2 December 2020
Traditionally, the Military Affiliate Awards and Ladies' Evening is one of the Company's annual highlights. While this year we could not all be together in the Hall it remains an important celebration of those who work tirelessly to keep us safe.
Merchant Taylors are proud to support their Military Affiliates and while the awards could not be presented in person this year, we look forward to welcoming them to the Hall in-person in the future. Congratulations to the award winners and their families.
This has been an exceptionally busy year for Lieutenant John Cooper. He has a pivotal role in ensuring that over 4,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen are well fed and able to enjoy their leisure time across the 1,400 acres that make up the Naval Air Station.
Yeovilton is the home to three fleets of front-line helicopters conducting training and operations at home and across the globe. Whilst the operational exploits of these helicopters dance across our news screens, the unsung heroes working tirelessly to keep life bearable back at base often go unrecognised. John Cooper is one of these heroes. He has been tenacious in driving team spirit across contractors and support staff to get a great deal of the ‘little things’ done. Little things matter immensely to hard working, tired, hungry servicewomen and men who have benefited so much from John’s tenacity, his ability to get things done and drive a diverse team to deliver new laundry facilities; fit new carpets in accommodation blocks; deal with rat infestations, power outages, failed dishwashers and blocked drains. These little things help the amazing people that keep helicopters flying. And helicopters from Yeovilton make the world a safer place for us all.
John Cooper has done all this and stepped up to fill the shoes of Officer Commanding Logistics Support, taking the extra workload and responsibility in his stride. He gave up much of his own time to ensure success. Keeping everything running would be sufficiently demanding, but this year brought with it a pandemic. Added to the usual challenges, sailors had to be quarantined prior to deployment to HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH.
Martin Gardner has repeatedly proven that he is an exceptional Chief Petty Officer whose dedication and care for the 440 men and women of the squadron has enabled the squadron’s minehunters to conduct world-beating mine-hunting operations without skipping a beat. He has specialised in providing the personnel care and support needed to get sailors fit in mind, body and spirit to return to the front-line from whatever might have set them back; it is not glamorous but it ensures that the incredible achievements of these people and their ships deliver the security and protection the United Kingdom and her allies require. Over the last year, he has supported hundreds of sailors through some of the most challenging personal and professional scenarios, repeatedly enabling a powerful support network, not just to the Squadron’s sailors, but often to the wider entire Surface Flotilla.
Already an accomplished communications engineer by profession, his current role draws on his compassion, dedication, professionalism and leadership. When all of this is set against the upheaval of coronavirus, his achievements are even more remarkable. He has dealt with complex physical, mental, legal and holistic care issues, supporting service personnel and their families to cope and overcome and emerging stronger as a result. He has done all this whilst his wife has been serving in the Middle East and he has been caring for their daughter as well as conducting charitable work to improve the lives of others.
Philip Docherty is an exemplary Army Air Corps Warrant Officer who through this past year has displayed unwavering commitment and unparalleled flexibility. He has risen above an unending series of challenges posed both by under-manning and the challenge of coronavirus. As the Sergeant Major of the Headquarters Squadron, his remarkable and selfless commitment has made a lasting impact on his regiment and the wider AAC.
In addition, he has twice been asked to fill more senior roles, notably facing the extraordinary leadership challenge of dispersing a regiment in the midst of a pandemic; he worked relentlessly to ensure that the appropriate care and attention to detail was applied. Soldiers returned to their homes, trainees were accelerated to their first front-line assignments and the whole force were updated regularly and unified in purpose. Philip Docherty then turned his attention to overseeing the introduction of a comprehensive and innovative Distance Learning programme that would keep AAC trainee soldiers engaged, challenged and productive throughout the ‘lockdown’. He did all of this with no notice, training or handover.
WO2 Docherty is a consummate professional and always the first to offer help to others, finding time to support the planning for the Middle Wallop 80th Anniversary celebrations. Finally, he has led the development and delivery of two novel welfare facilities at Middle Wallop: a new ‘common room’ and self-catering facility for Middle Wallop-based trainees and the Corps’ first dedicated e-sports facility. Both initiatives will transform the experience of our young soldiers on course or posted to Middle Wallop.
Pat McCormack has been the Motor Transport Warrant Officer for 15 years. He is single-handed in a department which should be nine strong. He also finds time to take on additional responsibility for the considerable task of equipment support for the regiment.
Looking after significant equipment holdings of expensive and complex kit requires deep professional knowledge and commitment. He has seen his workload increase considerably as the Royal Yeomanry were placed at readiness for Operation CABRIT, the British Army contribution to NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Estonia, designed to deter Russia. Undertaking this vanguard NATO deployment from the Army Reserve is a considerable challenge, with WO2 McCormack at the centre of work to take over a new Jackal Fleet, the Army’s front-line reconnaissance vehicles, ensuring its servicing schedules, spares and vehicle husbandry was prepared. He organised training courses for the new vehicles, including those required for drivers, commanders and gunners.
He has gone on to prepare the fleet for Exercise WESSEX STORM. WO2 McCormack has played a pivotal role in preparing his Regiment for a vital deployment for the Army and the nation’s reputation with its NATO Allies.
Lance Corporal Andrew Smith is a section commander in F (Rifles) Company, the London Regiment, based in Hammersmith. He is consistently one of the best attenders in the company, manages a challenging civilian role with his responsibilities as a section commander and, as a Junior Non-Commissioned Officer, he sets an incredible example for others to follow.
During the COVID-19 pandemic he balanced his multiple and complex responsibilities with apparent ease; leading and inspiring his section of reservists whilst concurrently operating as a constable in the elite Territorial Support Group (TSG) of the Metropolitan Police during the day. Lance Corporal Smith would often arrive at the Army Reserve Centre battered and bruised from violent demonstrations, but would then deliver training without a mention of the challenging events of his day job. He is exceptionally fit and is a keen footballer. He was recently selected for the infantry football team and is somehow managing to balance this extra commitment with his police and Army Reserve work.
Andrew Smith exemplifies the values and standards of both the British Army and the Metropolitan Police Service. He displays professionalism, integrity, courage and compassion in everything he does. He sets a magnificent example to the company which inspires others to try and emulate.
Jamie Elliot’s contribution to RAF Halton this year has been simply outstanding as Officer Commanding Station Management Squadron. He quickly grasped his wide-ranging portfolio including the running of events, monitoring catering and leisure contracts, as well as the management activity for the allocation and general use of approximately 350 technical and domestic accommodation buildings, across a vast and ageing estate.
As RAF Halton’s liaison lead with our contractors, Sodexo and Babcock, Squadron Leader Elliot has forged exceptionally good relationships with the individual site managers and virtually every individual contract employee for the wider benefit of the Station. He has invested heavily in building an open supportive environment, which has ensured our contractors truly feel part of the station and consequently work hard to deliver quality services together to ensure the station’s training output continues. RAF Halton has reaped the reward of his efforts in being able to continue training despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jamie Elliot has also delivered a new fire safety management system to improve the fire safety practices and assurance across the 720-acre estate, identifying the risks and refining the system with defence fire specialists. He also found time to deliver a high-quality bespoke, interactive training package to ensure that all involved understood their responsibilities.
Squadron Leader Elliot epitomises qualities the RAF strives for; inspiring others to strive for excellence and to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Throughout this year he has delivered immense direct benefit to all station personnel, even more so during a very difficult and demanding period for RAF Halton and its personnel.