A young Ballymena woman has recently been presented with a prestigious award as recognition for her contribution and work as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps, during the coronavirus pandemic.
A former student of Cullybackey College, 21-year-old Peighton Kelly received The Blewett Memorial Medal on 8 June, which is awarded to the Regular or Reserve unit or individual, who has done the most to enhance the Army Medical Services (AMS) in the field of operational medical support.
Speaking to Love Ballymena this week, Peighton’s proud parents, Mark and Shirley Kelly, explained how their daughter was interested in the army from a very young age.
“Peighton always had an interest in the army and signed up to the local Army Cadets in Ballymena when she was 14-years-old,” said dad Mark. “After sixth form Peighton decided that the Army was where she wanted to go and train as a combat medic, and she applied through Coleraine Army Recruitment.”
The process took just over six months, and off to Army Training Centre Pirbright, in England, the local lass went for her basic Army training on the 23 June 2019, and passed her basic training five months later on 15 November.
Peighton went on to attend the Defence Medical Services Whittington, to learn her trade, through many practicals and written exams, and eventually came home to Northern Ireland for work experience in October 2020 at RAF Aldergrove. As a dedicated and passionate soldier, she passed in January 2021, fully qualified as a Combat Medical Technician (CMT).
As with most given to a military life, deployment wasn’t long in coming, and it was one of a very different and unexpected kind. The UK Government had made the decision to deploy army medics to join in the fight against COVID-19 by serving in hospitals across the country and assisting in the vaccine rollout.
“After qualifying in her trade on a Wednesday, the Army sent word she would be based at 1 Armoured Medical Regiment Tidworth, England, and to be there for the Monday. Bags were packed and off she went!
“After being in Tidworth only for a few days, Peighton was deployed to Scotland in late January to help in the country’s Covid response, where she was based with her team for just over three months.
“At that time, Peighton was the youngest recruit to ever be deployed just after being qualified and joining a medical regiment.”
After returning to Tidworth, Peighton’s passion and dedication was evident when the Army appealed for volunteers to deploy once again to Scotland. The young newly qualified medic was ruled out because of her previous posting, but she put herself forward and stepped up, and was based in Scotland two more times in an effort to help the NHS.
It was for this type of ‘over-and-above’ attitude that Peighton was chosen out of her Cadre to attend the presentation and receive the award.
Commenting on her award, Peighton said:
“I feel very, very honoured to receive the award and I know it was a team effort that was made, including all my friends and colleagues at 1 Med, who all worked very hard through the Covid pandemic.”
Mum Shirley spoke with pride and admiration as she talked about her daughter. She said:
“As her parents, we are extremely proud of her. She always wanted to join the Army, even from a young age. Being part of the Army Cadets just confirmed to Peighton what she already knew.
“Peighton described 1Med as her second family. The regiment she’s in at present has been good to her, allowing her to put herself forward for all the extra duties.
“It was especially hard over the time of the pandemic as she didn’t get home as much as she would have liked. She was working in an end-of-life ward in Scotland, so it was tough, but Peighton has a real caring side which made her totally suited for the role.”
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams congratulated Peighton and encouraged all young people to get involved in their local cadet forces. He said:
“I would like to congratulate Peighton on her achievements to date. As an ex-military person, I am delighted to hear of her particular attraction to the cadet force and indeed the regular military.
“I would encourage any young person to consider joining a cadet force and perhaps moving onwards to the reserve forces and of course regular service.
“It is clear to see that Peighton was determined in her pursuit to do a medical course within such organisations and I commend her for her dedication to the role and I feel sure that she has all the attributes that will lead to a full-time medical career within or out of the military services.”
Peighton is loving her time in the Army and is considering with furthering her nursing career in the military, or possibly going back to Pirbright as a Drill Instructor.
Eventually, and much to the pleasing of Mark and Shirley, Peighton is looking forward to returning home to Northern Ireland to encourage more females to join the Army with a programme called ‘Satisfied Soldier’.
Well done Peighton!