Civvy Life – From picture post to ambulance service

Civvy Life – From picture post to ambulance service

Off By Ed Hanna

Simon Armstrong Served for 12 years as an RAF Photographer. He left last year and is currently on the Student Paramedic programme with West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust.

How was resettlement?
I’d been in the Armed Forces for 12 years and decided that I’d done enough time. My eldest child was going to high school and moving around every couple of years wasn’t good for the children. We wanted to get them settled down, so we decided that I’d look for something a bit different. My thoughts led me to a couple of different things: I’d done what’s called Community First Responders. There were a couple of Military schemes where, basically, you’re working alongside the ambulance service, going out to calls until they can get an ambulance there.

Was this suggested to you in your resettlement period?
I just happened to come across it as part of my job as a photographer. I’d been asked to make a video for one of the schemes because it was specifically for the Military, it’s called Lincolnshire Emergency Medical Response. It just caught my interest. I decided to get involved and I think that just sort of piqued my interest in medicine.

Did you ever read Civvy Street Magazine during your resettlement?
Yeah, of course. Civvy Street was something that we’d come across. It was sent to us. We got a lot of Military publications sent to our office anyway, because of the type of stuff that we were doing.

With Lincolnshire being in the East Midlands, how did you come to get involved with the West Midlands Ambulance Service?
I’m from the West Midlands, we’re resettling back here. West Midlands Ambulance Service is one of the few that run a student paramedic course, which is an apprenticeship. For me, it was never an option to go back to university because I just couldn’t afford it. 

West Midlands Ambulance Service seems to have a good relationship with and   high regard for Veterans…
They really do. A lot of people who I’ve come across in the ambulance service, are ex-Service personnel; there’s probably at least 20 or 30 of us. 

They are really, really keen to get Military people, because we come with these attributes and values. They’ve got Military champions who assist with that transfer across and there’s a Military network of people who are Service-leavers and Reservists. There was a guy I was doing my course with who was leaving the Army and staying in the Reserves, and they were very good with helping him to do that. 

What specifically, do you think Veterans bring to roles in the ambulance service?
Hard work, resilience, respect, empathy and integrity. All of those sorts of things are just ingrained in you. Somebody who’s gone from school to university, might not have life experience. I think one of the things that I’ve found is that, especially with older people, it’s a lot easier to talk to patients, and that’s a massive part of the role of somebody on an ambulance.

I don’t think it’s something that you realise that you’ve got but I think it’s something that the ambulance services recognise. 

When people phone 999, generally, it’s the worst day of their life and they need help. Just to be able to turn up and talk to people, calm them down, reassure them and move them forward, I think it makes a massive impact on that person.

What do you miss from the Forces?
I think the big one is camaraderie. I think you get that with the ambulance service as well because we’re all sort of going through that same experience. You’ve got those people within the ambulance service you can talk to about things that you might not want to take home to your family, whereas those people who have been with you, understand. And I think that’s the same within the Military. It’s nice to have that, and there’s that sort of camaraderie and friendship in both jobs.