June 18th 2015

Reserve service is a family business at RAF Wittering

Royal Air Force (RAF) Reserve service is a family business for father and son Mick Stewart and Jim Foster of 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron at RAF Wittering.

Dad Mick, aged 50, is a landlord by profession and joined the RAF in 2008. He started out as a gunner but, when 504 Squadron changed its role from Force Protection to Logistics Support, he re-trained as a chef.

Son Jim, aged 26, is a steel erector and, during the week, lives away from the family home on the outskirts of Peterborough. Jim aspires to follow his dad into military catering, but must first complete his basic recruit training.

During their first year, all new recruits hold the rank of Aircraftman or Aircraftwoman. With his longer service, Mick is a couple of rungs higher up the ladder than his Aircraftman son and is a Senior Aircraftman.

It’s something Jim is quite relaxed about, he said; “It is not, and will not be, an issue until I have to salute him!”

Both men have long had an interest in military service, and Mick was a paratrooper in the Territorial Army, now known as the Army Reserve, before joining the RAF. Jim, liking the sound of his dad’s experiences, decided to take the plunge himself.

Over the last weekend Mick has trained on the new tools of his chosen trade, building a fully operational field kitchen capable of producing delicious and nutritious meals in an operational setting.

Meanwhile son Jim completed the second of four training modules at RAF Wittering prior to the two weeks of basic recruit training at RAF Halton, which all Reservists must complete before beginning their specialist trade education.

Mick is clear about the benefits of being in the RAF Reserves. He said; “Military service gets you away from the routine work environment, it allows you to exchange ideas and return feeling refreshed.”

For Squadron Leader Andy Ham, Officer Commanding 504 Squadron, having a father and son in the unit is a bonus. He said; “We’re a close knit squadron, we all count and depend on each other. In many ways we are a family, having Mick and Jim on the squadron reinforces that commitment.”

Newly appointed Station Commander, Group Captain Rich Pratley, visited 504 Squadron this weekend and was impressed by what he saw. He said; “504 are doing an amazing job. I’m always impressed by the commitment Reservists make to defence, but this is really tangible, really hands-on stuff.”

RAF Wittering’s Commanding Officer continued; “Mick and Jim have proved that Reserve service allows people the chance to serve their country and maintain their quality of family life. Reservists are a vital part of the whole force here at RAF Wittering, and are a key part of the A4 Force’s future capability.”

“It is not, and will not be, an issue until I have to salute him!”