|5 May 2020|
This year's 75th anniversary of VE Day marks a very momentous occasion for the country. We must honour the opportunity to remember our heroes, amongst them fellow OIs before us who selflessly made great sacrifices to serve us, and indeed, changed the course of history for the whole world. Their duty may be done but it remains ours to keep this event alive and passed through generations, both in memory and collective celebration.
Having been surrounded by a military ethos all my life, I highly regard the Armed Forces culture. The values, ethics and unique camaraderie that are cast in stone in the military personnel that I know, are character traits that I see within myself. Throughout my time at school I was exposed to a taste of that in the Combined Cadet Force where I reached the rank of Cadet Flight Sergeant. The responsibility I was given to lead the Royal Air Force section, coupled with the myriad opportunities such as attending Easter and summer camps at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus allowed me to develop my physical and mental courage. This certainly prepared me well for selection into the University Air Squadron which has served to further my appetite for a full-time military career.
I am most grateful for these opportunities, particularly those where comradery and the greatness and satisfaction that comes from supporting each other and accomplishing a goal is at the forefront. Indeed, I am an individual who is motivated by challenges which I endeavour to overcome through individual grit and determination, whilst contributing to the team effort. This is vividly demonstrated by one of my greatest achievements – the challenging 100 mile four day Nijmegen Marches which are, for me, a prime example that "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." My feet were covered in blisters, but it was more a mental battle as I knew my mind would give up before my feet did and was determined for this not to be the case. Suffice to say, the pride and joy I felt on the finish line after the 100th mile surpassed any feelings of pain or discomfort I had endured.
Another memorable highlight was participating in our Squadron’s Freedom of the City Parade where we had the honour of exercising our freedom of the city of Nottingham. Whilst parading is a routine part of military service, the overwhelming sense of pride I feel wearing the Queen’s uniform never grows old. This sense of pride was further experienced in my two weeks on Centre Court at Wimbledon where amongst many other serving Army, Air Force and Navy personnel, I worked as a Service Steward at the heart of the public and supported such a significant sporting event.
The opportunities for outdoor training and adventurous sport are also plentiful. Despite having never sailed before, I was thrown straight in at the deep end and upon qualifying for my RYAS Day Skipper Licence in the autumn, I found myself at the helm of a yacht sailing around the islands of Croatia the following summer with fellow squadron members on an adventurous training expedition. The military prides itself on developing individuals and I am a firm believer that that is achieved when we are pushed to our physical and mental limits, outside our comfort zone. You are surrounded by a group of individuals who will do nothing but support and encourage you and that family away from home is without doubt one of its greatest assets. I was honoured to be chosen to participate in a 3-week adventurous training expedition to the Guyanese jungle in South America. Primarily the arduous, challenging nature of the environment and hence the developmed qualities of determination determination, self-reliance, confidence, leadership and team ethos. Living in the austere environment such as that of the jungle relied solely on the morale and support of the team confirmed my desire to live life to the full in the company of like-minded individuals, seeing obstacles as an opportunity to display initiative.
My three years as an Officer Cadet in the University Air Squadron have given me first-hand to the meaning of the phrase: “You get out what you put in.” The fantastic opportunities, (not forgetting learning to fly a plane alongside university study) serve to enhance personal qualities, namely time management skills where you quickly become a master of maximising opportunities without sacrifice. Certainly, there is no obligation to join the Service upon graduation and it is indeed crucial that those who go into the civilian workforce take their positive experiences of their time as a Volunteer Reserve with them and spread the word.
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