RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Getting Close…

‘As you are aware, your entitlement to occupy Service Families Accommodation is conditional on your continued employment by HM Forces and it ceases on your final day of service.’

Time…you can’t get in the way of it.  It surges on. Like Canute you might try to think you can deal with it, but it will, like the tide just wash over you.  It’ll overwhelm you and nothing can stop it.

And my time is running out.  Time in the RAF that is.  I now only have 6 working days left.  Well, a couple of extra days doing stuff like ‘clearing’ and handing my kit back, but pretty much I have 6 days at work.

And it’s when you realise that you have enough shirts left hanging up and you will never need to iron another ‘Shirt, Short Sleeves, RAF, Wedgwood Blue’ that you suddenly realise that time is overwhelming you.

And I have so much to do. Move house, find a job, find a purpose.  Because, frankly, the RAF has provided me with all those things for the last 25 years. OK, there were times when I lived in my own house but, the RAF has always been there for me to provide me with all those things.  I live in a service house – gotta move. I have a service job – gotta change. I have a purpose – gotta find one.

And all three are hard.  It’s like the ultimate growing up.  I like to think my life is fairly grounded and I am aware of the civvy world, but I have a feeling it is going to take some getting used to.  The house thing is easy. We have found a place that we want to live in, in an area that we like and works for us both; close to my family, close to my wife’s family; in the countryside, at a price we can afford.

We are going to be waiting for all the various elements of money to arrive from the various sources, MrsF’s end of service gratuity payment in October, my gratuity and redundancy money in January and are going to be able to put down a very sizeable deposit on a house – hopefully the one that we are going to move into that we have just applied to rent. So, yeah, the house thing isn’t that big a deal, and the service, because I am being made redundant are going to pay for the removals, so there is a big bit of stress relieved.

But then there are the other two things.  The job.  The purpose. For years…for 25 years and 5 months and 4 days my job and my purpose will have been inextricably linked. The one thing and the other both mutually compatible.  Almost indistinguishable.  One able to be replaced by the other.  BEING in the RAF was a job and a purpose.  In fact it’s interesting that I considered myself as BEING in the RAF…whereas that letter…the one that began with that paragraph at the top of this post considered me to be ’employed by’ the RAF… I guess it’s funny.  To me being in the RAF wasn’t a job, it was a purpose. It was a reason for me to be me.

And when I leave, when I have finished my 6 working days, and am on my terminal leave before the Big Day on the 11th December when I am no longer part of the RAF…what will I be?

A civilian? Ex-service? Unemployed? I honestly don’t know.  I certainly don’t know what I want to do for work when I leave. Ok I have ideas.  Lots of ideas.  I could do the same sort of thing as I do now – a sort of Management Consultancy job.  Or I could go to work in a factory. Or I could go and work in a coffee shop. Or I could start my own business as a Dog Walker.  Or set up my own training company. Or become a Teaching Assistant. Or try to find work writing. But I haven’t decided…can’t decide…can’t really think about what I want to do, or who I want to do it for.

I guess I will eventually decide.  We are lucky because with our two service pensions coming in, between MrsF and myself we will have a modest, but survivable income. Enough to pay for a small mortgage on the house we will be able to buy, enough to live on – just – but the pressure of finding a job quickly isn’t on me.

I want a job. I want to be able to bring in enough so my wife is well looked after.  So my living at home daughter has all she needs.  So my older children at University have some cash to help pay for their accommodation and won’t be saddled with huge debts. And I want a job that will give me a reason. A purpose.

I remember my father. He was in the RAF. He left the RAF and went to work…for the RAF as a civilian.  He worked all his life in or for the service. And when he retired and he stopped…he just stopped. He associated his work with his life and with his purpose and when he stopped working he stopped living. By his 67th year he was dead.  He simply died. And I don’t want that to be me. I want to carry on.  I want to have a purpose, a reason to go on.

I know I am not quite my dad’s age yet, but my point is that I, like my dad, need a reason.  A reason to go on.  Maybe my reason will be to relax and just enjoy myself. God knows I want to relax and chill and catch up with myself.  But to be able to separate what you do from what you are…it’ll be an interesting thing to attempt.

Because in the RAF, in all the Armed Forces, what you do IS what you are. You are a member of the RAF. In the Army. You are a Sailor or a Marine. The role you do is what makes you; what defines you. That’s not quite the same in the Civvy world.  The Service wraps your identity up inside itself, making you part of something bigger. Part of an organisation with a history, a tradition. With values and beliefs and ways of thinking that are different; ways of working that are different; ways of speaking that are different.  You are not just part of the RAF or whatever, you are part of something bigger that you. Better than you. That stands for something, that embodies something.  That means something.

And like I said. That question I asked…when I leave the RAF.  What will I be? A civilian? Ex-RAF? What…?

That is the big question.  And it’s quite a scary one, and this is the first time I have talked about it. Because even though I applied for redundancy.  Even though I knew it was my time to leave, because the RAF isn’t the same as it was when I joined and my time in it is just up.  Actually leaving and moving on is going to be so bloody hard.  Because when what you do makes you what you are, and you are no longer that thing…what are you? Who are you?

It’s almost time to find out.

