Gateshead Reservist’s key role in keeping Navy running through pandemic

A Reservist sailor from Gateshead has helped ensure the Royal Navy has operated almost as usual throughout the pandemic.

Lieutenant Fiona Porteous-Ford, who volunteers at HMS Calliope, has been part of the team which has directed the Senior Service’s response to Covid – from supporting ships deployed around the globe, to assistance to the government at home and continuing the Navy continues to train its sailors and Royal Marines.

A chartered marketer by day, she’s been mobilised during the crisis to act as a staff officer at the Royal Navy’s ‘Covid cell’ in its headquarters in Portsmouth, at the heart of the Royal Navy’s support operations to personnel deploying to ships, submarines, air wings and shore based employment. 

The focus of the cell – run entirely by Reservists – is to prepare and protect our people whilst continuing to deliver operational commitments.

“This was a really rewarding and unique opportunity to work in the thick of it, right the way across the Royal Navy,” said Fiona.

With no two days the same, the role has seen the junior officer deliver comprehensive daily briefings, help draw up the Navy’s policy under pressure, as well as ensuring testing and quarantine demands were met. 

The threat to everyone from Covid has been a global issue, and I am privileged to have been able to help my fellow serving personnel

Lieutenant Fiona Porteous-Ford

With no two days the same, the role has seen the junior officer deliver comprehensive daily briefings, help draw up the Navy’s policy under pressure, as well as ensuring testing and quarantine demands were met. 

 “I went into this process wanting to help,” Fiona added. “The threat to everyone from Covid has been a global issue, and I am privileged to have been able to help my fellow serving personnel throughout this mobilisation.

“Ensuring our sailors and marines are prepared in all respects to deploy and support front-line operations is an ongoing challenge.”

Usually based at HMS Calliope in Gateshead, Fiona manages the training and careers of ten fellow reservists at the same time as serving in the Navy’s mine warfare branch.

As a marketer she is used to poring over masses of data and information, analysing it and helping businesses develop their strategies, skills which the lieutenant has applied to the Navy’s pandemic response.

 “As a Reservist you often bring something different to the fold. I found an area I could add value, make a difference while using both my civilian and military skills,” Fiona explained. 

“Together, we can take pride in the fact we have contributed to the continued delivery of the Royal Navy’s operational capability across the globe – all at the time where Covid cases are rising exponentially.”

She continued: “The Reserves has provided me with countless experiences, including safeguarding National Defence Operations, participating in multi-national military exercises in addition to the opportunities I have been given to develop many other skillsets along the way.

“I feel I have grown as a person, as an employee and as a contributing member of society. I cannot wait to see what the future holds and look forward to the next opportunity.”