On 3 May 2000 at the age of 17, I swore into the Royal Air Force. I had little idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I'd grown up with the RAF and it seemed like a good place to be while I figured it out. I graduated Recruit Training Squadron (RTS), RAF Halton in Jul 2000 with 11 Flight and began my Trade Training at RAF Cosford in September of that year. I bonded closely with my course mates, playing football against other courses and Goldeneye on the N64 against each other. I became so good at Goldeneye that on one occasion a furious Aircraftsman Brad Rhodes ejected me from his room. We graduated RAF Cosford as Telecommunications Operators (TCO) in Mar 2001.
My 1st tour as a TCO was to the Tactical Communications Wing (TCW), RAF Brize Norton. I deployed several times during this tour, to: Oman (I was on Exercise in Thumrait on 11 Sep 2001), Iraq (3 times, to Umm Qasr, Shai'bah and Balad), South Carolina (USA) and Fujairah (UAE), among others. I also recall my Flight Sergeant (FS) asking me if I wanted to Commission as an Officer. When I responded that I didn't think I was 'officer material', he responded that if I did so at a young age, the adjustment would be easier. It took too many years for me to realise he was telling me that I should. I was awarded the Iraq Medal during this tour.
I was rewarded with a posting to Cyprus Communications Unit (CCU) Episkopi, in August 2005. Responsible for maintenance of various communications systems across the island, I also spent 3 months at RAF Cosford as my trade realigned to emerging Information Systems, into the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Trade. Among various other skills, I learned to build (physically and logically) computers, build and rewire cables and plugs and to build and maintain networks. I returned to Cyprus and as my tour came to a close, I learned to scuba dive with an Army Adventurous Training Centre at Dhekelia.
A tour at RAF Benson followed, where I was made responsible for fixed and mobile voice communications across the station. I led a small team in installing supporting systems for Air Traffic Control and the 3 Flying Squadrons, along with a pool of mobile devices for deployed personnel. During this tour, I deployed to the Falkland Islands for 4 months, as the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of the ICT Service Desk. The role was uninspiring, though I enjoyed a great relationship with the other Sections, played music across most of the bars on station and even rescued a penguin at Volunteer Point. On my return I applied for the role of Drill Instructor, RTS. I was invited to a Potential Instructor Assessment where I delivered a presentation, attended an interview and observed some training. I was accepted in Oct 2012. I was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal during this tour.
To date, my role as a Drill Instructor at RTS has been the most rewarding. I believe that training, mentoring and developing the aviators of the future is the highest level of responsibility that an RAF Corporal can attain. The level of influence of the RTS Corporal over the trainees eclipses that of the Sergeant or even the Flight Commander and should not be taken lightly. As I came into my own as a Drill Instructor, training recruits in Foot and Arms Drill, General Service Knowledge, the Core Values (Respect, Integrity, Service (before self) and Excellence) and equipment maintenance and preparation, I came to recognise that I was in fact 'officer material', but that the term wasn't valid at all. My recruits looked up to me and trusted me and for the first time, I realised I was a leader. I had also taken the opportunity to train the local Air Cadets (2409) Squadron in Foot Drill, in my free time, one evening per week. During a Battlefield Tour of the Somme and Flanders, I had the incredible honour of leading a parade of recently-graduated Servicepersons at the Menin Gate Ceremony, Ypres. I resolved to apply for a Commission, with one eye on the credibility it would lend me as a future Parliamentary Candidate. I undertook my English and Maths IGCSEs to improve on my grades (later taking English all the way to A Level) and achieve eligibility for commissioning. I then began the long-winded process of application and selection.
Throughout my tour of RTS I oversaw 13 consecutive intakes of RAF recruits, around 1000 by my estimation. It was validating to meet their families as they graduated and to receive their gratitude. It has also been rewarding to happen upon many of the Servicepersons I trained, across the RAF in the years since. I was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal during this tour.
Between my tour of RTS and the beginning of my Initial Officer Training, I was briefly stationed at RAF Cranwell, Imjin Barracks and RAF Brize Norton. The tour at Brize Norton enabled me to supervise a diving expedition off Malta and to return to the Adventurous Training Centre in Cyprus, to assist them with the training of new divers. I also had the honour of calling the salute at the National Cenotaph in Westminster, as the RAF Drill Instructor at London Pride 2018.
I began Initial Officer Training at RAF College Cranwell in Jun 2018, with B Squadron. As I had at RAF Cosford, I quickly bonded with my course mates and spent much of Term 1 assisting the Direct Entrants with their Weapon Handling, equipment preparation and Foot Drill. In Term 2, I passed both major academic Training Objectives at the 1st attempt. I also scored a winning goal with a long-range, hypersonic missile, during inter-Squadron football. Regardless, it was determined that I needed to undertake the training again, and I was reassigned to D Squadron. It was a difficult decision to accept, and I spent the first few weeks of Term 1 focusing much of my energy on not withdrawing. As it happened, helping my new course mates gave me all the motivation I needed. I was fortunate to have shared a room with Officer Cadet Hudson, a Direct Entrant so brilliantly naïve, that the hours spent winding him up became weeks, then months. Our comedic double-act became one of the most recognisable bromances of the course. At the end of Term 2, I was elected by my fellow cadets to represent them to the College Commandant (an Air Commodore), as the Senior Under Officer. My pitch at the hustings, citing the help I'd provided my peers and the motivation that had given me, was so well received that it reinforced my longer-term ambition to stand for Parliament. My Squadron Commander was ecstatic that I was his man, though he practically force-fed me his Debretts Guide to Etiquette as he begged me not to ruin his reputation. In fact, his reputation survived several meetings between me and the Commandant throughout Term 3, throughout which I presented him with the collective concerns of my fellows and my suggestions to improve the College. In the final week of the course, I delivered the End of Course Review presentation to my peers and Directing Staff, to an overwhelmingly positive response. I also scored a long-range, hypersonic missile in inter-Squadron football.
After graduating RAF College Cranwell with D Sqn in Oct 2019, I completed the RAF Police Officer Course at the Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG), Southwick Park. DSPG is a charismatic, Joint Service establishment from which in 1944, D Day was planned and executed. I'll never become complacent of the fact that I had daily access to Southwick House, from which Sir Winston Churchill and General Dwight Eisenhower led the free world to victory.
My first tour as a Provost Officer was a staff tour at HQ No. 7 Air Mobility Security Sqn, followed by a tour at No. 4 Force Protection Wing after a year. As an Operational Planning Officer, I participated in the planning and execution of the Force Protection element of Operation PITTING, the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I remain uneasy at our withdrawal from Afghanistan, but it was a success from a Force Protection perspective. I was awarded the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Medal during this tour.
In 2022 I was assigned to DSPG in the role of 2IC Training Support Sqn, where I was primarily responsible for the morale and output of several teams. I progressed significantly as an Officer throughout this tour, guiding some of my personnel through significant trauma, developing some outstanding NCOs and managing some challenging personalities. In Mar 2023, I hosted the DSPG Awards Night, having project managed the event from conception. I had the not-entirely-coincidental honour of hosting the Mayor of Winchester and Councillor for Southwick and Wickham (both Liberal Democrats), and levelled some strong comedy at the Conservative Party throughout an evening which was later described by the outgoing Commandant (and member of the Conservative Party) as one of the highlights of his career.
Following an application to join the RAF Inclusivity team at Air Command, RAF High Wycombe, I was assigned to the team in Jun 2023.