‘Esprit de Corps’ in the Military and Beyond

Over 35 years ago now, as a young 16-year-old, I “jumped” the bus from my home to St Helens to go to my appointment at the Armed Forces Career’s Office.

As I walked through the door, I was met with an option of a turn left into the Navy Office or right into the RAF. I stopped and looked up at the metal bar across the Navy entrance and was promptly addressed by a Royal Marine who stated “10 pull-ups to come in here!”. To my right was a comfortable chair and what looked like tea. I promptly turned right into a career lasting nearly 30 years.

Why you ask? At that age I was driven to find a job and be successful. Opportunities for school leavers in Liverpool at that time were challenging but I wasn’t going to fail. No-one in my family was in the military that I could remember but I opted for a career in the RAF.

There are a few things you should know about me. I was brought up in an area of Liverpool called Huyton and was and still am passionately loyal to firstly my street, secondly my school and then Huyton in general. Travelling to St Helens may as well have been a trip abroad. Everton is my team and it is well known that I prefer to see Liverpool lose than to see Everton win. Loyalty!

My first squadron was 16 Sqn based at Laarbruch in Germany. I arrived with my shiny shoes and confidently strolled into the “Liney’s” crewroom. I wasn’t an engineer so within moments I was grabbed, bundled into a mail sack and dispatched to 20 Sqn who subsequently posted me back to my rightful place back at 16 Sqn Ops. Although probably completely inappropriate, once I walked back into the crewroom I was immediately accepted into the team and had the best time! 16 Sqn was my favourite unit – it was a team.

During the 90’s I was on 201 Sqn flying Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft out of Kinloss. Not only was I on the best Sqn in the world but I was on the best crew and the very best dry team ever! My wife has always said that I loved that Sqn more than I loved her, which is incorrect. In fact, I loved the dry team more. During that period and again later in my career I had an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Finding the ‘enemy’ on land or sea or searching for a lost soul gave me (and the crew) an overwhelming feeling of pride.

An RAF Nimrod MR2 on patrol in the skies over the North Pole. MoD Crown Copyright 2002.

So finally I joined Inzpire and found myself working at the Air Battlespace Training Centre with our synthetic training experts. I suddenly learnt a lot more about the Army and Navy in a couple of months than I had in nearly 30 years in the RAF.

Working alongside the Royal Navy at HMS Collingwood it was soon obvious how different the Royal Navy is to the RAF whilst both serve under HM Forces. With the Royal Navy it is all about the protection of the ship and the task force (rightly so) but with the RAF it is about protecting the whole area of responsibility (rightly so) and each unit has a mindset to achieve that. I have never heard anyone serving in the Royal Navy say they dislike going to sea whilst most in the RAF wouldn’t even contemplate it. What I have learnt from the Royal Navy is that they are loyal, work as a team and operate with immense pride.

My experience is the same with the Army. Working with the Royal Artillery during Ex STEEL DRAGON, each battery considers itself the best and leagues above any other battery, and although the Army prides itself on uniformity across all units, you can see elements of positive tribalism that promotes a healthy level of competition. I am always impressed by the professionalism and determination of each unit.

Exercise STEEL DRAGON June 2019, MoD Crown Copyright Beth Roberts

So, I think it is human nature to be tribal. Once you are in a group of any description, it is human nature to be loyal to them and to be proud of that team of individuals. It is almost impossible not to be! Leicester City won the Premiership not because of individual talent but team effort input by everyone, who were loyal to one another and proud of the individual and team achievements.

This is also true for Inzpire. We all work under one umbrella but within our individual teams. We all operate with pride, loyalty and teamwork with the ultimate aim of success.

The author of this blog has chosen to remain anonymous.