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Air Cadets receive equipment boost from Neath town centre development partners

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Neath Air Cadets have been the grateful recipients of brand-new camping equipment thanks to a collaborative donation made by J.G. Hale Construction and Coastal Housing – partners on the new Neath town centre development of 12 apartments and 5 commercial buildings.

The donation – comprising of tents, ruck sacks, sleeping mats, cookers, waterproofs, and first aid kits – has been made as part of a joint community benefits initiative, and will help support local air cadet squadron members to be fully equipped in order to undertake their Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions.

The Neath Royal Air Force Cadets is a volunteer-led, part-community funded squadron. It offers a wide range of activities and experiences to young people in the local area, including training for and completion of the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Award at bronze, silver and gold levels.

The Royal Air Force funds the costs associated with premises and uniform; however, everything else relies on squadron funds. Key to the delivery of the activities available is the unwavering commitment of the Civilian Committee, who raise funds to meet the squadron’s aspiration: to ensure that every cadet has equal access to both equipment and activities.

The Duke of Edinburgh Youth Awards programme aims to develop young people’s confidence and employability; complementing the Neath Air Cadet Squadron’s vision to support young people in becoming confident, competent individuals that are capable of achieving their goals.

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Pilot Officer Ceri Jones, Commanding Officer of Neath Squadron, said: “As Commanding Officer of 334(Neath) Squadron, I take huge pride in seeing the development in these young people and am a huge supporter of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Both of my children have completed the gold award. This has not only given them essential life skills but is a key achievement recognised by employers and universities alike.”

“It was amazing for us to be awarded this very generous funding to expand our Duke of Edinburgh expedition kit. The tents, ruck sacks, sleeping mats, cookers, waterproofs, and first aid kits will enable us to support our cadets on this year’s bronze, silver, and gold expeditions. Along with my cadets and staff, I would like to say a huge thank you to Coastal Housing Group and Hale construction for their support.”

Jonathan Hale, J.G. Hale Group Chairman, added: “Neath Air Cadets provides a fantastic space for local youngsters to learn new skills and take part in projects such as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. We’re delighted to support the donation of new expedition equipment, in collaboration with Coastal Housing Group, as part of our Community Benefits for our nearby Neath Town Centre development.”

“Throughout the project, in partnership with Coastal Housing, we have also donated funds to Neath YMCA, which is fundraising for new flooring within its sports hall, alongside Neath Food Bank, that added meat items to the emergency food packages.”

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Clare Watkins, Community Benefits Manager at Coastal Housing, added: It’s great to know that this donation of equipment will ensure all members of the cadets interested in taking part in The Duke of Edinburgh Award can access the opportunity without having to worry about providing their own equipment. Coastal are happy to support this initiative through our Neath Town Centre development as part of our ongoing community benefits program.”

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Armed Forces

Freemasons sign up to Armed Forces Covenant

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The Freemasons have signed the Armed Forces Covenant during a ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden on 20 October led by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent.

The partnership aims to support members of the Armed Forces community and ensure they have the same access to government as well as commercial services and products as any other citizen.

By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) will be able to demonstrate its support to members of the Armed Forces in a number of areas, including education, family wellbeing, getting a home, starting a new career, access to healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.

UGLE has a strong Armed Forces background through its military Lodges. This partnership therefore represents an important step in further supporting both active and retired military personnel. Important Armed Forces personnel such as Admiral Sir Peter Parker, Francis Rawden-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, General Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, Lieutenant Elias Henry Jones, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Cyril Louis Norton Newall, Commodore Wilfred Henderson and Thomas William Gould VC were all well-known Freemasons. 

UGLE’s Grand Master, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, has a longstanding relationship with the military. In 1955, The Duke of Kent graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a Second Lieutenant. That was only the beginning of a military career that lasted more than 20 years.

He was promoted to Captain in 1961 and after having served in Hong Kong, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent was promoted again to Major in 1967. Three years later, he commanded a squadron of his regiment serving in the British Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. In 1970, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, also served in Northern Ireland, before being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1973.

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The Duke retired from active service on 15 April 1976. He was subsequently promoted to Major General on 11 June 1983 and to Field Marshal on 11 June 1993.

Major General Simon Graham and HRH The Duke of Kent at the signing the Armed Forces Covenant

His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, said: “It is my great pleasure to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England. This document represents part of our ongoing commitment to support active and retired military personnel. We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the Armed Forces and we will continue to promote their welfare, support, and respect amongst all our members.” 

By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, UGLE demonstrates its intention to support the Armed Forces community which, in turn, allows UGLE to be recognised by the UK government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS). An ERS award shows that the recipient is delivering tangible support for the Armed Forces community.

Major General Simon Graham, Director Reserves Army, signing of behalf of the Military of Defence, said: “The Armed Forces Covenant is a commitment to support those who have served and their families. The support of employers and making a public pledge of support to the Armed Forces community that they are valued by society is vital. This year we celebrate the Armed Forces Covenant’s 10th anniversary, and for centuries the United Grand Lodge of England has a solid connection to the Armed Forces, and it makes perfect sense for us to have the Freemasons signing up to Armed Forces Covenant this year. I’d like to thank the United Grand Lodge of England for supporting the Armed Forces community.”

