Having spent 12 years in the RAF as a Personnel Administrator I would advise anyone thinking of a career in the RAF to think very carefully about what they are doing. I went to the careers office as a 20 year old planning to become an Air Movements Operator. They talked me into becoming a Personnel Administrator, little did I know they had a quota to fill. All the talk they gave me about seeing exotic places and 'jollies' were all an exaggeration too. You only get that side of life in the RAF if your face fits, unfortunately mine didn't and a lot of my friends found the same to be true. My first few years up in Peterhead were great, I loved it but once a new Corporal started who "didn't want a woman in his office", then the problems started. I requested a posting and got it. It was either that or make a complaint. Lincoln was good my Sergeant in Station Headquarters was an ex Rock Ape and a lazy man at that. I worked in JACIG for a couple of months which was a mix of Navy, Air Force and Army, one of the Army Officers threatened to throw me in a jail cell because I used my first name which in the RAF in your workplace you are allowed to do. I thought he was joking and said something funny in response, he was gob smacked and didn't, know what to do. Lucky escape for me as it was only until after that I realised he was being serious. On the closure of that unit I moved to Cranwell, the Flight LT was a witch who took great pleasure in bullying staff. I wasn't a yes sir no sir type and if something was wrong I would stand my ground. She bullied me for a while until I caught her eaves dropping against the door of the Squadron Leaders office while someone was making a complaint about her, she left me alone after that. The Falklands was an eye opener and although I enjoyed the experience, even as a single woman I was shocked at what went on out there. It was a free for all for all the married men and women to do what they wanted. There were some decent people there who stood by their vows, but half if them didn't care. They call it detachment rules. What goes on, on detachment, stays on detachment. Basically it's just an excuse for all the moral less people to do what they want behind their partners backs and get away with it! In my 12 years in the RAF I have never met such a bunch of liars, idiots, bullies and control freaks in all my life. People who just get some innate pleasure out of making others miserable. My last posting at Wadding ton proved to be the final straw after having a boss who was an Aerospace Systems Operator messing up all of my admin in the Registry. I was the only clerk and had a great system going looking after 20 people in the building. He would double book hire cars, muck up flight bookings and generally interfere. When I wouldn't cover up for his mistakes I was seen as a "difficult subordinate". Our boss lied I on my assessment, lied on his own about overseeing my work so I went to see the Chief Clerk and got moved to SHQ for my last 6 months. Those people made my last months bearable and restored my faith in people. My new Flight Sergeant tried to get me to stay and sign on to 15 years as I was a hard worker. I told him I'd rather cut my own arm off, I'd had enough. Don't get me wrong, the RAF allowed me to buy my first house and get qualifications I may not have otherwise got but the career I thought I would get never appeared, no matter how well I did or how hard I worked. It's just an old boys club through and through.
I am perhaps a little bit biased in this review, as I am not in the Air Force; but both my parents are in/have been in it, and it has given me more than enough of an opinion on it!
My Dad has been in the RAF for nearly 35 years, and before she had me and my sister, my Mum was also a RAF girl. In fact, they met in their office when they starting working together after their training! So for that, I am grateful.
However, family life in any of the Forces is hard, especially in our increasingly more volatile world. Since me and my sister were born, my Dad's been posted to the Falkland Islands four times, Iraq, Kuwait, the Shetland Islands, Germany, Cyprus and various other places. Germany was the only place where the family could follow; it was a 5 year posting and me and my sister were between 6 months and 2 years when we went. We wouldn't have gone if we had been at schooling age. The Falkland Island tours were 8 months each; Iraq was 1 months warning, no contact and 10 months (the first 4 without even a phone call as they didn't have one), Kuwait and Cyprus were 6 months each and the Shetland Isles was 2 years; we couldn't go with him as I was just about to take my GCSEs and my sister her A levels. Don't get me wrong; we have been very lucky with where and when he's been posted to, managing to buy our own house and stay in the same general area since we got back from Germany. Once we settled here, it was a matter of wherever he's sent to, he goes and we wait for him at home. Once he's back from Afghanistan he will receive his next posting as his time in his current job is up; it's likely that this time it'll be up North rather than within commuting distance and so we'll all move as I'll be going to university when he moves anyway. This brings a new problem; in the holidays I'll be staying in the family home which will no longer be in my home town where all my friends are!
