“Look, stranger, on this island now . . .”

September 27, 2018

It has been a tale of two islands for this Roving REED recently, and the two could not be more different. 

Firstly to Cyprus, taking employers out to see their Reservists in action during Exercise Pinestick. As guests of 71 Engineers we were accommodated at the Episkopi base with the ladies given rooms in the officers’ Mess and, due to a slight administration glitch, the gentlemen being housed in the transit block. We know who got the best of that deal! However, it all added to the authenticity and the chaps adopted a military “can-do” attitude, avoided the ants, and prepared to get stuck in.

Vehicles negotiating road blocks.

The high temperatures necessitated early starts in the morning to visit various sites around the island. Our group saw engineering construction work being carried out for both civilian and military purposes, and really enjoyed watching a road block stop and search scenario unfolding before us as “terrorists” attempted to cross the border line.

Reservists hard at work in a trench.

We were all struck by the teamwork and management skills being demonstrated by Reservists who had had very little sleep and who were working in temperatures of over 35 degrees. There is no doubt that these men and women would be an asset to any workforce! We also enjoyed the dubious delights of being fed at an army field kitchen, served by a chef who works for a housing association in his civilian job, but who was cooking up a feast to keep the troops and the visitors fed.

The visit ended with a formal reception with guest of honour Major General William O’Leary, Deputy Commander Field Army, and we even had some pipers courtesy of the UOTC to make us a feel at home. The feedback from employers has been overwhelmingly positive, with all of them gaining a greater understanding of what Reservists do and what they can bring to their employers’ organisations.

Employers getting to grips with ration packs.

George gets ready to hit the airwaves.

George in the Loganair cockpit.

Back from Cyprus for a quick day or two in the office, and then off island-hopping again, this time to chillier climes with a visit to the beautiful island of Orkney for an employer engagement evening with 10 (Lovat Scout) Field Troop Royal Engineers. Our new member of the engagement team Sgt Maj George Seathwood (George to his mates) accompanied me and made friends wherever he went. Big thanks to the flight crew from Loganair and the team at Radio Orkney for joining in the fun.

It was good to see employers turning out to meet Reservists and Cadets despite some rather unfriendly weather, and a very interesting evening was had by all. It was particularly great to catch up with the CEO of Orkney NHS; very recent recipients of an Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award, making it the most northerly Gold award in the UK. We shall see them again in London in November to receive their award in person from a VIP guest.

Time now to stop roving for a while and catch up with the admin, although with Armed Forces Covenants pending in Aberdeenshire, Moray and Falkirk, it won’t be long before we are back on the road.