Monthly Archives: August 2017

Exercise Hawley Shark

CIS Tp, 8 Brigade were recently lucky enough to partake in a weekend of adventure training. This was possible thanks to the generous contribution of SE RFCA. The 12th August saw eleven members of CIS Tp attend an introduction to water sports day at Hawley Lake. The day included a plethora of different activities including kayaking, paddle boarding, wind surfing and raft building. The next day we were back down to Hawley, and this time onto the training area to conduct some competitive orienteering.


It was a glorious start to the weekend as Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day, perfect for engaging in some lake related challenges. We started by meeting our instructors and getting kitted out in all the appropriate gear. Certain Troop members were less than pleased about putting on a wet suit. Our first activity was kayaking. Initially we spent a few minutes getting used to paddling and keeping ourselves balanced. After we had got a feel for the water our instructors then informed us it was time to “play some games”. We played kayak football and very quickly learnt that our balance was not as good as we thought. We then played various other games such as fruit salad, a game where we blocked the kayaks together and had to switch places by running across the front and kayak Simon says. Not a single member of the Troop was dry by this point.

Our second activity was paddle boarding. Although this initially seemed a little more leisurely the instructors soon ramped it up with some competitive relay races between the teams.


Following a short break for a much needed lunch stop our third activity was wind surfing. After a brief introductory lesson where we were taught the parts of the board and how to steer and stay up right we were quickly back out on the water. Wind surfing was much more challenging that we had anticipated, especially as the wind couldn’t decide if it was blowing or not. Abilities varied greatly and a lot of us spent a great deal of time in the lake. Two of our number, Cpl Jones and Staff Gardner, showed significant prowess in their windsurfing abilities. Unfortunately, for the rest of us more practise may be required.

The climax of the day was a raft building competition. First we had to gather the resources needed to make a raft. Next came actually building the raft. As Engineers our raft building abilities were somewhat above the expectations of our judges and they threw in a curved ball, one member of each team was selected as a VIP who had to be sat on a secured chair on the raft. The race was only finished when back on the beach with your raft entirely disassembled and the parts there of put away. This was an excellent way to round off the day and really emphasised skills and attributes developed over the course of the day. During this task it was clear to see leadership and initiative, as those with superior skills in watermanship came to the fore. Courage and teamwork were also evident as people put their faith in each other and trusted their team . . . . .and their raft.

The second day of our adventure training was orienteering. Troop members were provided with a map and a card to mark with as many of the 35 possible stamps as we could find. We were told that about 15 was average. Nevertheless, it was the height of summer and the foliage around us was in full bloom, this made finding the markers somewhat more difficult. Our scores ranged from 3 – 11. Despite not finding as many markers as we would have liked orienteering was an excellent opportunity not only to improve our map reading, consolidating the lessons we have learnt in the classroom throughout the year, but also to develop our fitness levels and team working skills.


Thanks to SE RFCA we were able to go ahead with this training, the benefits of which have been clear to see.  Troop members overcame personal fears and challenged themselves to work hard for the good of the team. The weekend a great success, which was enjoyed by all. Skills were honed and a strong team work ethic was further forged. 


Private (Pte) James Rule (25) from A Company, 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (3PWRR) based in Farnham is taking part in 2017’s Exercise Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, Michigan. It is a two-week annual training exercise, which reservists are required to attended. James’ hometown is Guildford in Surrey, where he lives in a flat.


James only recently became a reservist; he started his training in May 2016 and completed his phase two training at Catterick only four months ago. He has a mum, dad and two older brothers and a sister; his only connection to the military is through his grandfather who he believed served in the British Army. He joined A Company because they are his local unit but also because he said, “they have a great history.”

Having only recently joined the Regiment, Exercise Northern Strike is James’s first deployment.  James said, “ I joined the reserves because I needed to make a difference in my life and a gain a bit of experience, I like to be outdoors so have got the best of both worlds in joining the reserves. Initially I wanted to join as a regular but then my education became more important and I decided to go to university instead.”

James continued, “I went to university in Southampton and gained a degree in advertising which has now led me down the path of becoming Graphic Designer.” James said, “I am not naturally academic but I forced myself through.” He was keen to develop and utilise his skills first, which is why he then chose to join the reserves later and then enjoy the fun part of army life.

James now runs his own successful Graphic Designer business as a freelancer. He said, “It’s great, there are so many benefits, I can afford the time off to enjoy all the training opportunities being a reservist provides.” He is going skiing next year with the Battalion and is thoroughly looking forward to it.

When asked about what his family thought about him going to Michigan on his first exercise James said, “They were scared for me at first but pleased, I told them all about the activities and experiences I would gained and they were excited for me.” Looking to the future James is hoping to complete his driving test through the army and get on some more courses and see where life it takes him next.