Unfortunately we've just heard that he's being sent to Afghanistan soon, it's a short tour but it'll be harder this time as my sister has flown the nest and it's just me and my mum! It's a stressful time to have him away in a war zone at the best of times but currently I have university to think about, a job to try and hold down, driving tests and various other problems that I'm struggling with so the timing really sucks. Yes, it's the job he signed up for, and no I can't complain when he has to go and do his duty - but the words 'it'll be fine' and 'he'll be back before you know it' are cold comfort when you see the fallen soldiers of our military on the news most days. His job hasn't affected my education much, but that's because my parents were always adamant that they wouldn't move me and my sister around if they didn't have to. They tried to keep everything consistent for us when he was posted.
Living in a town with a RAF training base attached, and working in a 'trendy' nightclub, I see a lot of the new recruits and those in for basic training out and about and I always engage with them on how they're doing. It's hard to understand but there is a certain solidarity with Forces families; you'll always have something to talk about! I can talk a little bit of the talk but I still get confused when they go on about trades. Most of them who I've spoken to are going to Afghanistan as well and are on the whole excited, if a little nervous. It's an odd sight - seeing young men and women the same if not younger than me preparing to go to a war zone. Personally I'm a pacifist so the reasons for war are a little lost on me, and I don't care much for killing!
There is - as far as I can tell - one main advantage of joining one of the Forces. That being; job security! You're pretty much guaranteed a job for life if you can provide them with a good service and there's a lot of room for promotion etc. if you work hard and are dedicated. There is a glass ceiling in the division between officer class and the non-commissioned officers which is (as far as I understand) based on who you are and how you entered which seems a little bit old fashioned but then again, the military is a pretty old fashioned business! The pensions are very good and there is a lot of support when you come out, at whatever length of service. Pay is pretty decent but don't expect to be earning enough to support a family on in the junior ranks! It rises quite nicely, or so I understand.
If anyone ever asks me "Should I join the RAF?" (I'm not sure why they would, but hey!) I'd ask them three simple questions: 1) Can you cope with being in a warzone? 2) Are you able to follow commands completely and utterly, even if they conflict with your will? 3) Do you want a family in the future that will be passed from pillar to post with no regard for them? Call me cynical, or even jaded, but if any of those answers are 'no' then the RAF or even any military life is not for you. My parents have been lucky; due to my mum's experience in the RAF she knew what she was in for when she married my Dad and started the family... I can count on one hand the amount of colleagues of my Dads that are equally as happily married as they are. Most of the marriages that I have seen lead to divorce at some point or another as the sheer strain of living apart from your partner for up to 5 years at a time gets to you. I'm a little bit pessimistic about relationships and long distances!
Overall, it's not a bad job. Pilots are ridiculously hard to get into but the trades are easier; and they're always looking out for bright young people who can work behind the scenes. Thankfully, my Dad is one such person; he's not front line, he doesn't 'have wings' and he's nearly always on base, but there's always a danger when you're being sent to a war torn country. Whilst he may never be in 'immediate danger' there is very little that could help me accept and reconcile his job - I can't wait until he retires for the RAF and can live a normal, civvie lifestyle!
