A female British Army officer, whose leadership of the Kerry Town Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone has been described as ‘masterful’, is to be recognised with an OBE in the latest Operational Honours and Awards list, it has been announced.
Lieutenant Colonel Alison McCourt, of 22 Field Hospital, based in Aldershot, was Commanding Officer of the Kerry Town Treatment Unit between October 2014 and May 2015. Her contribution to the fight against Ebola was one of the most significant amongst the many thousands of people who came forward to help the people of Sierra Leone.
Deployed at the beginning of the Ebola crisis, Lt Col McCourt, who is a nurse in QARANC*, prepared the unit for opening whilst looking forward to preparing the next tranche of clinical staff to take on the mantle of care delivery, simultaneously increasing capacity by 40 per cent.
“It was a really challenging deployment,” said 45-year-old Lt Col McCourt. “It was physically and psychologically demanding, but also professionally rewarding. We’ve really shown the flexibility and agility of our people. We had six weeks’ notice to go and do a task that was really beyond anything anybody had comprehended.”
Her citation states: “McCourt oversaw the identification of the equipment required to provide care for the patients, the design of staff training, the delivery of that training and the creation of the teams that were to deliver the care.”
I'm proud of them all
Mum of two, Lt Col McCourt who hails from Llandrindod in Wales, was full of praise for her team saying: “Every single person I’m proud of them all every day, their bravery, their hard work. There were some long hours to get the facility up and running.
“It was a scary operation, particular at the very beginning, and not without considerable risk but incredibly rewarding. The people of Sierra Leone were so welcoming to us and so receptive and I really feel that we’ve contributed to setting that country on the road to recovery,” she said.
The citation continues: “She has been in the vanguard of every development task. Her presence and personal touch have been everywhere. No problem has been too small to overlook, no person too insignificant to receive her full attention and the patients admitted have been received with utter professionalism and compassion instilled in the unit by McCourt.
“Her contribution to the Ebola war has been of the highest order and she thoroughly deserves public recognition.”
It's a huge honour
On learning of the award, Lt Col McCourt said: “It’s a huge honour to be publicly recognised in this way. It’s an honour not just for me but for my entire unit. The method of recognition is that not everybody can get this sort of award, but I think it’s any individual who gets it, actually it’s the because of the team behind them.”
The announcement was made today (2 July 15) with the release of the latest operational honours and awards list, which includes 55 personnel. The awards are principally for actions on Op GRITROCK in Sierra Leone and Op HERRICK in Afghanistan, and cover the period 1 July to 31 December 2014.