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Army's Norther Ireland born medical chief Jeremy Rowan to fall out

By Rebecca Black

Published 20/10/2015

Major General Jeremy Rowan with Belfast Telegraph reporter Rebecca Black.
Major General Jeremy Rowan with Belfast Telegraph reporter Rebecca Black.

One of Northern Ireland's most senior soldiers, who oversaw the British Army's mission to help combat the Ebola outbreak in Africa last year, is leaving his job.

Major General Jeremy Rowan, who made his way from being a part-time reservist in Belfast to the top tier of the Army as the director of its medical services, said he had mixed emotions.

However, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from Camp Pembleton in California - where one of his last duties was to visit a reserve unit training exercise - he added he would consider taking up a management role in the NHS, but that he would not be pursuing a job in politics.

During his career, Major General Rowan commanded 2 Armoured Field Ambulance in Osnabruck, became Brigadier in 2007, and was appointed Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (health) in December 2011, before becoming Director General of Army Medical Services last September. He served in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, and was awarded an OBE.

In 2010 he was appointed Queen's Honorary Surgeon, and was granted the freedom of the City of London in 2014.

The Major General is retiring in a few months because he is ready for a fresh challenge, and he revealed that a role in the NHS would appeal to him.

"It is mixed emotions because I have been wearing this uniform all my life in various guises, from a cadet to reservist then a regular," he said.

"It has been a great career. I have loved it, but there are other challenges and I would like to do something else before I retire. I feel I have something else to give and want a fresh challenge.

People have been talking to me for years about some sort of management role in the NHS. While I wouldn't want to do that full-time, I would consider it if it meant giving back into the system some of the things that I have learned in my career."

He singled out his time in Kosovo as a career highlight, and he explained that his time growing up in a divided Belfast had helped him assist the people caught up in the Balkans conflict.

"Any sort of command is brilliant," he added. "My time in command of an armed regiment in Germany was fantastic. The best bit of that was deploying to Macedonia in 1999, and then the entry into Kosovo.

"I was responsible for helping to build and maintain the refugee camps in Macedonia, which I had never done before. It was just extraordinary. When we did the entry into Kosovo, my job was to establish contact with the Serb minority, who felt quite threatened. I also reconstituted the health service for the province.

"Being from Ulster was massively helpful in Kosovo. Frankly, I used it to my advantage. When I had the two factions literally warring in the hospital, I was able to point out I came from a divided society and was brought up in conflict. That was an enormous help in that situation,"

In 2005 Major General Rowan was responsible for reconstruction the five southern provinces of Iraq, which he said taught him a lot. "The Army gives you a lot of skill-sets which enable you to do these things," he said. "The key thing is to sit back and evaluate - what we call a commanders' estimate - and look at how we manage things.

"I spent about $150m in my time there to try and regenerate the economy. I spent a lot of time delivering governance, infrastructure and security."

While some former soldiers from Northern Ireland, such as UUP MLA Andy Allen and councillor Doug Beattie, have chosen to go into politics after leaving the Army, the veteran soldier explained that path was not for him.

"No, I have briefed people from the Prime Minister down and it is not something that really appeals to me at all," he said.

Major General Rowan was educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution and graduated in medicine from Queen's University. He then joined the TA before transferring to the regular Army and becoming a general practice trainer.

Belfast Telegraph

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