I have been in the RAF just over four years now, I joined up in August 1999. I had wanted to join from a very young age and had been in the Air Cadets since the age of 13. As soon as I was old enough at 17 I went along to my local careers office to find out some more information, my local office was in Manchester but they have offices situated all over the country. After talking with an advisor who was a corporal in the RAF I was booked in for an aptitude test, this is how they distinguish the type of job that you are for want of a better description brainy enough to do. My dream was to be a pilot of course but unfortunately the first time around I failed the test and was advised that I had to wait 6 months to re-sit. Six months later I took another test and this time I passed but I didn?t get the required score for pilot. I was talked through various options to think about. Part of the acceptance process is a medical examination, here it was determined that I was slightly colour blind which meant that my options had been narrowed down even further. My final decision was to join the RAF Regiment as a gunner, so basically I was joining as infantry. The Regiments job is to guard any military airfields or buildings at home or abroad. Before joining the RAF Regiment you have to complete a Potential Gunners Acquaintance course which is a week long, the point of this is to establish if you are fit enough and have the qualities needed to complete the training. Here you are given the standard fitness tests which consists of elements such as running, assault course and swimming. There are also briefings from long standing members of the force and a nights exercise on the field. A lot of this is to establish how well you might work as a team which is an integral part of this job. I think this course is a very good idea as it gives you a real insight into what you are getting yourself into and also how physically and mentally tough the training can be. After
successful completion of this course all you need is to wait for you joining up date, this can take months. Basic Training When I went through basic training the course was 23 weeks long, I believe this has now been shortened but im sorry I have no idea to how much. Your first three days are spent at RAF Halton this where basic training for people joining the RAF takes place. Here you have a further medical and go though hours of filling in forms and lectures from people who used to be in the RAF to Charity workers asking if you will donate a small amount each month from your wages. Once your three days are up you are put on a coach and packed to RAF Honington which is in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. This is the home of the RAF Regiment and all the rest of your basic training is conducted here. When you arrive you are put into 10-14 man rooms which soon decreases as quite a few people leave in the first few days be it from home sickness or they just decide it isn?t for them. At the start of each there is usually between 50-60 lads but come Pass out day this can be as little as 10-15. The first six weeks of basic training is the same as what normal RAF people go though during in this time you are taught how to Iron your uniform correctly how to make your bed. You are also taught how to march. Also in the first six weeks you do endless amounts of physical training from a mile and half run to putting a 70lb pack on your back and speed marching (tabbing) 6 miles in under an hour and fifteen minutes. Also you spend many hours in the lecture room receiving endless amounts of lessons from when the RAF was formed to the basic functions of your weapon. You learn so much in your first six weeks and you start to change from being a civilian to a member of the Royal Air Force. ( Not the Regiment yet). Once your six weeks is up you Family is invited down to see you and how you?ve changed and you put on a small drill show for them and show them around y
our barrack block (where you live). At the end of this day you get a well earned break and are allowed home for a week. A few people decide to leave when they get home as they think they are missing out on something as they have been home and seen there mates. After the six weeks you are sent back to RAF Honnington and start training to become part of the RAF Regiment. Here you learn about your weapon from the different parts and how to fire it correctly. Basic first aid is one of the skills you will be taught which has been helpful to me on more than one occasion. Other lessons include teaching on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare. Most of your time however is spent on demanding physical exercise in preparation for the final endurance test, an exercise which can be anything from 7-10 days long. To prepare you for this there are a number of exercises that it is likely they will make you complete, such as map reading, 5 days sleep deprivation sleeping only 1-2 hours a day or 6 days living in a four man battle trench which you have to dig out yourself. Other elements to this training include: Adventure Training This is a very fun yet active part of the training and you will get to take part in activities such as, mountain biking, canoeing , abseiling, white water rafting and rock climbing. The RAF Physical Training Instructors take you on this so you can take a break from your instructors who are not there to shout or give you orders. Combat Infantry Training The point of this element is to fine tune your shooting skills, here you are taught how to use bayonets etc. This is usually a week long and you are on the shooting range all week to gain your shooting qualifications. The final exercise to this training consists of going into a mock village to learn how to take over houses in a mock war environment, this exercise in itself can be up to 10 days long. If you pass this exercise you can then for you final p
