Area Committees gather for annual updates

November 22, 2023
Area Meetings presentation slide

Highland RFCA’s Southern, Northern and Eastern Area Committee members gathered for the annual Area Meetings.

The HRFCA membership is geographically divided into three Area Committees. The members include Armed Forces and Veteran champions as well as the Heads of the Service Cadets and the Armed Forces units in the Highlands and Islands area. The Committees typically meet annually for updates on challenges, developments, achievements and future plans. 

The Southern Area Meeting (SAM) was the first of the three, which took place virtually via Zoom. It was conducted from the HRFCA headquarters in Dundee on 4 October. The Area Chair Captain (Retired) Chris Smith led the meeting. HRFCA’s Chief Executive Brigadier (Retired) Mark Dodson, Deputy Chief Executive Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Andrew Macnaughton, and Head of Engagement Mrs Michelle McKearnon were in attendance face-to-face with Captain (Retired) Smith.

The SAM began with the Area Chair’s introduction, welcome, and report. The Chief Executive provided an update on key changes since the Annual Association Meeting (AAM) in April.

The Northern Area Meeting (NAM) took place at the Royal British Legion Scotland Nairn Branch on 18 October. This was the new Area Chair Major (Retired) Alec Rose’s first official Area Meeting since being appointed in the role. However, he chaired last year’s NAM as the Vice Chair at the time on behalf of Commodore (Retired) Angus Ross. Ms Glenda Gray, who is also an Employer Representative as the HR Manager at Aberdeenshire Council, is the current Vice Chair. The Council is an Armed Forces Covenant signatory and Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Gold Award holder. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Macnaughton delivered the Chief Executive’s report on behalf of Brigadier (Retired) Dodson who was unable to attend.

The NAM speakers included Mr George Asher, Lord-Lieutenant of Nairnshire, who gave a brief introduction to his lieutenancy; Wing Commander David Caddick, HRFCA’s Vice Chair (Air) and a Reservist on Base Support Group (Covesea Flight) at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lossiemouth, who had pre-recorded a presentation highlighting the Northern Area geography; Ms Gray, who highlighted the Northern Area demography; Mrs Joanie Whiteford, Lord-Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty, who paid tribute to her Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadets; Major Rupert Read, Officer Commanding of 157 Company, 102 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who provided a Reservist’s perspective by showcasing the importance of transferable skills; Mr Darren MacLeod, Director of Safety, Compliance and Accountable Manager of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), who gave insight into an employer’s perspective on the value of Reservists and cadets; Mr Gary Chapman, a former Army Cadet and Regular soldier as well as a parent of two former Army Cadets, who spoke of the value of the Army Cadet Force (ACF); and Wing Commander Christine Copsey, Officer Commanding of North Scotland Wing RAF Air Cadets, who read Cadet Flight Sergeant Ivan Jariod’s statement on his positive cadet experience.

Major Read also works for HIAL, one of HRFCA’s Armed Forces Covenant signatories and ERS Silver Award holders. He said: “My military appointment absolutely ties in with my day job and professional development. HIAL benefits from my transferable skills.” Mr MacLeod said: “We recognise what we get back after those two weeks of Reservists’ training.” Similarly, on the ACF, Mr Chapman said: “I use the team and communication skills that I learned from the Army Cadet Force every day, which I wanted to pass on to my kids. I could also tell a difference in my son Jayden after his two-week cadet camp.”

Unit representatives were also given an opportunity to expand upon their submitted written unit reports. After the official business, members seized the opportunity to catch up and network over supper. Elgin-based The Deli Next Door provided catering for the second year in a row.

The Eastern Area Committee gathered for its updates at the Army Reserve Centre in Glenrothes on 1 November. Eastern Area Chair Colonel (Retired) Jim Kinloch led the Eastern Area Meeting (EAM), welcoming and updating the members before handing over to Brigadier (Retired) Dodson for his report.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian (Edd) Gordon, Commanding Officer of 215 (Scottish) Multirole Medical Regiment, provided an insight into the Regiment that was recently formed by merging 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital and 225 (Scottish) Medical Regiment. Lastly, the attendees were taken outside for two equipment demonstrations. WO1 Ryan Melville, who organised the EAM demonstrations, said: “215 Multirole Medical Regiment will provide the full spectrum of battlefield casualty treatment and evacuation. A demonstration of the unit’s medical capabilities showed the full Operation Patient Pathway/Cycle and the excellent training capability offered at the Glenrothes Army Reserve Centre.”

Covenant signatory and ERS Bronze Award holder, Hazelnuts Catering, provided supper.

This year’s Area Meetings are the last ones attended by Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Macnaughton who is retiring as Deputy Chief Executive at the end of November, so the Area Committees took the time to thank him for his wise counsel and considerable experience with both Cadet and Reserves matters.

The HRFCA membership will gather next for the AAM on 20 April 2024. This will be the second time that the meeting has been held at Discovery Point in Dundee. Covenant signatory and ERS Bronze Award holder, Dundee Heritage Trust, has responsibility for Discovery Point, home of Royal Research Ship Discovery, and its sister museum Verdant Works.