An insight into an army squadron

ALTHOUGH it’s been based there for years, Officer Commanding Andy Cockhill estimates that around 50 per cent of those in Hitchin are not aware there is a medical regiment based in the town.

But the Territorial Army (TA) D Squadron 254 Medical Regiment currently has around 50 members, although it has the capacity for twice that, and has trained dozens of people up, many of whom have served in countries across the world.

“Our main bread and butter is the ambulance. Our job is medical evacuation,” said Major Cockhill.

“We’ve got people in Afghanistan. Two are there at the moment, another two are due to deploy on the next tour and there’s one that may be going on the tour after that.

“We’ve had people in Iraq, Kosovo, and Cyprus. A medic has just come back from the Falklands.”

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The Bedford Road based-regiment, while primarily a medical one, also sees a number of its members go into different areas of the army. Most, if not all, says Major Cockhill, work full-time alongside their training.

“We have a broad spectrum of people. In terms of jobs, you could pick a career choice and will find there’s probably someone who does it,” he added.

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“We’ve had a baker, stay-at-home mums, a paramedic, someone who works in IT.

“We can take doctors and nurses up until the age of 50, anyone else without Regular Forces service it’s 42. We have a lot of people who aren’t medically trained, though. We’ve just taken on a chef, so we expect that the quality of food will increase dramatically!

“We have people from the age of 19 through to their 40s. You can join at 17-and-a-half, but you can’t do anything until you’re 18. In our squadron, though, we don’t have anyone that young.”

Before people can become a soldier, there are a number of processes they must go through. It begins with an interview, followed by a test to determine which path an individual can go into.

“We train on Wednesday nights. Everyone is employed, and that’s part of the reason why it’s all staggered,” said Major Cockhill

“People are required to do different things. They can all do a navigation exercise. They pair up, and drive off to different locations which have clues. It means people get use to navigating.”

Major Cockhill is adamant that the squadron offers much more on top of a potential career in the army, namely a social aspect and the opportunity to do work for charity.

“We started by doing a parachute jump. Then we did the Tough Guy challenge. We cycled to Paris from here last May, and this year we did a 72 mile peak challenge in the Lake District,” he said.

“Next year, we are going to do a walk from Royal Wootton Bassett to the National Memorial in Birmingham. It will be tough - the people doing it haven’t checked the map probably! The challenges we do just seem to get harder.

“There’s the social aspect too, The boys and girls often hold social events, and we put something on once a year. People do give us a lot of their time and effort, and have to balance their families and careers with this, so it seems only right we do that.”

The squadron is having an open evening on Wednesday, November 30, in which a tour and information will be given. Gates will be open from 8 pm.

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