Meet Natasha, an NHS Dietitian who can refuel and rearm Apache helicopters.

For the past 12 years, Natasha has worked as an Advanced Specialist Dietitian, within the haematology department for Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, she provides nutrition support, via oral intake, feeding tube or feeding into the blood stream for people with blood disorders/cancers, who are undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or stem cell transplant.

Two reservists load a missile onto an Apache helicopter

Natasha says, “It’s an emotionally demanding role but an incredibly rewarding job. I decided to join the Army Reserve six years ago for a new challenge and to help me develop a new skills set. My additional career within the military has helped me to manage the emotional part of my civilian job. Tough days are easier to get through. It’s also enhanced my leadership skills. As part of my role, I provide training to nursing staff as well as junior doctors and consultants, both in my trust and regionally.”

Weekends look very different for Natasha. She’s a Corporal with 677 Squadron 6 Army Air Corps, working with Apache and support helicopters. “I’m a qualified Arming Loading Point Commander (ALPC).  This role enables me to command the team to refuel and rearm the Apache helicopters.   We have opportunities to work alongside our regular counterparts on live exercises, both in the UK and abroad.”

A highlight for Natasha was deploying with a regular unit to Arizona to work as an ALPC and support pilots training across different terrains. “It was a bit daunting at first but we developed a good working rapport and performed our refuelling and rearming of the helicopters to allow the pilots to achieve their training objectives. It’s not all work and no play though!  We also had some downtime and as an arming team, ventured out to explore the surrounding area; including a Grand Canyon tour and watching an Ice Hockey match.”

Fortunately Natasha’s employer is incredibly supportive. As an Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award holder, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust offers an additional 10 days leave so she can fulfil mandatory training. “My manager is supportive of my military commitments and allows movement of leave to accomplish courses.  They supported me to be able to take six weeks off to complete training in Arizona.”

Natasha’s advice to anyone considering joining the Reserves is, “If it’s something that interests you, visit local units to see what happens and find out the level of commitment you can give.  It is an invaluable experience, the camaraderie, the additional skills you gain and qualifications you can use in civilian life are worth the initial training.  It can be demanding at times but worth the achievements.”

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