Twenty Three Years…
Today, 7th July, is the anniversary of my Attestation into the Royal Air Force.
Today is my 23rd Anniversary, which I am reliably informed is the “Silver Plate” anniversary.
And I honestly have to say that I can’t believe how fast it has gone. It’s hard to imagine that 23 years has actually passed by – I can still remember that Monday in the RAF Careers Office in Hanley (Stoke) when I took the Oath of Allegiance and officially became a member of the RAF.
And I can’t believe how things have changed…how I have changed…it is, quite honestly, amazing. Firstly amazing that I have managed to have stick it out for so long, and secondly amazing how the RAF has put up with me for so long too…
And in that time how the RAF has changed! It’s gone from 100,000 plus personnel to 40,000. It’s gone from being a fixed home defence organisation to being a deployable, mobile, expeditionary force. It’s changed almost in every way.
Not always for the better and not always for the worse though. It’s just different. There is a different mentality about what we do, and how we do things – and that is a reflection on how the country and society that we recruit from has changed. We do things today that would have been impossible; for example 23 years ago seeing a pregnant airwoman or an openly gay couple was an impossibility – today these things are common-place.
Yes, we are different now to how we were. Back then a squadron had over 250 people – and easily over 100 people in on shift. Now a flying sqn has far, far less, approx 150 or so, and you’d be lucky to have 50 people actually in work on shift. And they are doing far, far more.
But some things are the same. We might be doing more work with less people, but what organisation isn’t? The people in the RAF are still, in my opinion, the very best. When I speak to people who have left the RAF, the one thing they miss are the people. It is the people who not only hold the RAF together, but it is the people in the RAF who give it identity, give it a purpose and work hard to make sure we keep up the tradition that is strong within the service.
We are a different organisation, but we are still the same. We may work harder, but we work cleverer. We are leaner, fitter and more prepared to face the challenges of a difficult and complicated world. The RAF I am in today as I sit at my desk is completely different in organisation, structure and pretty much in role to the one I joined.
But it is still the same. It still does what it has to. It does what it is asked to do. It will continue to do so.
And that is because, although the people are different, it is still the people in the RAF that makes it what it is.