Magpas Air Ambulance is committed to supporting the Armed Forces, and has demonstrated this by signing the Armed Forces Covenant and receiving the Gold Award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme—the first air ambulance charity in the UK to achieve this.

Many of Magpas Air Ambulance’s clinicians, aviation crew and trustees have or currently work with the Armed Forces, including two of the charity’s technical crew members (TCMs).

As TCMs, Scott Todd and Simon Dodd form part of the aviation crew, sitting in the cockpit during flights and assisting the pilot with navigation, comms and looking out for any hazards in the air or at landing sites.

Before joining Magpas Air Ambulance, both Scott and Simon worked as Weapon Systems Operator Rotary Wing Crewmen in the Royal Air Force. This Armed Forces Week, we caught up with them to find out more…

Simon Dodd (left) and Scott Todd (right)
Simon Dodd (left) and Scott Todd (right)

How did you come to join the Armed Forces? 

Scott: I grew up in Northern Ireland at the time of The Troubles. I used to see chinooks flying over my house when I was a boy and there was never any doubt in my mind of what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Much to my mother’s dismay, as soon as I finished school I joined the Army.

Simon: After completing a degree in environmental geology and starting my first graduate job, I quickly discovered I hated being stuck at a desk all day. I started travelling—going to South America and doing a ski season in France, but knew I needed to commit to something more permanent.

I went to a few grad fairs and was drawn to the RAF stands every time. It looked different, exciting, interesting—and had a permanent contract to sign!

Scott Todd on operations in Northern Ireland with the Army
Scott Todd on operations in Northern Ireland with the Army

What did your Armed Forces career entail? 

Scott: I spent 9 years in the Army, with the first few on operations in Ireland, before I moved to join the Royal Air Force, in which I spent the next 13 flying as a Weapons System Operator (WSOp) Rotary Wing Crewman.

Flying in chinooks felt like a dream come true after so many years of longing to work in that role, and I did seven tours in Afghanistan in total.

Simon: After signing up, it took three years of training to make it to the front-line flying chinooks, and I spent seven years with my squadron. Which just so happened to be the same one Scott had previously worked in—I joined just after he left! I did three tours of Afghanistan, as well as exercises in Jordan, America and Corsica.

In my time with the RAF, I worked as a frontline operator, as well as a crewman trainer and my last role was the standards officer for crewmen—so I went from training people to assessing them.

Simon Dodd in Afghanistan
Simon Dodd in Afghanistan

What did you enjoy most about working in the Armed Forces, and what was your biggest challenge? 

Scott: Although I loved flying in chinooks, what I enjoyed most was the teamwork—particularly working with like-minded people in the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT). However, despite it being a very rewarding job, it was also a double-edged sword as we were exposed to a lot of traumatic incidents and injuries.

Simon: Teamwork was also my favourite element of the forces. I’ve never experienced anything like the tight bond you have with people there, particularly when you do tours—the people you’re away with are family at that time. That’s what I enjoyed the most and miss the most, although working with Magpas Air Ambulance has rekindled that feeling a little.

What I found hardest was the unpredictability of life in the RAF. Having to drop everything and leave home whenever you’re needed can be tough, especially as I have a wife and we could never plan anything in advance.

Simon and his squadron
Simon and his squadron

Do you think having a background in the Armed Forces lends itself to working at Magpas Air Ambulance? 

Scott: I think having a background in the Armed Forces has lent itself to my work here. Working with the RAF MERT team not only meant I’d already been exposed to trauma and critically ill patients, but also provided me with transferable skills such as flying, radio communications, navigation, working in a team and more.

You also get the same feeling at Magpas Air Ambulance as you do in the forces, that you’re all there as like-minded people who genuinely want to make a difference and do something good (as cheesy as that sounds!).

Simon: My time in the RAF has definitely helped me in my role at Magpas Air Ambulance. There are obvious benefits, such as huge amounts of training (both aviation and military) and experience in dealing with unsightly incidents that will undoubtedly prepare you to work in the air ambulance setting. I also think military life gives you resilience; prepares you for uncertainty; and teaches you how to work effectively as a team, with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

With this in mind, I definitely think working with Magpas Air Ambulance is akin to military life in some respects, and it helps that so many members of staff here—particularly amongst the clinical and aviation team—have had experience of, or split their time between, the Armed Forces.

Scott Todd at the back of the chinook
Scott Todd at the back of the chinook