OBE for medical planner who enabled recruiting and training to continue during pandemic

A British Army officer and qualified nurse who enabled Army recruiting and basic training to continue during the pandemic, says she is amazed and overwhelmed to be recognised in the New Year Honours List 2022 with an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).

Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Caroline Vincent, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC), was the sole medical planner for the Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command (ARITC), advising the Command on how they could continue recruiting and training in the Army in the dynamic COVID environment, whilst ensuring the risk was as low as practicable. 

On learning of her award, Lt Col Vincent, who hails from Guernsey, said: “I am still overwhelmed by the news, it is such an honour. It is wonderful to be recognised for my work, but I could not have achieved what I did without the support of the wider team, both those who I worked directly with in the Headquarters, but also the subject matter experts in the wider Army and Defence.

“I often looked up to role models who had received similar recognition but never thought this would be me.”

Lynchpin of Army inflow

Lt Col Vincent’s citation stated, ‘She has been at the epicentre of a demanding and relentless twelve-month COVID-19 operational tour. That recruiting and training has continued throughout is almost entirely due to her herculean effort; it is no exaggeration that she has, almost alone, been the lynchpin of Army inflow.’

It is wonderful to be recognised for my work, but I could not have achieved what I did without the support of the wider team" Lt Col Vincent

Setting the scene for how training was able to continue, Lt Col Vincent, who joined the Regular Army in 2002 as a qualified nurse, said: “The training environment is a perfect environment for COVID, noting people arrive from all over the UK and overseas into a high-density environment, where they live in multi-occupancy rooms and train closely in large groups. 

“After a short pause in face-to-face training and recruiting during lockdown 1, we resumed both Regular and Reserve recruiting and Basic Training activity and continued throughout all other lockdowns (even when schools and universities closed), with protection measures in place to minimise significant outbreaks, which could have been detrimental.

“Any break in inflow into the Army would have had a significant impact on the Army workforce in the future. The ARITC Command operates both in England and the Devolved Administrations, with each area having nuances that had to be followed. Due to our activity, any slight change in English or DA guidance directly affected how we operated.”

No stranger to killer outbreaks

The citation also stated: “Her rigorous analysis, logical thinking and underpinning evidence, was central in securing Defence’s asymptomatic testing regime.”

Lt Col Vincent, who is still in the same role working within the Headquarters of ARITC, is no stranger to killer outbreaks since she deployed as the Officer Commanding (OC) the Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone on Op GRITROCK in 2015. She also deployed back to Sierra Leone after the Ebola outbreak as OC of a Short-Term Training Team (STTT) in late 2015 and 2016.

She said: “We supported the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces in developing their own Rapidly Deployable Isolation Treatment Facility, which is a capability they can now use in the event that they have any infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola.”

Lt Col Vincent has also deployed as a clinical Intensive Care Nurse on Op TELIC in Iraq numerous times, and Op HERRICK in Afghanistan. She said: “My family are amazed and really proud of all that I have achieved; they have been a huge support to me throughout, but particularly since I have been in my current role for which I received the State Award. My children are very excited! I could not have achieved what I have without them, particularly my serving husband.”

Speaking about what she enjoys most about being in the Army, she said: “I love the continual challenges and opportunities the Army brings. I also really enjoy the teamwork and camaraderie. Whilst this is present all the time, in times of increased tempo or pressure, everyone pulls together and supports each other with one unifying goal – to do the best.”