Chelsea Pensioners and Johnson Beharry VC at the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant

Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive, said: “It is a great honour to be able to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. From its earliest foundations, Freemasonry has always had a strong relationship with the Armed Forces. Today, we want to thank those brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country and the people who live here. They deserve all our thanks, our respect and this is one of many steps we aim to take in helping both active and retired members of the Armed Forces and their families.”

On the same day that the UGLE signed the covenant at Freemasons’ Hall, heads of Freemasonry in the Isle of Man, Cheshire, East Lancashire, West Lancashire and North Wales also made their commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. This is in addition to Staffordshire and Yorkshire North and East Riding regions. In total 24 Provinces have either signed or will sign the Covenant. The Masonic Charitable Foundation and the RMBI will also sign the covenant in December 2021 at their AGM.

Lead image: HRH The Duke of Kent and Major General Simon Graham signing the Armed Forces Covenant

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Armed Forces

Military to support Welsh Ambulance Service from today

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The Armed Forces will begin to support the Welsh Ambulance Service from today.

Fifty troops from 4 Regiment Royal Logistic Corp will drive ambulances across Wales from Tuesday having undergone training at Newport’s Raglan Barracks on the weekend.

They will be joined in the next week by a further 50 personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

A 29-strong team of supporting personnel will make a total of 129 soldiers, sailors and airmen supporting the Trust until the end of November.

Lee Brooks, the Trust’s Director of Operations, said: “We’re proud and grateful to have the military working alongside us once again, who did a superb job of assisting us on two occasions previously last year.

“Having our Armed Forces colleagues back on board will help us put more ambulances on duty so we can get to more patients, more quickly, while the extreme pressure continues.

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“Essentially, they’ll work with one of our clinicians on an emergency ambulance responding to the full range of emergency calls.

“The winter period is our busiest time, and having military support will bolster our capacity and put us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.”

Major Alex Wilson, Officer Commanding 60 Close Support Squadron, Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment, 4 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, said: “Over the weekend we spent time training with the paramedics and emergency medical technicians to familiarise ourselves with the ambulances, equipment and processes to make sure we can assist in the best way we can.

“The soldiers are ready to begin the task we have been deployed to do in Wales.

“It’s a privilege to be working with our Welsh Ambulance Service colleagues in supporting the NHS in Wales to ease the pressures that currently exist.”

It is the third time that the military have supported the service through the pandemic as part of the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) arrangement.

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More than 200 British Army soldiers have already assisted the Trust’s Covid-19 effort by driving and decontaminating ambulance vehicles as part of Operation Rescript.

Among them were 90 soldiers from 9 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, who were enlisted on Christmas Eve at the height of the second wave of the pandemic.

More broadly, more than 20,000 military personnel have been supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a ‘COVID Support Force.’

(All images: Welsh Ambulance Service Trust)

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Armed Forces to work as ambulance drivers to support Welsh Ambulance Service

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110 Defence personnel will deploy to support the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST) from 14th October, working as non-emergency drivers. The task is expected to last until the end of November.

he support from the UK Government is being provided through a Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) request. The task will help to ease pressures resulting from the pandemic and ensure the ambulance trust can continue to provide their essential service, including attending life-threatening calls quickly.

Defence personnel will augment the ambulance service with non-emergency drivers who will not operate under blue light conditions. They will attend lower priority calls to help to free up WAST resources for emergency calls where there is an immediate risk to life, such as cardiac arrests.

Personnel are deploying to regions across Wales and are from across the three services.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I am proud of the tireless work of all our service personnel during this pandemic. They continue to provide important support, working alongside our dedicated emergency services across the UK.

“The deployment of 110 personnel to support the ambulance service will ensure WAST can continue to deliver their life-saving services.”

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Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “Once again the UK’s armed forces are playing a key role in the fight against Covid-19 by supporting the critical work of the Welsh Ambulance Service. I am hugely grateful for their commitment and expertise.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to all those who have worked incredibly hard to ensure our public services deliver for the people of Wales throughout the pandemic.”

Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service Jason Killens said: “We’re proud and grateful to be working alongside the military once again, who did a superb job of assisting us on two occasions previously last year.

“The pandemic has presented a challenge like no other, but the last couple of months in particular have meant significant and sustained pressures on our ambulance service, including high levels of demand and an increase in Covid-19 related activity.

“Winter is our busiest time, and having military colleagues on board once more will bolster our capacity and put us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.”

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In addition to drivers, Defence will provide 3 personnel to support planning at NHS Wales. This is the third deployment of the Armed Forces to support WAST since the pandemic began in March 2020. 68 personnel deployed in April 2020 and 120 personnel augmented dedicated Welsh Ambulance Service staff in December 2020, including Defence medics.

Defence also supported the vaccine rollout in Wales earlier this year and previously deployed during the pandemic to provide specialist planning advice, deliver PPE and support the community testing programme in Merthyr Tydfil.

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