian Government COVID-19 response.
His Battalion is currently designated lead in any disaster or emergency, so naturally they were the military lead and were required to support the West Australian police in the pandemic.
Driven to help
They primarily supported vehicle road blocks and checkpoints set up on the main roads of Perth to stop and check if the travel was essential. This reduced the number of police officers needed, as soldiers carried out the activity under the overall control of the police.
Additionally, they carried out isolation and welfare checks on those returning from overseas and in mandatory quarantine to help ensure public health and the safety of those in quarantine. Some members of the task force also helped teach the police, bus drivers and other front-line workers the correct use of the PPE.
From duty to desk
Craig said: “Western Australia achieved an excellent outcome. Very little community transmission, and in fact, almost all the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Western Australia were due to people retuning from overseas or interstate with the virus.
“Due to the success seen in controlling the outbreak within Western Australia, we avoided the health system being inundated with cases, and are able to see restrictions being lifted earlier than what we otherwise might have seen. As a result, I am now back at my desk and achieving goals in our project with minimal impact to schedule.”