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Team of the Year Award: Sodexo and DIO teams based in Cyprus

9th Apr 2024 - 11:39

When violent clashes erupted in mid-April 2023 on the streets of Sudan, the UK was among a list of nations prompted to evacuate British nationals to safety from the war-torn area. The British Forces Base in Cyprus, where Sodexo UK & Ireland has a catering and soft FM services contract with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), was used as the UK’s forward mounting base.

The emergency operation – known as Operation Polar Bear – involved 2,450 people and was the longest and largest non-combatant airlift by any of the Western nations during the crisis. The Sodexo and DIO teams carried out their responsibilities with unwavering professionalism throughout.

Without this strong partnership swinging into joint action, the Sudan evacuation efforts would have been seriously impacted and there would have been an increased risk to the life and welfare of the British Forces, other Governmental departments and British nationals being evacuated. This was a showcase of a ‘one team’ spirit at its best.

The catering team on Cyprus was called upon to not only feed the 2,450 evacuees but also support the additional 2,000 military troops deployed to Cyprus on extremely short notice as combat support to the operation. Sodexo management and frontline colleagues were required to work out of hours, on weekends and days off, to co-ordinate and support the constantly changing operational outputs.

At its peak, more than 2,000 additional military personnel were stationed in Akrotiri and Episkopi. By the end of May 2023 an additional 100,000 meals had been prepared and provided to the troops.

To meet this unprecedented demand, 30 team members were recruited or redeployed from other areas at very short notice. Time was of the essence and Episkopi alone provided an additional 5,000 labour hours and 690 additional shifts to meet demands.

The in-flight catering team in Akrotiri worked 24 hours – on occasions staying overnight – to support constant last-minute requests to provide meals for evacuees. A total of 100 flights, 1,100 crew and 5,500 passengers, in addition to the planned daily flights, were catered for over the duration of the operation.

Over the course of the operation, more than 170,000 bottles of water were delivered to locations across the island for deployment to Sudan with extremely tight delivery deadlines, sometimes less than three hours.

Sean Haley, chief executive of Sodexo UK & Ireland, commented: “This was a superb display of the spirit of teamwork, demonstrating once again the power of our trusted partnerships.”

In January 2024, the DIO and Sodexo team were collectively honoured with a prestigious Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) Commendation for the crucial role they played in providing essential welfare and sustenance to the British nationals and service personnel during Operation Polar Bear.

The support of the military and civilians evacuated to Cyprus, at a time of crisis, would not have been possible without the outstanding collaborative teamwork of the joint DIO and Sodexo team, demonstrating strong relationships with suppliers and business partners to create a positive impact at a critical time.

PSC Alliance