Stuart McAllan (33) is an Improvement Advisor with NHS Tayside in Dundee. He is also an RAF Medical Reservist with Leuchars-based 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron where he is a Pharmacy Technician.
We caught up with Stuart to find out all about his careers, both civilian and military.
Tell us about your career as a Reservist, when and where did it all start and what made you want to join up?
At the age of 23, I joined 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron, RAF Reserves in 2009. Ten years ago I had completed my trade training as a Hospital Pharmacy Technician in NHS Tayside and was looking to advance my opportunities in my career and in life. Having a long childhood obsession with the RAF and inspired by stories from my grandfather of his service in the RAF as part of his National Service, I sought to do something about the itch.
Attending the Air Shows at RAF Leuchars, my then fiancée picked up the information forms and encouraged me to find out more. I am not ashamed to admit that having never participated in military or adventurous activities before, I had some self doubt that I could be part of the Armed Forces. I was looking to push my horizons, so made contact with the Unit recruiter.
What’s the best part of being a Reservist?
Without a doubt, the sense of duty. Working for the NHS I carry an enormous pride in my civilian role and of those around me for the people we serve. To be a Reservist, especially a Medical Reservist, offers an opportunity to use the skills from my civilian NHS career and have new skills and leadership developed. I have a huge amount of pride to wear both uniforms.
Military Service brings a unique sense of camaraderie that I have not, nor will potentially, experience anywhere else. I coin it as an ‘instant family’. Some say belonging. No matter what role, no matter where in the Reserves I have been in my career, I have been treated with professional respect and valued how both skillsets complement each other to deliver an outstanding contribution to society.
As a Reservist, you have the best of both careers. Access to further education, exposure to environments and opportunities not accessible to many civilians; investment in developing the best version of you.
Where has your Reservist career taken you?
Over my Service, I have been lucky enough to represent NHS Scotland as a Medical Reservist, meeting the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street in 2014. I have represented Reserves at many public engagement events, most notably meeting Chief of the Defence Staff at Edinburgh Castle’s Royal Military Tattoo. I have had the opportunity to travel abroad as far as the USA and as far North to Iceland!
Do you have a favourite moment?
In 2018 I was selected to be a participant in the International Non-Commissioned Officer Leadership Development (INLEAD). The week-long course was hosted by the United States Air Force Reserve in California. Having never been to the US, this was an experience that shall not leave me.
The sheer scale of the USAF is amazing to experience. I met like-minded Air Reservist’s from Canada, the US, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. I was surprised by how small the world really is, we all share commonalities of Service, families and friendships.
We all share a passion for Air Power, and there were smiles all round with an experience flight in a C-17 over the Californian desert!
During the week, we were exposed to the best of the USAF’s NCOs. We learned about military and societal culture, history, leadership techniques, including learning styles. Above all, it offered an insight into leadership training while enhancing my military experience with other international Reserve Air Force nationals.
Tell us about your civilian job.
I am an Improvement Advisor with the Service Improvement Team in NHS Tayside. I support teams with the identification, planning, and execution of improvement projects throughout the organisation, delivering successful outcomes, and spreading changes across an entire system.
Being a Reservist requires time off work, how does your employer support those demands?
My Reservist career is fully supported by my employer. NHS Scotland offers Reservists up to two weeks’ paid leave annually to support a Reservist’s training. This allows my employer to plan for my leave and they are welcoming to the investment they make to what I bring back to my civilian role.
What skills have you gained as a Reservist that enhance your job?
I am a more confident individual. The experience of being a Reservist has given me opportunities to operate at a level to lead and manage teams, often in high pressure environments that require effective delivery of objectives that are time critical in their delivery. This not only requires leadership, but teamwork. This complements my civilian role to support, lead and manage teams to work together and in collaboration to deliver sustainable change within a highly complex adaptive work environment to achieve success – together.
What would you tell a colleague who was interested in becoming a Reservist?
Take the opportunity and commit to it! I promise you won’t be disappointed. You will learn new skills, make new friends, be part of a community that celebrates the value of you and your part in the team. You will be rewarded with opportunities to be tested and challenged in situations you never thought possible before; achieving your best potential in life. It is transformational – grab the opportunity!