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Dan Millea reflects on his experience as an Army reservist during COVID-19

Last January I joined the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (4YORKS). I really wanted to become a reservist as I enjoy learning, helping communities in need and thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to build on my leadership and team building skills. Plus, I’d also heard about the amazing training opportunities on offer with the possibility of some international travel.

Deployment during Covid-19
Fast forward to mid-March 2020 where we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I was called up from the Army, they needed help and reservists could be deployed shortly, so waited for further instructions. I let my manager at Morgan Sindall Property Services (MSPS) know and was ready to hear back from the Army.

A couple of days later 150 reservists from my regiment was called up to help support the government’s efforts to increase Covid-19 testing across the north. I moved out of my family home and for the next two months took up residency at the barracks in Barnsley. At first it was weird as you miss all your home comforts, but it turned out great as this extended time together we really bonded as a unit. Before deployment we were provided with some great training about the jobs we were going to fulfil, and I was looking forward to helping the community during this incredibly difficult time.

Mobile testing for Covid-19
My regiment conducted the mobile testing units for Yorkshire’s frontline workers and residents who were vulnerable to the virus. We operated these units from around 10+ sites across the north, conducting up to 300 tests a day and rotating sites to ensure all the communities were served and supported at a timely manner during this pandemic. We covered Yorkshire’s cities – such as Leeds, Sheffield, Rotherham to name a few, then travelled to Newcastle and further north to Berwick-upon-Tweed, near the Scottish boarder.

To manage health and safety plus demand residents had to book online their allocated time slot before arriving at our testing sites. Once they arrived, we’d operate a drive-through system, whereby they would stay in their cars throughout the entire process, we would give them instructions or support via the phone. It was an interesting experience, as I think some residents were a little surprised to see an army reservist rather than an NHS worker carrying out the testing sites. A lot of the people visiting also had Covid-19 symptoms so understandably not feeling their best. So, we had to reassure, put them at ease and made sure they followed the test kit instructions clearly to prevent any mistakes.

Once the test was complete, they would then receive their results within 24 to 72 hours – meaning those without the virus could go back to doing their invaluable work on the frontline or reuniting families if they had been self-isolating.

Lessons learnt
It was a very busy period however our deployment has now come to an end, with the Army now managing the test units. After saying goodbye and leaving the barracks I ordered a huge pizza and chilled in my new flat with a well-deserved beer… For me the last two months seemed to have flown by, I can’t believe what has happened, changed and when things start opening again what the new normal will be? The things I’ll take away from this experience are teamwork and bonding with my unit is invaluable, efficient adaptable communication skills are key as a smile, wave and thumbs up goes a very long way! The extra unexpected skills I picked up were lip reading and an “expert” level at charades.

I’m incredibly proud to be an army reservist, honoured to serve the communities and thankful to MSPS as I feel very fortunate to work in a business which supports me as a reservist. It’s been amazing to make a difference!

Private Millea / Dan Millea, Assistant Accountant