Op RE:ACT: Taking time out from work to serve again

After taking time out from his job to volunteer, veteran Andy Mihalop tells us why he felt compelled to play an active role in the UK’s fight against COVID-19.

I joined Team Rubicon UK in 2019 after a ending my military career with the Royal Green Jackets and finding a new career as a business marketing lead at Facebook.

I knew I wanted to continue to use the skills I’d learned in the military in a direct way.

I think it’s so important that you find that new purpose when you leave the military. It’s what drives a lot of us to join the Armed Forces in the first place. It’s not about finding a replacement for the Army. It’s about finding a new direction, a new output for that sense of duty, that sense of service, we feel.

As soon as I joined TRUK I knew I’d found that again. I completed the various levels of training and my first deployment was to support ‘Crisis at Christmas’ delivering aid to regional centres for the homeless and disadvantaged communities across London.

It was one of those things that you always think you’d like to do one day but never quite get round to organising yourself. To be involved with that, being part of a humanitarian charity helping people who really need it, it’s just a fantastic feeling.

As a veteran, I had a real desire to play an active role in supporting the national efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t think any of us fully realised how severe this would be when it first arrived in the UK. But again, you go back to your training, your mentality, being ready to step up if and when you’re needed. That’s all I wanted to do.

I took time out from my day job and deployed as a Strike Team Leader with Team Rubicon UK on Op RE:ACT. I was on a task at NHS Nightingale urgently assembling PPE visors for hospital staff.

As you’d expect with a team of veterans, we bonded quickly and rapidly established an efficient production line getting visors assembled and packaged. We swapped stories and shared jokes as we did our work. It’s always great to be amongst that camaraderie and high spirits again. You need that during challenging times.

One of the most rewarding experiences was the daily interaction with the nurses, doctors and paramedics working at NHS Nightingale. Many of the staff would come to our workstation and thank us directly for our support. Seeing the fatigue and sore faces from wearing masks for a 12-hour shift really brought home the cost and sacrifice of our NHS teams on the frontline.

In a two-week period, our team of volunteers assembled and distributed over 7,000 visors to frontline NHS staff working in hospitals across London.

When I see the images on the News or in the papers of hospital staff wearing their PPE, working flat out to save lives and protect the country, I feel incredibly proud of the efforts of our team and of all the Op RE:ACT volunteers across the UK supporting our frontline services. That’s why we volunteer.

If you’re a veteran and want to volunteer JOIN OP RE:ACT now.

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