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16 thoughts on “Getting Close…

  1. It’s a scary thing making decisions and choices that affect your whole life. While I have never been in the services my job was pretty much my life for well over 15 years and now I find myself, through no choice of my own, without a job and as you say, without a purpose, I find myself floundering. I have plans and ideas but actually seeing them through to fruition is going to be tough. I hope everything works out for you x

  2. Hazel Uzzell on said:

    My husband left the Royal Marines 40 years ago and the Reserves 20 years ago. He had several jobs, then started his own business, which kept us comfortably. Inside he is still ‘ a Marine’ That’s who he is, that’s what he will always be 🙂

  3. Russell Samuel on said:

    I do wish you and your family so well.I am ex.RAF.

  4. Its not so bad really. I was in the police for thirty years and felt the same as retirement approached. I am fortunate to have come out with a good pension that more than meets our needs so I decided not to work. I had had enough of being in charge of things and 7 years later I still just enjoy the freedom of doing what we want now I no longer have to worry about lots of other people.

    All the very best to you and your family for the future. Above all else remember this is the time to enjoy yourselves as far as the money will allow.

  5. Well your writing is good, better than mine, so that might be the way to go. Whatever you are please don’t be someone who spends his time comparing everything in civilian work with what happened in the RAF, that becomes a bit, ahem, tiresome for your new colleagues!

  6. David (RAF retired) on said:

    To answer one of your questions from my experience. When I left the RAF, 35 years ago, I considered myself ex-RAF. I still do. When ‘my’ squadron lost an aircraft a few years ago along with all the crew I wrote to the CO with my condolences as ‘an ex member of the squadron. The reply I got was ‘ once in the family, always in the family. You may leave; you will go on to do other things; but you will always be ‘part of the family’.
    Good luck with the rest of your life: enjoy it. What ever you do, put your heart in it and you will go far.

  7. I an ex-RAF.

  8. Paul Fitzpatrick on said:

    I’ve worked in the construction industry for as long as you have been in the RAF, and the thought of having to leave and start again is terrifying

    Good luck for the future, whatever happens keep writing, keep Blogging

  9. Zygmunt Heinrich on said:

    It’s funny, I did 7 years in the Army (joined at 17 and service didn’t start till 18 though no-one explained that when I joined) in the Red Caps. Left to join the Police Service to do ‘proper ‘ police work – did 31 years there. Been retired for 8 years now though still work for the police service. What am I? What do I see myself as? Strangely as an ex-squaddie more then an ex-police officer. I agree with a previous posting – once in the family, always in the family. Funny that. Anyway, you helped me and my daughter while my son was out in Afghan (he’s TA, 7 Rifles but did his mobilisation with 5 Rifles on Herrick15) – for that, many thanks. Good luck for the future. Will await your blogs but I don’t think you’ll have a problem.

  10. I left in 2006, we will be “ex RAF” until we shuffle off this mortal coil. Every time you have been posted you just got on with whatever job the gits at PMA gave you, now you have to choose. You have a family, so salary is important but for want of less management blx phrase you have convertable skills. What civvie street finds difficult is easy. It’s GST1 stuff, make a decision, stick with it unless it proves to be bad. Then reassess, and carry on.
    I was so scared of taking a job that paid less than a JT it wasnt true. I took advice from friends and may be poor by government statistics but am richer on many levels.
    You are who you are, with the skills you’ve been taught, MBA’s and degrees will never teach you much more than you know already.
    On looking inside, you will find…………………
    Good luck.

  11. The big thing you will notice is there are no orders to follow, and in many cases nowhere to turn. Form plan A and Plan B and if things are hard remember behind every dark cloud is s silver lining. I was N Service and an ex member that training stays with you for ever and is the inner creed that you follow. Most of all enjoy this factor of your life and never be afraid to talk over ideas with some one who you trust. Best wishes for the future. Dave Brierley

  12. Sue Huzzey on said:

    my husband was made redundent on friday after 18 years working for the same company. Today he started working for himself, doing garden maintenance, and our 16yr old had his first day at college doing Horticulture, with an eye for working for his Dad…a day of ” as one door closes, another opens..” we survived our first day of a whole new beginning, and so will you…best of luck!! xxx

  13. Best of luck to you. One thing I know for sure, simply from reading your blog and following you on Twitter: you will find something to do that you enjoy and you will do it well.

  14. And so the multitude of conflicting emotions kick in, go with them and embrace your new adventures with your family. We’ve gone from shock, to fear, to excitment, to sadness all everything inbetween after redundancy and made it through the other side together x

  15. When I left the RAF I got rid of all my black socks and that was about as rebellious as I got. I also found it hard not to stroll though M&S and think, “ooh that shirt is a nice shade of pale blue”! Enjoy whatever fortune brings you in the future!

    • I left the world of the plumbers after 15 years, so no pension. I did have a house but it was still a worrying time. Things is, you do something, see if it works, if not, you move on.

      And Up.

      It has taken time, but I have found a place where I fit, using some of my engineering skills from the RAF. In the last 7 years I guess I have had half a dozen jobs, with each move it gets easier.

      The one rule I have now is that unlike Betty, my employer does not lay claim to all my time, if they do, they pay. Simple as that.

      I would rather be defined by my life now rather than what I did 15 years ago, but inside beats the heart of an armourer.

      I know ex-plums that are working in the ocean-going survey industry, one is controlling sattelittes for the European Space Agency, others are teachers, some run their own businesses.

      Our skills are transferable, and with the BTEC most of us have, is civillian recognised.

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