I had only been on the Squadron, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, for a little under a year since finishing the Tornado conversion course in April 2002. I was thrilled to have been sent to the mighty IX (Bomber) Squadron, and even more thrilled to be deploying on operations so soon after arriving. It was quickly apparent that I had joined an outstanding team who had a reputation for excellence.
During the 4 months we were based in Kuwait and flying over Iraq I learned a huge amount, both about myself and also about teamwork and leadership. I experienced various leadership styles, some good and some not so good, all of which helped shape the sort of leader I would become when the opportunities were presented to me further down the line. I witnessed how confusing the battlespace could be despite the huge investments made in technology designed to prevent errors, and how mistakes could result in terrible accidents and loss of life. I was fortunate enough to fly with and employ the huge number of weapons that the Tornado GR4 was equipped with, and learned how to use these weapons with flexibility depending on the task we were set, even if perhaps they had not originally been designed to be used in that way. I learned that adrenaline can make you talk so quickly during mission debriefs that “fielded forces” can end up sounding exactly like “fields of horses”; I also learned from all of the repercussions you might expect to be associated with such an error! All of these lessons, and many more, made me a better Officer for the remainder of my RAF career.
Now, 15 years later, I am no longer in the RAF but am still part of an outstanding team who continually strive for excellence. I am immensely proud to have been a part of the RAF’s first 100 years, and to have had the honour to work alongside some amazing people. In my current role I am fortunate to be able to continue to work as part of the RAF team, where Inzpire personnel are embraced and empowered as if we were still serving in uniform. The introduction of the 5th generation F35B Lightning later this year will help ensure that the RAF and its personnel continue to lead from the front for the next 100 years.
Per Ardua ad Astra.