Sam Prime

How thinking like a soldier prepared Sam Prime for her new career

Samantha Prime
About the author : Samantha Prime

Services Manager, Government

Published on : 5/27/22
  • Through 70 years of leadership, The Queen has inspired us all. Sodexo features in the only official book marking the Platinum Jubilee pageant in recognition of how we champion women in leadership. To celebrate this honour, we spoke to Sam Prime, Services Manager about her experiences, challenges and the guidance she’d give to others who might want to follow in her footsteps.

    Platinum Jubilee logoSam Prime is Logistics Services Manager at Merville barracks in Colchester. After a 24-year career in the army, with service medals and a Chief of the General Staff’s commendation to her name, this is her first civilian role. Sam explains why getting the right kit to the right place is so important, and how thinking like a soldier will always be her greatest skill. 

    Signing up by chance 

    When I told my family I’d joined the army they couldn’t believe it. It was my brother that set it in motion, and completely by accident. He’d left a recruitment leaflet on the table, so I had a look thought it, ‘I could drive big trucks’, ‘this looked cool’ and off I went. 

    That was 1996, and I stayed in the army until 2020 when I joined Sodexo’s team at Merville barracks. I manage a team of 34 that oversees the Central Quartermasters Store – that supports over 3,500 soldiers for all their clothing requirements in barracks and on operations and the Logistical Support Unit – that provides all office and accommodation furniture on site, and to 4 geographical locations including certain properties like those for married soldiers. I know how important this stuff is, which is why I get a real buzz when things run smoothly. 

    Choosing logistics 

    After my basic training, I joined 132 Aviation Support Unit as a Supply Specialist. My early days were spent ‘humping and dumping’, which is army talk for carrying things around. Doing that in the freezing cold in Bosnia made me notice that the role the Supply Controllers were undertaking, working inside rather than outside. When I returned from this tour, I applied to transfer to this role, it wasn’t about the promotion and more about the warmth! 

    Later, I became a Supply Manager supporting the Apache aircraft, where the supply inventory alone runs to £225m. That’s why getting the right things to the right place at the right time is still so satisfying for me; I’ve seen aircraft take off in combat zones because I sourced a spare in time. 

    Making changes Sam Prime

    My last three-year posting as a soldier was here in Merville barracks, so that was good preparation for my transition to civilian life. I’m also used to working with men and women (my team here is mostly men) and managing a mix of soldiers and civilians within my time in the army. 

    But when it came to making changes to improve soldiers’ quality of life, I knew that giving orders wouldn’t work because my authority didn’t come from a strict hierarchy anymore. That’s why I take the time to explain problems clearly, suggest workable solutions and listen fairly to objections. It helps that I know my stuff, but I don’t take that for granted. It also helps that many of the personalities here know me, and I have their respect whatever uniform I wear. 

    One of the simple but effective changes we made was reducing the stock inventory over a 17-month period from 1,473-line items to 651. This resulted in only holding fast moving clothing commodities, a reduction in the annual stocktaking commitment. 

    Thinking like a soldier 

    I definitely take a soldier-first approach and that’s because I think like one. When something doesn’t go to plan, I don’t waste time worrying about it. I take a minute to evaluate the situation and calmly arrive at the best course of action. I have a can-do attitude too, because I’m used to having to think on my feet even when the tension is high. 

    Logistics is a natural fit for anyone with similar traits, whether man or woman, soldier or civilian. It’s the fun of knowing that every day will be different, because challenges will always pop up and you’ll play whack-a-mole to knock them down one by one. 

    The hardest challenge 

    I’ve been posted in Iraq and Belize too, but the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced was leaving the army for this job just three weeks before the first Covid-19 lockdown. The whole site reduced to minimum manning, and it was about six months before I got to meet other department managers/teams. When you’ve made such a big life change, you really want a smooth start, and it was anything but. But I carried on, got to know my team and now I’m ready for whatever comes next. 

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