A SOLDIER and former Nova Hreod Academy student has worked at a mobile testing site throughout the pandemic.

Pulled from his normal job as a crewman on the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, 22-year-old Trooper Carmen Stewart of the Royal Tank Regiment in Tidworth has spent the last few weeks at testing sites around the south west.

He joined one of many army teams which have been providing staff cover, testing members of the public and delivering tests back to the department for analysis

Tpr Stewart said: “I have found it quite enjoyable actually. I know my core job really well and it was nice to do something completely different and, cheesy as it sounds, to have a real sense of purpose.

“In the modern world we aren’t necessarily only here to deploy in tanks, but this is what’s asked of modern soldiers and it has been really good to be able to step up to the challenge of our time. I am happy to do what’s asked of me, I joined to serve, this is just how that looks today.

“Being away from family and friends can be tough. I used social media to keep in touch with them but also had my team supporting me while deployed.

"While remaining professional, we are really good friends. In our down time we did activities together to keep morale up - I brought my American Football and we’d throw it around. There was a real sense of comradery and purpose.I got a big dose of morale from Swindon Town FC winning the League Two title as well.”

The mobile testing units have been designed in partnership with army engineers to meet clinical requirements and can be easily set up in less than 20 minutes, providing a drive through service.

All interaction with the public is done via mobile phone, with windows closed to minimise exposure.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Howard, commanding officer for the Royal Tank Regiment said: “These soldiers continue to do a fantastic job delivering mobile testing across the south west. For the last few months, they have provided Covid-19 testing 24/7, rain or shine at a variety of locations.

"This has meant being away from their families during lockdown but we know how important this role is.

"The south west is a key recruiting area for the Royal Tank Regiment and so it is great that we are able to give something back and also, more broadly, assist the government’s plan to beat this pandemic and get the country back on its feet.”