VOLUNTEERS ON THE COVID-19 FRONT LINE

02 Apr 2020

RAF Air Cadet volunteers and cadets across the UK - who work in the emergency and support services in their professional careers - are on the front line of the Covid-19 response.

Working within the NHS, as doctors, nurses, paramedics, drivers, support staff, in the care sector, in food stores, as delivery drivers and in engineering companies they are operating around the clock in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Below we hear from some of them about just what it means – and we will bring you more of their stories regularly as they come in…

Flight Lieutenant Kate Bonney, Officer Commanding 230 (Congleton) Squadron, Air Training Corps

“I’ve been in the Air Training Corps for many years, firstly as a member of the civilian committee and then for the last three years as a commissioned officer with the great pleasure of now being OC of 230 (Congleton) Squadron Air Training Corps in Cheshire.

“As well as this hectic, demanding but hugely rewarding role, I also work for North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) as an Emergency Medical Technician.

“We are a family of the RAF Air Cadets. My son, who timed out as a Cadet Warrant Officer two years ago, is a recently qualified sergeant aircrew in the Royal Air Force, currently working on the Coronavirus Team and on standby until the next phase of his training commences in January.

“My husband is an RAF Air Cadet Registered Civilian Committee Chairman and works incredibly hard to raise funds for cadet equipment and activities, as well as being an experienced paramedic with 35 years of service with NWAS.

“I have been with NWAS for 16 years and have seen a wide variety of challenging, upsetting and sometimes funny call outs, but never have I seen anything like the situation we see ourselves in now. The NHS is under pressure that it has never felt before. We are fighting this virus but we’re human too and are exhausted mentally and physically after every shift.

“It’s difficult not having the Air Training Corps to leave the house for, but it’s been amazing to see my squadron come alive online, as cadets come together virtually to keep talking and keep the spirt of the Corps going.

“I long for the day when I can swap my green uniform for RAF blue again. There is a big challenge ahead, but once that’s over, I know the cadets will come back together and work as a team to bring back normal.”

Flight Lieutenant Graham Dodds, Regional Media Communications Officer for Scotland & Northern Ireland Region, Air Training Corps

“In my full time job I’m a Chief Inspector with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in Omagh, County Tyrone and one of the senior officers leading the policing response to the COVID 19 Pandemic.

“This involves leading 250 police officers and staff to patrol the streets to ensure safety at key locations such as supermarkets, hospitals, fuel stations and pharmacies, as well as enforcing government rules on social distancing.

"It’s a time of unprecedented challenge and risk for those of us on the front line. We are working long shifts away from our families and dealing with high risk COVID-19 situations on a daily basis.

“Leaving family at home to go out into the risk of COVID-19 is very concerning but safety is our focus and we put the community before our needs every time we put on the uniform.

“While not undertaking RAF Air Cadet volunteering duties due to the emergency, the values of our organisation are central to what I am doing every day and my dedication to the RAF Air Cadets (RAFAC) is part of the reason for working hard to protect our community. I want to keep people safe and make sure we all have a vibrant RAFAC to return to"

Pilot Officer Denise Wilde, Officer Commanding 2415 (Penkridge) Squadron, Air Training Corps

“Myself and my husband are the only members of our Community Responders team currently on call, as everyone else in our team is having to self-isolate, a problem for the NHS right across the board. Clearly this will be sustained over many months.

“We’re also supporting our local food bank with deliveries when we’re not responding to a call, as the key thing through this whole situation is about communities coming together, even if they’re socially distanced.“

Flight Lieutenant Katherine Barton, the Adventure Training Technical Officer for South & West Yorkshire Wing Air Training Corps

“I am an Obstetric and Gynaecology Registrar. So most of our workload is emergency work anyway. I help mums give birth and perform Caesarean sections and manage all emergencies relating to pregnancy.

“I have helped create emergency drills for my department so that all staff are trained in what protective equipment to wear and how to manage coronavirus patients in our department. I’ve also helped redesign our theatre environment to accommodate patients with coronavirus.

“We are also being retrained to help in the medical wards with non-invasive ventilation to support our colleagues should they need us in the coming weeks.“

Flight Lieutenant Simon Walton – Wing Staff Officer with Cumbria & Lancashire Air Training Corps

“I’m a Flight Lieutenant volunteering as a Wing Staff Officer with Cumbria & Lancs Wing. For RAF Air Cadets, I am a Health and Safety Advisor. For the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS), I have been an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT1) for five-and-half years.

“I am currently studying at the University of Cumbria to become a paramedic. Covid-19 has presented us with some new challenges which is in addition to the normal work of an A&E ambulance crew.

“I work in the Brough/Penrith and Keswick area mainly, so we always have great distances to cover. We are lucky to have a lot of dedicated hard working staff. I know lots of cadets and volunteer staff are involved in their permanent jobs with the NHS or supply chain supporting us and the general public. My message to you all is, remember to follow government advice. Keep safe.”

If you are a cadet or volunteer and you are involved in the COVID-19 response we’d like to hear your story and see your photos.

Send to RAFAC Facebook or email - RAFAC-HQ-AllUsers-MC@mod.gov.uk

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