July 28th 2015

A year in the life of an RAF Reservist

Air Craftsman (AC) Ian Campbell and AC Jade Lawson joined 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron RAF, based at RAF Wittering, in January 2014 as Supply and Distribution Specialists. Here they talk about their first year as RAF Reservists.

What was your Motivation to join as an RAF Reservist?

AC Campbell and AC Lawson completing Basic training at RAF Halton. April 2014

April 2014 – AC Campbell and AC Lawson completing Basic training at RAF Halton.

Ian:  I wanted to do something that wasnt part of my day to day life and the RAF Reserves offered me the chance to receive training in a field I knew nothing about whilst retaining my job and gaining extra qualifications.’’

How easy was the process of enlisting into the RAF Reserves?

Jade: Our basic induction was taking place while the applications were being processed and we soon became good friends, which is a great part of being in the Reserves, you become good friends and not just work mates.

Ian:  The application process was simple enough. We were helped by the recruitment staff to complete the forms from home which helped reduce travelling time to the Squadron; it took a couple of months to get all the security clearances through, but we were kept fully informed throughout the process.

What do you see as the benefits of becoming a Reservist?

Ian: The benefits are numerous, but the training and extra qualifications are certainly worth joining for. As mentioned before the friendships that are made are for life. I have done so much whilst being at 504 Squadron, such as training courses, attending parades, shooting, scuba diving, parachuting and even took time out to go travelling in Croatia with Jade and another member of the squadron. Ultimately you can do as much as you can fit in with the Reserves on top of your basic 27 days annual commitment.

Jade: I have had an amazing opportunity to go on two static line parachute jumps, something I never thought I would do. I have also been on a five day exercise with 504 Squadron that mainly dealt in field crafts, which was really good and a fantastic way to revise the basic skills you are initially taught. I participated in a military skills competition at Altcar Army Barracks, near Liverpool and also attended a 504 Squadron Force Development Event; it comprised Planting of Ceramic Poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of First Word War. We also undertook the Battle of Britain Heritage Tour, reflecting on 504 Squadrons specific role in the historic battle

How do you manage to balance the demands of your Reserve Service with your full time employment?  

AC Lawson on her Parachuting course at RAF Weston on the Green

AC Lawson on her Parachuting course at RAF Weston on the Green

Ian: “I have found it easy enough to fit in my Reserve commitment with my day-to-day job, as an independent Councillor, and have even found the time to participate in extra activities. The Squadron staff help you with employer relations and invite them on social events to get to know them.  There are external organisations to help too. I think it’s important to be upfront with your employer with what you are planning and what you’d like to do with the Reserves.’’

How have your achievements been recognised?

Jade:  I was presented with the Suzi Award and the Honorary Air Commodores Cup. Both were amazing to receive. The Suzi Award was very special as it was an anonymous vote from all Squadron personnel and awarded to the person who demonstrated commitment to fellow airmen/women throughout all aspects of training.  It just showed me that you are recognised for the things you do, even if it is on one weekend per month. To receive the Honorary Air Commodores Cup was an absolute honor. It was presented it by the Lord-Lieutenant of Rutland, 504 Squadrons Honorary Air Commodore. This showed me that if you throw yourself into the deep end, have fun, but are committed and dedicated to the Squadron and your own personal development, then you are noticed. 

Ian: The Squadron holds an Annual Awards Function in December. We were both been presented with awards by the Squadron’s Honorary Air Commodore.  My award was the Best New Recruit, which is awarded to the Squadron member who has displayed the greatest ability throughout Phase One & Two training. I must say I was surprised by the award but I was delighted and proud to win it at the same time.”

What are the Challenges of being an RAF Reservist?

Councilor ‘AC Campbell’ during Wear Uniform to Work Day - Jun 14

June 2014 – Councilor ‘AC Campbell’ during Wear Uniform to Work Day

Ian: Attending the full-time Basic Supply Training Course at RAF Halton was a challenging 15 weeks of inspections and exams. I would say that, so far, this has been the most challenging part of my Service, but I have enjoyed it and made some great mates who are part of the regular trade.

Jade: The most challenging is probably taking on the full-time Basic Supply Course, inspections twice weekly for 15 weeks, and missing home.

Your first year is now complete.  What are your Service aspirations for the future?

Ian: I want to gain as many qualifications as possible so that I can be deployable within the supply trade. I would also like to work my way up the rank structure to eventually take a commission within the Reserves to achieve more responsibility and even greater challenges.

Jade: This year I am seeking to join the Regular RAF.  I have loved my time in the Reserves and being part of 504 Squadron; however, I think its time to spread my wings a bit further and join full-time. I would like to be deployed to the Falklands in the near future.