04.10.20 Commando Helicopter Force

Joe goes the extra mile

Petty Officer Joe Gibbs (pictured above) committed to joining the Great North Run this year, and even when the UK event was cancelled and his Squadron then deployed overseas, he would not be stopped. As an aircrewman with 845 Naval Air Squadron, part of the Commando Helicopter Force, Joe is currently embarked in RFA ARGUS on operations in the Caribbean. Not able to run in the UK, but still determined to raise money and awareness for his chosen cause, he elected to set up a half marathon event on board and run it anyway.

RFA ARGUS is deployed on Atlantic Patrol Tasking (North), so the run has been nicknamed the “Great APT-North Run” and after his hard work and careful organization, Joe led an event with medical support, feed stations, and with over 50 other members of ship’s company taking part. Joe was running for Beat – a charity that offers advice and support to those suffering with eating disorders or those caring for those struggling.

Joe said: “I am not much of a runner and I was looking for a challenge to help raise money for Beat, which is a charity that is very important to me personally. I am from Middlesbrough and I have always known the Great North Run is an iconic event, and something to train for.” He went on to say: “Due to COVID the charity has been struggling – there are more people isolated and so plunging back into problems with mental health and eating disorders, and Beat was seeing more and more people need their service, while seeing a drop in fundraising as lots of events were being cancelled.”

The runners tackle the distance in the Caribbean

Joe resolved he would find a way to fundraise despite the challenges of lockdown. When he deployed to RFA Argus as part of Commando Helicopter Force, ready to support British Overseas Territories and Caribbean nations during the hurricane season, he was told he could not leave ship to run or train as due to COVID restrictions all crew must stay on board. Unperturbed, Joe set out to organize a half-marathon on the flight deck of RFA ARGUS. He said: “it was hectic leading up to the event, I had to speak to lots of departments on the ship to get permission, to move aircraft and machinery off the flight deck, to set up medical and support cover. I have been massively supported by everyone to make this happen, to make the event safe and to help it happen.”

The event itself had to begin before sunrise owing to the oppressive heat in the Caribbean. Nevertheless plenty of people came out to run with Joe, some joining the half marathon, others opting for 10km or 5km efforts. Joe said: “We had a good range of ship’s company: Navy and RFA sailors, other aircrew and engineers from 845, the medical teams, and the logistics department who supported and even provided fresh fruit for the feed stations.” Joe also managed to smash his own targets. He said: “This was my first ever marathon event and I just wanted to get round. I got a time of two hours and eight minutes which I am really pleased with. I am very keen to go back and do the real Great North run in future, but this was so well supported that it has been a great experience. Of my target of £500, I have now raised over £1,300. I am so grateful for the ship for getting behind me.”

Joe Gibbs joined the Royal Navy in 2016 and has trained since then to be a Petty officer Aircrewman. This is his first front line unit and his first deployment, and he will remain on station in the Caribbean with Commando Helicopter Force on the UK ship RFA Argus as it offers disaster relief support to the region during hurricane season, and with other tasking to combat illicit drugs smuggling in the Caribbean.