As regular RAFairman Blog readers will know, I’ve been in the RAF for a loooong time. over 22 years now, and I got to thinking recently, has it turned out like I’d expected?
Pretty much, yes, I’m glad to say. I have got as far as I thought I’d get, and if I get any further, then that’d be a bonus…but I also them got to thinking…What do I remember from my training all those years ago? (And this fits nicely to the question asked on Twitter recently about “what was my training like?”)
Well, actually I remember very little of it! It went by in a blur to be honest.
I can remember that Swinderby, where I did my basic training, was just tiring…up early every morning for a room, locker, or personal inspection, and then a day of marching about or else learning about how to handle a rifle or doing some PT. It was essentially learning about being in the RAF – General Service Knowledge…ranks, organisational structure, security, all that basic level stuff. Just imagine a 6 week induction programme to the organisation that you work for…with the opportunity to go to RAF North Luffenham and shoot a BIG rifle loads.
You see the event that I really remember from that was the Military Field Training Exercise. Our intake was split into three flights and we all went away to fight a little war against each other to test our military skills. And I was dreading it. I was a freshfaced 17 year old, straight out of school, never done much, not seen much, no experience of anything. I was also pretty unfit, and the rumour was that MFT was all about being run ragged.
We travelled to North Luffenham and were split down into sections of 8 or so, and allocated an RAF Regiment instructor who would look after us, test us, assess us. And ours had a bit of a reputation…
His name was Ryder. (This was 22 years ago and so I am not breaking any PerSec/OpSec rules by saying his surname!) and his nickname was “Knifeman” and he emerged from the instructors tent with a plethora of knives.
And that’s a LOT of knives. He had two “throwing” knives strapped to the front of his webbing. A bayonet and a combat knife on his belt. Two further throwing knives on the back of his shoulder straps, and across his shoulders he had a 9″ machete.
“Oh my God.” I whispered…
But then he spoke. “You guys are here to learn. There is no point testing you and ragging you. You haven’t been in long enough to know anything, so I am going to teach you. I am going to give you bloody wannabe techies a look at what it’s like to be in the RAF Reg. And have a laugh as well.”
“Work hard, and put the effort in and there’ll be no running, no ragging, no pissing you about. You do the work and you’ll learn something that, God-forbid, may save your life should the shit hit the fan.”
And whilst the rest of the sections were being run about, tabbing across the fields at the Luffenham exercise area, we moved about tactically. We learnt about line and arrowhead formation. We learnt about laying down suppressing fire and fire and manoeuvre drills. We learnt about crawling and ambushing.
Knifeman was a scary guy – he used to ask us questions for the Military Skills Exam and if we got the answer wrong, he’d use one of those knives and cut off a bit of our hair (something that would ever even be thought of happening nowadays!) – but he was fair and he was true to his word. We didn’t get ragged and we put in the effort.
And it was brilliant. Instead of being a time of pain and dread, it was fun, informative and I learnt loads. But most of all I learned some respect for the RAF Regiment and what they do and know.
And over the years that respect for them has only increased. And I like to think they had a bit of respect for me.
In my last job, I was the SNCO in charge of the modern day RAF Cosford Trainees own military field exercise. Well, sort of. It was a consolidation exercise that I have blogged about in the past, and on it I often had to lead section attacks and other military field skills training.
And I relied on the RAF Regiment instructors to help me, and one day after a couple of weeks leave I returned to work and the exercise to be greeted by one of the RAF Reg lads saying…”It’s good to have you back. It’s nice to have a ‘guin who was a clue…”
And I think that “clue” is down to Cpl “Knifeman” Ryder. I’d love to have the chance to thank him now…but I suspect he’d be LONG out of the RAF now…But if you do know an ex-RAF Regiment gent, probably in his late 50’s now, with a penchant for knives…then thank him for me…in his own way he helped make me the RAFairman I am today.