NIGEL Jones has won the Pride of Gwent Emergency Services ‘Blue Light’ Hero of the Year Award.

Mr Jones, now based at Monmouth Ambulance Service, has spent 11 years with the army, 24 years with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and almost a decade with the Welsh Ambulance Service.

“I just like uniform so I don’t have to pay for clothes!” he joked.

For Mr Jones, 59, the Pride of Gwent winners’ ceremony, sponsored by ND Care & Support, represents a rare moment of respite from emergency service.

South Wales Argus:

He has been deployed twice internationally with disaster response team REACT – to the scene of the Australian bushfires in 2020, and the Hatay province in Türkiye, which suffered devastating earthquakes earlier this year.

His volunteering work for REACT also took him to the depths of NHS hospitals during Covid.

Remarkably, Mr Jones says he is picking up his first individual award – though accepting it on behalf of the entire team deployed to Hatay, he says.

“To see the devastation three days after the earthquake and actually be there for the second one – it was like something from a film,” he said.

“The concrete was wobbling and people were of course screaming. It was truly an assault on the senses, however the training I have received over the years – especially with REACT Disaster Response – prepares you in a way for what you will see and do.

South Wales Argus:

Even on a day of reflection and personal celebration, Mr Jones says he received a message in the car about the chance to be deployed to Morocco in the coming months.

“We don’t do the training to sit on our bums!” he said.

“I can still remember being at the railway station with my dad before I joined the army at 16.

“This came out of the blue. I thought it was just a nomination, then I found out I’d won.

“Ironically, I don’t do the volunteering for reward and here I am getting one. I will say that whilst it is me picking it up, it is truly for all the people who volunteer and put themselves out of their comfort zone.

“I’m truly picking it up on behalf of the team and people deployed to Hatay with REACT and the headquarters team based in Chilmark, Wiltshire, ensuring everything ran as smoothly as it could for us out there.”