Inter-Service & Interagency Cooperation in the COVID-19 World

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

by Vishalji Odedra, British Army


RAF Wittering, supervising completed coronavirus tests at Bourne Grammar School 120121 CREDIT MOD

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” — Harry S. Truman

As the civil public comes to terms with the long-term aspects of the post-CV-19 operational environment, civil government agencies and joint military services have repeatedly shown they are capable and highly adaptive. In the face of a crippling pandemic, civilian and military professionals remained agile and operated in a collaborative manner. Like the global pandemic, this level of cooperation was unprecedented. The requirement for a holistic approach towards a client-centered model for cooperation has shown efficacy in the CV-19 operational environment. The multi-sectoral approach as outlined in the Cabinet Office publication, COVID-19 RESPONSE − SPRING 2021 highlights this well [1]. This adaptive approach of being rapid in the development of a new interagency capability mitigates risks and supports resilience. This has helped insulate staff against empathetic degradation. This model, which is focused on clients, has helped outline the strengths of this new approach to the CV-19 pandemic.


In my own personal experience working with vaccination clinics, I observed that the clients would initially enter carrying the weight of their fears and reservations about the vaccination process. This would include fears that have been brought to the forefront through misinformation and disinformation via social media [2], They would express having viewed or read messages via social media often made to prey on the fears of the civil public [3]. However, team members reassure and guide them throughout the process.


An important factor during the exchange is supporting the clients' needs through the process using an authentic empathic and understanding approach to their needs. Offering water, ensuring they are comfortable, and taking time to guide them through the process with visualisation and coaching techniques aided in alleviating their anxieties and the well-documented Whitecoat syndrome [4].


A commonly expressed fear for the client was needle phobia or Trypanophobia. This was overcome through pre-screening and communication between team members and then verbal misdirection and the usage of the Z Track injection technique during the vaccination to ensure that the injection site closes over when pressure is released [5].


The positive impact on mental health is worth illuminating as well. By creating and supporting cross-functional teams from across the civil inter-service environment has highlighted the benefits to multiple staff the importance of a “team of teams” [6] approach. This has produced high-quality responses with lasting qualitative results within the civil domain. This agile and professional response can be further reinforced by the multidisciplinary depth of support that comes from cross-functional teams. The impact of this institutional knowledge should be captured. Further development by those who have been supporting the field must continue to teach teams and provide a high-quality platform for future team development. This will build more civil and institutional resilience to mitigate risk in future pandemics and crises.

As we now move into a new phase of this international pandemic and close out the second British Summer since the beginning of the CV-19 outbreak, we can look and move away from a model for a pandemic and adapt as it to one for an endemic, to stay in line with the rapidly changing operational environment [7]. Taking into account the impact of temperature and humidity on the viral transmission process and infection rates [8] and the human factors involved with maintaining safety for the civil public, importance must be placed on caring for those most at risk from infection throughout the late Summer-Autumn period.


Looking forward and future-proofing for the changes in the population's mood and ability to cope with what is to come, we should continue to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in order to continue learning. The hard-earned insights gained from this civilian and military collaborative approach need to be built upon. This level of cooperation and selfless service is for both the civil populace and also for the agencies and services that support them. More amazing things can be achieved if we are not worried about who gets the credit.


Author Bio


Vishalji Odedra specialised in Military Search as a Sapper within the Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army. After reading Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston CBE, he fell into the world of wargaming from a chance passing of White Dwarf magazine at a young

age. He has since worked extensively within the tabletop wargames industry, playing and facilitating in many domestic and international tournaments and promoting wargaming through public demonstration. He is also part of the UK Fight Club, which brings together members of the military, civil service, computer simulation designers, and others who

work in the UK defence sector. The opinions and thoughts within this article reflect the author alone and do not represent the official position of the UK government or armed forces.