Op RE:ACT: Reigniting the passion for helping others

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Posted by Andy Jack 28th July 2020 RE:flections

Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins

Service runs through my family. My grandfather served with the RAF in WW2, my father was a Diplomat in the Foreign Office. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to serve my country in some way before I did anything else.

The conflict in Afghanistan was at its height whilst I was at university so I decided to join the Army and I spent six amazing years in The Royal Dragoon Guards.

Life in the services is so unique, you get to do so many incredible things all over the world and meet amazing people. There’s an elevated level of camaraderie in the military. We have an incredible team spirit at work but it’s very different to spending months at a time living off an armoured vehicle with the same few people, with limited or no contact with the outside world.

I think it’s the camaraderie that you miss the most. It’s hard to replicate that. I joined BlackRock through their Veterans Programme and there are more than 400 of us globally. BlackRock is very supportive and help massively with the transition to civilian life. You feel like you’re actually using the valuable skills you’ve learned.

People talk about transferable skills but I think it’s more about being finely-tuned in those skills. Take adaptability – in the Army, you’re constantly going to unknown places and put in scenarios where you don’t know what’s going to happen but you fall back on your training and the confidence that gives you so you feel that you’re prepared for anything.

Values are another thing that get talked about a lot in the corporate world but can sometimes just be viewed as window dressing. In the Army you live by your regimental values, they’re ingrained in you. I do genuinely believe that BlackRock lives by its values too; it was one of the key factors that attracted me to the firm in the first place. There are a lot of charity-focused initiatives, on top of providing financial support.

When you’re a veteran, you don’t ever lose that mentality of putting the needs of others first, and I’m grateful that BlackRock also supports that view.

When all this started I was talking to my manager and we decided to raise money for charity by shaving our heads. The idea gained momentum in our team and in the end we were able to raise a substantial amount for the National Emergencies Trust. It felt great but I also knew there was more I could do. 

I’m in a fortunate position where I’m not in the vulnerable group, I’m physically fit and I don’t have any dependents, so I knew I could physically help and I felt I had to. 

I hadn’t heard about RE:ACT before COVID-19 but it came up in conversation with a few vet friends and then when it came through internally about BlackRock’s partnership it gave me the push to look into it more. I read up about Op RE:ACT and signed up.

I replied to a few callout requests before I was selected on a task in Essex, assisting with the redistribution of equipment from Brentwood Community Hospital to free up capacity.

There were thirty volunteers from RE:ACT and we helped to move over 300 beds, mattresses and other equipment to different locations across Essex.

It was great to be with veterans again, getting the job done. You’re with like-minded people with shared experiences, it’s amazing how quickly and easily you slip back into that mentality.

It was a full day, we had some heavy rain and the lorry broke down but we worked with smiles on our faces and in great spirits. It was truly humbling to witness the selfless commitment and stoicism of NHS and Army staff working all hours to help protect and care for those in need.

It makes you realise how many good people there are out there, how many people want to help. RE:ACT gave me the chance to do that and I’m so pleased I was able to do my little bit. I look forward to working with them on the next task!