Hello, it’s Alex again on Sunday evening, July 24th, having now completed 4 out of 11 weeks of the Basic Training programme at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. I have had another very busy week with early starts (05.30am) and late finishes (midnight)! My ‘Chuff Chart’ is now looking very busy with stickers which ‘tick off’ each day which has passed. There is only one week left now of the first phase of the programme and the news is that next Friday is our first pay day, which is rather exciting!
A key achievement for me this past week was undertaking a General Serve Knowledge progress report test, and I got 88%. However, there is no resting on our laurels, as there is a second one tomorrow!
These tests evaluate our knowledge acquired from the lessons attended to date about the history of the RAF, tri-service rank structures, basic detail of the other two Armed Forces, RAF bases around the world, serving and historic aircraft, and the uniform worn by RAF personnel. Beliefs, values and principles are taught to reiterate the values that the RAF holds, as well as the varying beliefs that various religions choose to follow. Finally, drill is an opportunity for all recruits to come together as a squad, and we have learnt how and when to salute, the rudiments of drill and marching in a squad.
Drill practice is getting more complicated and you have to learn the moves quickly and keep up. We had a particularly bad drill practice during the week and were as a group told in no uncertain terms how utterly awful we were, but something must have clicked, as yesterday we had drill practice again and the officers were so pleased with our progress, we were permitted to have the afternoon off. We changed into our civvies and went into Aylesbury together, had coffee and browsed the shops; it almost felt like my life before joining the Royal Air Force!
Fitness classes continue and the most enjoyable this week was a Spinning class (high energy workout on static bicycles where we were encouraged to sing at the tops of our voices which was very fun!
During the week I was nominated to be interviewed by a civilian who was undertaking a practice inspection along the lines of those undertaken by Ofsted. I didn’t know it was a practice run until afterwards, and felt honoured to have been selected to speak of my experiences at Halton. I attended with another recruit and as we walked towards the building for the interview I saw the Squadron Leader with other officers walking towards us; I knew this required us to salute, so I took control and said “Halt”, and then said “Salute” to show respect to the officers, who saluted back and told us to carry on! It was the first time I had saluted an officer outside of a practice session, and my heart was pounding in anticipation of getting it right! I am sure it will soon feel like second nature.
A real highlight of the week was the trip to the Royal Air Force museum in Hendon. It took an hour and a half on the coach and we were very excited about the trip. The site is huge and there are many different, fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, including the front half of a Chinook.
We were in civvies but allowed to take our military rucksacks, the only thing that marked us out as being in the RAF and we were proud to be wearing them! Myself and the other recruits who will be joining the Princess Mary Royal Air Force Nursing Service training (PMRAFNS) were delighted to find a section of the museum dedicated to the PMRAFNS. We sat and watched a DVD on the history of the PMRAFNS twice, as it was so interesting, as was a DVD about the Battle of Britain! Seeing a massive Lancaster Bomber up close was awe inspiring, and it is wonderful that examples of historic and modern aircraft are being preserved and maintained. We have been given a written assignment to complete which will test our knowledge and understanding from the visit to Hendon.
RAF Halton is particularly busy at present as we are preparing for a major annual inspection by a senior visiting officer this week, so today we have been painting kerb stones, weeding, and undertaking general cleaning in order to present the very best possible impression.
In addition to this, there are several Air Training Corp (ATC) Squadrons on base; the cadets are here to experience life at RAF Halton and to understand more about recruitment and training opportunities within the Royal Air Force. My 17-year-old brother is a Corporal in the ATC, and has been attending for 5 years. He has gained so much from this experience, such as participating in the Nijmegen 100 mile marches in Holland in 2010 and supporting community projects and charitable events. He has not visited RAF Halton but has visited several other RAF bases as well as undertaking a week-long work experience at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.
All in all, we have had an amazing week; it has been hard work, tiring but rewarding and enjoyable! Sorry, got to go, those boots need polishing, revision to be done for the GSK test tomorrow and work to do on my written assignment! Goodbye for now!
Best wishes from AC Doyle (Alex!)