Soldier inspired by COVID-19 effort joins Welsh Ambulance Service

Ranger Bernard McHugh is leaving the British Army to pursue a career in the Welsh Ambulance Service.

A soldier inspired by his work with the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust during the COVID-19 pandemic has left the Army to pursue a career as a paramedic.

Ranger Bernard McHugh, of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, was one of a 100 British Army soldiers who supported the trust’s COVID-19 effort by driving and decontaminating ambulance vehicles at the height of the pandemic.

Ranger McHugh enjoyed his tasking so much that he has since secured a job as an urgent care assistant in Bangor, Gwynedd, and will take up post in November. He said, “I’ve always known that I wanted a public service role, whether that’s in the police, fire or ambulance service. As a teenager I volunteered for Ireland’s Civil Defence, which supports frontline emergency services, and it was here that the spark to join the ambulance service was first ignited. I went to college to be an emergency medical technician, but the opportunity to join the Army presented itself and it was too good to pass up.”

Since joining the Royal Irish Regiment in 2016, Ranger McHugh has served in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Force Protection, and has also been deployed to Norway on a large-scale exercise. His role supporting the Welsh Ambulance Service through the COVID-19 pandemic was to drive ambulances in the Caernarfon area, freeing up paramedics to treat patients.

He said, “It was on the way to a road traffic collision one day that the spark was re-ignited, and that’s when I knew it was what I wanted to do. It was the first trauma call I’d been to and I thought I handled it very well. Emotionally it didn’t get the better of me and that’s when I started to think seriously about pursuing a career in the service. I enjoy helping people, and when patients thank you for what you’ve done, it’s such a rewarding feeling.”

Ranger McHugh, originally from County Tipperary, Ireland, will relocate to North Wales in the autumn with his partner, who has also secured a job as a healthcare assistant. He said, “It’s been a life-changing decision to relocate, but my family and friends are over the moon for me – my family in particular have always encouraged me to pursue a career in paramedicine.

“When I went back to Caernarfon station to tell the crews I’d been working with that I got the job, they were thrilled. They’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’m joining as an urgent care assistant, which I’m really happy about, but the end goal is to be a paramedic. I know that will take time but I’m willing to work hard.”

Lee Brooks, Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said, “We’re thrilled that Ranger McHugh has decided to pursue a career in the ambulance service, if a little sore from the ribbing we’ve had from our military colleagues for poaching one of theirs.

“Ranger McHugh brings with him a wealth of experience, which will stand him in excellent stead as an urgent care assistant serving communities in North Wales, and we look forward to him joining the family.”

Major Nigel Campbell, 1 Royal Irish Second in Command, added, “The Welsh Ambulance Service has gained a dedicated and resilient individual who will undoubtedly become an important member of their team. We wish Ranger McHugh all the best in his new career and thank him for this service.”

More than 20,000 military personnel were tasked with supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of Operation Rescript. At the height of the pandemic, the Welsh Ambulance Service was also supported by soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Rifles and 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

The military’s support of the ambulance service, under what is known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities, has now drawn to a close.