RNAS Culdrose sailors help Welsh Ambulance Service
A Royal Navy pilot and instructor from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose is swapping his training aircraft for an ambulance to help people in Wales.
He is part of 129 military personnel of all ranks who are offering assistance to the Welsh Ambulances Service NHS Trust – including 50 from the Army and 25 each from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
The authorities have asked for military help to ease the strain on health services from this autumn’s unprecedented demand and continual COVID pressures.
Lieutenant Commander Graeme ‘Geordie’ McCutcheon, from Jarrow, volunteered to drive non-emergency ambulances to allow the trust to free up resources for front-line services.
The 52-year-old said: “When I heard they were looking for volunteers, I didn’t hesitate. I like to make time to see how I can give something back to the community. I’ve been a school governor, a volunteer children’s swimming coach and a leader with the Scout Association.
“This is such a worthwhile cause and you can’t beat the NHS for the amazing work they do. If they need help, then I am happy to step up and help where I can.”
Throughout his 31 years in the navy, Lieutenant Commander McCutcheon has been based mainly at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, flying Lynx and Wildcat helicopters from warships and support ships around the world.
During recent joint-US operations in the Caribbean with 815 Naval Air Squadron, he was part of the team that helped seize $220-million of cocaine in four operations targeting drug smugglers.
This year, he transferred as a pilot to 750 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall. The squadron uses simulators and twin-engine Avenger training aircraft to teach flying, navigation and command skills to trainee Royal Navy and RAF rear-crew.
The military personnel have undergone training with the ambulance service in Wales and will be deployed across the country, from Cardiff to Milford Haven and Caernarfon to Wrexham.
Lt Cdr McCutcheon added: “Working together as a team with the other services is entirely natural to me and small mixed ranks teams is the normal for most of the Royal Navy here. I think it’s really important we are stepping up to support this, I initially didn’t appreciate the need, but speaking to the ambulance trust instructors, I’m very proud to be here.”
This is the third time the military have supported the ambulance service in Wales during the pandemic. More than 200 British Army soldiers have already assisted the Trust’s Covid-19 effort by driving and decontaminating ambulance vehicles as part of Operation Rescript.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I am proud of the tireless work of all our service personnel during this pandemic. They continue to provide important support, working alongside our dedicated emergency services across the UK.
“The deployment of personnel to support the ambulance service in Wales will ensure it can continue to deliver its life-saving services.”
More broadly, around 20,000 military personnel have been supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a ‘COVID Support Force.’