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Survival instinct

Survival instinct

COVER STORY

07 Nov, 2017

Since leaving the Forces – and especially in his current role as Medical Director for Survitec Group, a global safety and survival solutions provider – former Royal Marine Kevin Wheeler has found the skills and aptitudes he picked up while in uniform have equipped him well to negotiate life on civvy street

‘It’s all very well being known as a big, hard man who knocks doors down, but you need to be able to demonstrate what you know about civilian life too,’ reasons Kevin Wheeler when asked to recall the transition between life in the Services and the beginning of his professional career. Now more than four years into his post-Royal Marines career, he’s fully into his stride and regularly using skills he picked up in the Forces to full effect – not least his unshakeable work ethic and dedication to the cause.

On leaving the Forces, Kevin secured a job with British Petroleum (BP) as a logistics team leader and found the initial transition to civilian life intriguing. ‘In the early days there was definitely a sense of being conscious of my surroundings and checking the language used,’ he recalls. ‘In the Forces, it’s safe to assume everyone is on the same page and pulling in the right direction, but things are a lot more complex in a civilian office environment.’ While his role at BP was predominantly office based, it also saw him manage multiple concurrent international logistics projects, so international travel was an integral part of the role.

‘My time in the Forces gave me practical experience that I supplemented with technical expertise during my military career and with external qualifications after I left’

His next position, as a senior field security adviser and medical training manager for media group CNN International, saw him responsible for journalist safety in some extremely hostile environments. While this called upon his experience from his time in the Forces, the wide remit of Kevin’s role, and living and working in central London, meant he found himself pulled in too many different directions and he soon found a sustainable work/life balance difficult to achieve.

His current role sees him as Medical Director for Survitec Group, a global safety and survival solutions provider, where he is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the medical aspects of the Survitec business. One of the first projects he has been involved with at Survitec is the launch of the group’s Pre-Hospital Care System and a lucrative contract with the Norwegian government.
Despite being relatively new to the role, having started in May 2017, there are already plenty of aspects of his current position he relishes. ‘The kit and equipment we provide is genuinely lifesaving, so it is rewarding to have the power to influence our end users and help inform their solutions based on the experience I gained in the field,’ he says. ‘It’s nice to be the medical Subject Matter Expert for the company, and be able to utilise both my strategic and technical expertise.’

To rewind to the beginning for a moment, and to the Forces experience that makes his current senior position possible, Kevin first enlisted in March 2000, initially joining the Royal Marines before later training as a combat medic and becoming a UK Special Forces soldier, conducting operations in challenging environments across the globe. He gained invaluable medical expertise operating in theatres in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Africa, Northern Ireland and Norway. He also became a Health & Care Professions Council registered paramedic in order to formalise the qualifications and experiences he had gained in the Forces.

Kevin has two university qualifications that strengthen an already impressive CV, completing a masters’ degree in Security & Risk Management at the University of Leicester before adding a Diploma with Distinction in Paramedic Science from Birmingham City University.

His time in the military equipped him with a steely sense of determination and a commitment to succeed

He also completed a Career Transition Workshop (CTW) hosted by the Special Boat Service in Poole, but found that seeking advice from friends outside the Forces was also a useful way to gain a realistic perspective on what civilian employers look for.

In terms of the main differences between the military and the world of business, Kevin says it is a lot easier to find support in the former. ‘In the military, there isn’t an immediate perception of cost attached to everything you do, so it’s more straightforward to go about finding extra resources,’ he says. ‘In my previous roles there has been a lot more justification required and the sense that it is important to optimise existing resources and personnel first.’ He also observes that, in the Forces, individuals have more of a ‘get it done’ attitude to working out of hours and at weekends because lives could depend on it – a trait not always shared by those in civilian life.

Kevin advises those eyeing a similar transition from the Forces to have realistic expectations of life beyond the military, especially when it comes to salary. ‘While it is reasonable to expect that those with Special Forces experience will certainly be of interest to potential employers and won’t have a shortage of suitors, this doesn’t mean they will automatically command a six-figure salary,’ he warns. He also urges Service leavers to bear in mind that there are a range of other benefits that won’t necessarily come as standard in civilian jobs either – perks such as gym membership, dental care and healthy pensions aren’t guaranteed.

Looking back at what informed his decision to leave the Royal Marines, Kevin says there was no single reason and that it was more a combination of factors, with the arrival of a young family being an integral part of the process. While his current role will still involve international travel and time away from home, he reasons that his time in the military prepared him for such sacrifices and equipped him with a steely sense of determination and a commitment to succeed.

‘My time in the Forces gave me practical experience that I supplemented with technical expertise during my military career and with external qualifications after I left,’ he concludes. ‘It means that, when we’re launching a product that concerns life-or-death processes like giving a blood transfusion on the frontline, I know exactly what’s required and how to deliver it.’

Kevin Wheeler is Medical Director at Survitec Group

 

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