After months of planning by a small team our Families’ Day went ahead in glorious sunshine, despite the possibility of the day becoming a mini Glastonbury due to the week-long rain and wind. Over 320 serving squadron personnel, their families, friends and 4624 Squadron Association members gathered to make the day truly memorable.
Following the opening address by the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Bev Peart, the annual Medals and Squadron Awards ceremony began, this year held on Squadron lines in front of a large and appreciative audience. The Presenting Officer was the Squadron’s Honorary Air Commodore, Air Marshal Philip Sturley CB MBE FRAeS CCMI RAF (Rtd) who graciously presented firstly the Volunteer Reserve Service Medals (VRSM) and Clasp before moving onto the Squadron awards. These awards take various forms from HAC’s Certificates through to the Commanding Officer’s Trophy, and ultimately, the highly coveted Honorary Air Commodore’s Trophy awarded this year to SAC Pauline Griffiths-Jeans.
For the first time in the Squadron’s history, the opportunity was given to families and friends to experience military flights. OC 622 Sqn, Sqn Ldr Roisin O’Brien, originally offered the squadron a couple of C130 Hercules flights – brilliant we thought. A week before the event, she also offered an A400M! This was quite unprecedented and music to our ears and we are so appreciative of the support and personal assistance she gave us. Ultimately 3 x C130 and 2 x A400M flights flew, taking a total of 209 passengers on the trip of a lifetime. Passengers were given full access to the flight deck in-flight and the crews were fantastic, especially towards the more nervous passengers. Families were even treated to flying with the ramp open, a little daunting for some at first, but it offered fantastic views of the local area and drew jealous comments from squadron members yet to experience this!
Passengers were processed solely by squadron personnel; an opportunity for the Operational Flights to showcase the Airport of Embarkation (APOE) element of their Logistics (Movements) role. The ATSy role was carried out by corporals from No.3 (RAuxAF) Tactical Police Squadron from RAF Honington. Passengers were scanned, bags checked and given the security brief following which they boarded the coach to their allocated aircraft. This was the closest any family member will get to going through the same process squadron personnel undertake when deploying overseas on operations.
There were plenty of activities on offer; around the Squadron the Operational Flights hosted their own activity areas including an auction and tombola arranged by A Flight. It was so popular that they quickly ran out of tickets to sell! Proceeds went to one of the Squadron’s chosen charities – Prospect Hospice in Swindon – raising £300 for this very worthwhile cause. The only dedicated end of life care provider in the Swindon, Marlborough and north east Wiltshire area, it is funded through voluntary donations. “The £300 could pay for five families to be fully supported by our Family Support team” said their Events and Community manager Genevieve Arney.
Cadets from 2120 (Witney) Air Training Corps Squadron kindly supported the event with their flight simulator which was a fantastic opportunity for all ages to test their skills. The Regiment Section brought out all their big guns (literally) with a vast array of weapons on display; for the younger members the bouncy castle and goodie bags generously donated by the RAF Families Federation also proved very popular.
Since the Families’ Day we have received many letters and messages of thanks. Flt Lt Mike Caffrey, OC 2120 (Witney) ATC Sqn summed it up “I appreciate that seats were limited and it was an incredible act of generosity on the part of your Squadron to include my Cadets and Staff …. In my 17 year military and military reserve career, I have not been to a families’ day as well organised as yours”. This event did not happen by chance, an enormous amount of effort was put into the day by so many individuals, both within and outside RAF Brize Norton. We are extremely grateful to all those who gave their time to make this the truly amazing day that it was; it is going to be a very hard act to follow!