RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

It’s Not Just Cricket…

There is a lot in the news about at the moment regarding Kevin Pieterson, and his decision to fly out to the Cricket World 20:20 Competition late – and then reserve the right to fly home when his wife goes into labour for the birth of their first child.

Apparently some old cricketer has suggested that he is mad to do this and that the cricket should come first – that he lacks commitment and shouldn’t be allowed to go home.I’m blown away by this. Really. I can’t understand how someone could say that.But why am I blogging about it?

Well, it’s an issue that is not far away from what members of the military are faced with – particularly in these days of enduring operations overseas.

Quite often we see pictures or soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors returning home from an operation to meet a baby that they have not seen for 6 months – or even to meet a baby that has been born whilst they have been away.  Occasionally we hear stories of people returning home in a coffin to a family with a new baby or a pregnant woman. It’s tragic, but it is something that is again part of service life.

But there is a difference between these cases and the Pieterson case.  In Kevin’s case, he has a choice. He can choose between the sport he plays and his family – and (in my mind) he has made the right choice. There is not much that would have gotten between me and the births of ANY of my children. Indeed, I was detached some 90 miles away during the latter stages of my ex-wife second pregnancy and when she went into labour I was able to rush home quickly to get to the bedside in plenty of time. But the vast majority of people who are sent Out Of Area (OOA) have very little choice in it. Particularly if they go out there as part of formed unit – like a flying squadron or an infantry unit. If I were to be sent out to do an individual job out there, I might have a bit of lee-way with the drafter over the dates I would go (not much, but maybe a little), particularly if there was something like a birth due – maybe I could have my deployment delayed by 6 months.

As I say, I have been lucky, and have always been in the country close to the birth of my kids, and so can’t imagine what it must be like to be away for a momentous occasion such as that.  The only thing I have that comes close is when I was deployed to Italy in the late 90’s for four months, my father had to go into hospital for a heart by-pass operation. I was put on standby to return home if anything went wrong…thankfully nothing did and I stayed in Italy for the duration of the deployment, but I was ready to go home and the admin support team had got standby tickets ready for my emergency return. Similarly my brother was serving in the Falklands and had to return at very short notice when he had a heart attack…the RAF Compassionate Cell swung into action and he was home very quickly.

But still there is the case that at times people CAN’T come home for momentous family events. My old Flight Sergeant at Cosford told me of the time he was in Saudi for the First Gulf War in 1991.  In this case his daughter was due to be born whilst he was out there and of course the shooting war started and his wife went into labour – he missed the birth – and to this day his wife doesn’t let him forget it if they ever have an argument…and that is a trump card his wife has that he can’t beat. It’s kind of the Ace of Hearts of argument cards to play…

But again, I digress. I don’t blame Kevin Pieterson. Not at all. If he has a choice to come home for the birth he should. Would he face the same criticism if he were to return home for the death of a family member? I think not. But like I said earlier, he has a choice – but what a choice!

It’s not an easy choice like chosing the flavour of an ice cream at the cinema, he is being forced to choose between family and representing his country at a sport. Imagine being in Pieterson’s shoes. Having to make a choice like that? What would you do? What would you say to your partner? What would your partner say to you? And irrespective of what they said, what would they really be thinking…and what would be said later…just as in the case of my old FS…

In some way Pieterson is in a no-win situation – he can’t please everyone – and then when he has made that choice he is then criticised for it…That is not really fair.I think he has made the right decision and should be supported by everyone in that. But at least he has got a choice over what he can do.

There are some who are currently in places that are a lot less nice than Jamaica for a cricket competition. Some people are faced with a similar situation of a dilemma between family and country, but in their case they don’t have a choice – well they do. But their choice becomes between their family and staying in the military…

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3 thoughts on “It’s Not Just Cricket…

  1. I can remember something I was told whilst working at RAF PMC Innsworth, which was true then, will be true now, and whilst I told Innsworth is now an Army Unit, still validates all of the above. It wasn’t simply this “the RAF recruits from Civvy St, & so we get to deal with all that takes place in Civvy St, the births the deaths the marriages the divorces the mad axe men!” Now to be fair usually the mad axe men are few (but then they are in Civvy St also), the rest just happens as you would expect. I remember as a young airman on a first tour in Germany being well upset at pulling the short straw for Duty Clerk over the xmas, new year period. “Why do I need to be hear” I protested, “Nothing will occur” I continued, I just wanted to be home with my family for xmas!
    Anyway by the 2nd January when I had dealt with between 8-12 seriously ill, very seriously ill or fatalities (airmen/women family members at home in the UK who had been taken ill) I had a less self centred outlook on the subject. I like to think I played my part in getting them home asap to their families that xmas, but it taught me a valuable lesson also. Then fast forward to a drafting cell (cell was just the name for the office, honest!) and the jolly jape dart board sent in by some techie with each dart board number being assigned a RAF station, 20 being where they wanted to be posted to and 3 being RAF St Athan, where they had clearly had multi tours due to Q annotations (it’s just like corgi 4 gas fitters). But it was never always just as simple as that, honest, enter “mad axe man” or other such circumstance that stopped individual A getting a posting to Station B. As I said life still went on, in one case SNCO (FS) A put Sgt B on constant night duty telling B he was needed to keep the troops in line on nights, whilst he A was actually having an affair with B’s wife knowing full well he wouldn’t be home at night! Needless to say whilst those two SNCOs’ could continue to serve in the RAF following disciplinary action on A, neither could be posted to the same station or “mad axe man” might occur! Just life you see, and then there was the “Casualty Reporting Cell”
    again, just an office a co ordination of VSI SI & Deaths, in the main thankfully during my time, these were all “paper exercise” ones. Why would such a thing be done you may ask, that’s a bit morbid? Well like anything else in the Military, to train & improve for the real thing, that had happened before and might happen again in the future. Thus to this day, where sadly the CRC or whatever it is called now will not be paper exercise and will no doubt have been improved upon from my day. I don’t know what present day difficulties they face, but I do know, or at least I think I know with a certain amount of certainty, that there will still be everything possible done to help Servicemen/women in these circumstances, ongoing Operations can only make things more difficult, but they will try, because it’s just all life.

  2. From a woman’s point of view, if he was my husband I would want him with me of course. But should his job deem essential, that he is away, then I would prefer he was. Imagine if he is on the best form of his life, and has the best test ever….He would never forgive her, if she made him leave half way through..

  3. Taxydual on said:

    My attiture has never changed.

    As long as I’m there for the conception, I’m not fussed about the birth bit.

    After all, it can’t be all that difficult giving birth. If it was, they wouldn’t give the job to women!!

    To be read, very much, with tongue in cheek.

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