assing out parade, after which you are a fully fledged member of the RAF Regiment. This was the proudest day of my life, knowing that all my hard work and commitment had finally paid off. Life After Basic Training So far I have been on 3 Squadrons. My first was the disbanded Armament Defence Squadron (Special weapons security is all I am allowed to say!). The second was on the JNBCR (Joint Nuclear & Biological Chemical Regiment) with this squadron I was detached to the Gulf (Kuwait - Ali Al Salem) for 4 ½ months. I also played a part in the clear up for the foot and mouth outbreak while I was on this squadron. Also i have been based in Northern Ireland with 3 Squadron RAF Regiment and I have been here for 2 years. During my time with this squadron I have been deployed on various public order tasks during marching season which is when a lot of trouble could happen out here. I have also been involved in the fire strikes.I am currently serving at RAF Halton working to support the promotion coures. I have only been doing this for seven weeks so im still learning but at the moment it is going ecceptionally good and hopefully it will continue to be this way. Next I hope to go to the Queens Colour Squadron who are based in Uxbridge, this would involve ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace etc. There are 11 Squadrons in total spanning the whole of the UK. The squadrons are as follows: 1 Sqn - Field Sqn which is based at RAF St Mawgan in Newquay 2 Sqn - Parachute capable field squadron which is based at RAF Honnington in Suffolk 3 Sqn - Field Sqn with Internal Security duties which is based in Northern Ireland 15 Sqn - Rapier Sqn which is again based in Suffolk 16 Sqn - Rapier Sqn which is again based in Suffolk 26 Sqn - Rapier Sqn which is based in RAF Waddington in Lincoln 27 Sqn - JNBCR again in Suffolk 34 Sqn - Field Sqn based in RAF Leeming in Yorkshire 37 Sqn - Rapier Sqn which is based in RAF Witte
ring 51 Sqn - Field Sqn based in RAF Lossiemoth in Scotland 63 Sqn - Field/ceremonial Sqn in Uxbridge in London Summary So far I am enjoying life as a Rockape although it definitely wont be everyone?s cup of tea! I will admit that you get messed around a lot, for example being called back into work two days after my wedding! At the end of the day this is the military and your job is to protect and serve! I have a great social life and have made many friends, true friends. There are good and bad about everything, I get a fantastic wage and have a job that is secure but I pay for that by being on call 24 hours a day as you never know what you might be needed for. The promotion prospects are great so long as you put the effort in and also you get paid to travel! For example I am soon of to Holland for two weeks to do marching. Further info is available form www.rafcareers.com or message my GB and I will try and answer any questions. Specifics Age - 17 ½ upto 29 Pay - £13,850 - £36,150 Male only (RAF Regiment) Service length - 9 Years minimum Thanks for taking the time to read my op!! Ben
As I am currently serving in the Royal Air Force, I thought it best to give anyone who is thinking of joining up an idea of what they are letting themselves in for! The RAF has changed a lot and that is only in the past 10 years, I?m not one of the people that have been in a lifetime but I?ve done a fair bit. The RAF is changing with the times, it just seems to take us twice as long as anyone else! But we are getting there ? we even have computers! Firstly before you join up you have the option of being either what we call ?ground crew? which is all the trades based on the ground, or going for your commission which is for all officers including pilots and navigators, (ground crew aren?t allowed to fly fancy jets!) I?m not an officer but are ground crew and don?t regret not going for my commission, obviously everyone is different and if you feel you are up to the challenge of being an officer then go for it. The Royal Air Force is a good career and it has changed in the way that it was classed as a way of life, to being most of the time a ?normal? 9 to 5 job. You do get to travel around the world but this depends greatly on what trade you are. Everyone usually does a four month detachment, how frequently also depends on your trade. The poor chefs seem to go on detachment at least 2 or 3 times a year. But we do go to some nice warm countries as well as the cold ones! There a number of trades available in the ground trades for more information you are better logging on to the RAF website ? www.rafcareers.com or visiting your local AFCOs as there are too many to list. They will also be able to give you all the information on going for your commission etc. Certain trades require you to have a minimum number of GCSEs but others don?t require any. Obviously to be an Officer you will need a number of educational qualifications but the AFCO will be able to help you with that. If you do go for ground crew, you will
do your basic training at RAF Halton, Aylesbury. This is to ease you into military life and to learn how to make a bed pack! Might have changed by now though ? you probably get quilts! I thoroughly enjoyed basic training and you do get time to have a laugh ? honestly! People think that all they do is shot at you, obviously there has to be discipline as they are trying to change how you act from being someone off the street into someone in the military. They don?t beat you with sticks or make you stand out in the rain in your undies ? so don?t have nightmares about everyone seeing your Y fronts! Honestly, you will enjoy it, you may not think it at the time somedays, but believe me on your passing out parade you know it has all been worth it. (Proud day for mum and dad and an opportunity to show off your nice new uniform!) I don?t regret joining the Royal Air Force, it?s been the best thing I?ve ever done, I even met my future husband, so it hasn?t been bad for me. The pay is good, well better for the technical trades!, (yes my husband is a ?techie?) and you have the knowledge that you have a job for the next 9 ? 22 years. If you do serve 22 years or longer you also get a good pension at the end of it, so if you joined at 18 you?ll have a pension by the time you are 40!! Not many people can say that. They do look after you and we definitely have a different sense of humour! Sometimes a bit strange!?! But I have nothing but praise for the RAF, obviously I enjoy my job and I try and get the most out of the RAF so make the most of it whilst you can., you only live once.