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Supporting the Army's Covid-19 response

Major Steve Little responded swiftly when asked to support the Army’s Covid-19 response, not knowing when he would return to normal life and his volunteer role as a Poppy Appeal Coordinator.

Steve and his family are no strangers to deployments since he joined the Army at the age of 19 whilst studying at university in Plymouth and was in the Exeter University Officer Training Corps.

For the past 20 years he has served as a reservist in the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) serving in Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria, Kenya, Belize, Bosnia Herzegovina and Somalia.

“My Commanding Officer gave me a call at 10pm on a Thursday night asking if I could report for duty the next day to support the Covid-19 response” Steve says.

“So that was it, bags packed that evening and the next day over to the headquarters to be tasked.

“I went and hugged my daughters not sure when I’d return.”

Steve Little on tour in Iraq
Steve on tour in Iraq

With the situation rapidly changing, as a precaution, Steve maintained social distancing with his family.

"I was mixing with other service personnel, maintaining social distancing, but we couldn’t risk others getting ill."

Steve was tasked with supporting the Covid-19 response effort’s overseas.

"I ended up supporting some of the overseas territories in the Caribbean with 3 Commando Brigade, the Royal Marines.

"They had dispatched assistance teams to the Caribbean to have a visible presence there, working in support of the civil authorities to ensure that they could deal with any potential contingencies that came about from COVID-19, and also better prepare for hurricane season out there.

Steve Little on deployment in Nigeria
Steve on deployment in Nigeria

"The worst-case scenario would be if a devastating hurricane were to hit a lockdown environment. I was supporting them using both my civilian skills and previous military experience to help them prepare.

"A lot of it was done remotely using the powers of web-based communication. The Army gave me a secure laptop and said you’re going to get calls from Caribbean. I had colleagues out there who I knew, and they called me up and asked questions. We’d do conference calls and provide them reach back support - so give them products and advice they quickly needed.

"They were the eyes and the ears, but then they could call back for expertise to assist them with problems they were encountering.

"It was a pretty busy couple of weeks and then it gradually tailed off thankfully because things weren't as bad as we had initially anticipated.”

After five weeks Steve was back to normal life returning to his job as a project manager and a specialist trainer for the UN in East Africa.

Steve Little collecting for the Poppy Appeal with his family
Steve collecting for the Poppy Appeal with his daughters

As well as being a reservist Steve has supported the Poppy Appeal in Eastleigh and Chandlers Ford, Hampshire for the past 13 years as a collector and took over as a Poppy Appeal Organiser for the area last year.

"The team of volunteers are amazing - ranging in age from eight to 80 - we raised £9,800 last year at Waitrose alone.

"I really enjoy Poppy collecting; I look forward to November as there’s a camaraderie and sense of purpose which is similar to the military. It’s also something I can do with my daughters, who always raise far more money than I do alone when they are on the stand!

"For only two hours of your time you’ll end up getting far more back in return. Volunteering is good for your wellbeing and it’s perfect to do with a friend or relatives."


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