He said, “The exercise has been really fun, I haven’t get much sleep but it’s such a learning experience. The American have some great capability assets, I’ve flown in their black hawks not just once either –I’ve been flying into and out of live fire exercise. I have also flown in a Chinook and trained to use an Under-slung Grenadier Launcher (UGL) and got a direct shot on the head. I was pretty happy with that, so overall it’s been a really good experience so far. He added, “I’ve gained lots of friends which is one of the best things, they are my second family.”


A Herne Bay air cadet is set to swim the English Channel this week.


Jack Fitzpatrick, 18, of 1063 (Herne Bay) Squadron Air Training Corps is in a squad set to swim the Channel to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF Air Cadets.



 Jack, who was in the team to complete the swim last year, is joining the second squad which due to poor weather had its swim postponed but is now ready to brave jelly fish and choppy water in the relay swim of 21 miles. His thoughts on the forthcoming swim are very positive.


With sheer determination Jack said: “It was a great honour to be selected to represent the Corps and successfully swim the Channel last year and I am looking forward to meeting up with the second squad. I just can’t wait to get into the water – we had to postpone the swim last year due to the unsuitable conditions but now we’re hopeful we will complete the challenge.”


Jack has been training hard, building up endurance and stamina as well as getting used to the motion of the sea. His open water training started in April when he joined The Dover Training Group.


He explained: “It is a group of like minded people who train together in Dover or Hythe every weekend between April and October. It is not an official club or association; it is run solely by volunteers, and swimmers travel not only from the UK but from overseas to train with the group in Dover. As a relay swimmer, I swim for 1.5 hours, rest on the beach for an hour then back in the sea for another 1.5 hours. When we started in April the water temperature was a cool 10 degrees but will have warmed up a bit more this week!” Jack is also training to be a beach lifeguard and attends weekly training sessions in the local pool or the sea at Herne Bay.


The first team who completed the 21-mile swim last year recorded 11 hours 40 minutes and have set a benchmark for this year. Though it is expected to take upwards of 12 hours in the slightly warmer waters of the month of August, thanks to a generous donation from Nidaria Technology Ltd of their famous sunscreen which includes protection against jellyfish stings our swimmers will have added confidence in the water.


Commandant Air Cadets, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty said: “I was thrilled and hugely impressed to see our first team of air cadets and volunteer staff swim the Channel last year to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF Air Cadets.


However, weather conditions meant that the second squad, who had trained just as hard as the first squad, didn’t get the chance to attempt the swim.


Such was their determination and team ethos, however, they asked if they could defer the swim until this year and have been training hard in the interim.


I will keep everything crossed that the weather and tides are kinder this year and that this intrepid team will manage to swim to France, completing the original challenge in style.”


The support team once again is led by Squadron Leader Sam PearmaIn who has been busy putting together a not too taxing programme of events for what she describes as ‘the big wait’, with some sea training to maintain fitness and team spirit.

Once again the swim will be adjudicated by an observer from the Channel Swimming Association to ensure that all rules are followed for the event to be officially recognised.


Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, Controller of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, said: “Jack is a shining example to the Air Training Corps and fellow Cadets in his Squadron. The RAF Benevolent Fund is delighted to support the Cadets in this endeavour and we thank them for volunteering their time to support the Fund over the years. Good luck to all taking part!”


More information about the RAF Air Cadets, including how to join, can be found at

RAF Reserve Squadrons at RIAT 17 – No Ordinary Job

As is often the case, a chance conversation can be the start of something big.  And so it was that during the set-up phase of this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Wing Commander Emma Smith, 612 Squadron, noticed a member of 4624 Squadron wearing an RAF Reserves lanyard as she walked past a group sat at dinner in the Belbin dining room at Fairford.  Her first RIAT, she was unaware that other RAuxAF squadrons supported the Tattoo, so stopped to find out more.  “You’ll need to speak to our Boss”, they said.

RIAT 17-medical 1.jpg

The following day this conversation was relayed to me by the team from the previous night.  Setting out to find ‘a female wing commander in the peanut’, luckily this was easier than expected.  A fresh pair of eyes and different perspective can make all the difference; while many of us had participated in numerous RIATs, we hadn’t stopped to determine the scale of support reservists give to the Tattoo, whether as an individual augmentee, or as a composite unit.  A plan was hatched to try and photograph as many reservist squadrons as possible.

Given only 24 hours to arrange the group photo, discussions were held with the RAF Media team to determine the venue.  Bearing in mind this year’s theme at RIAT was 21st Century Partnerships it was agreed that the B52 was the ideal location.  Individuals were spoken to and there were also some very early emails sent the morning of the photo shoot to sister squadrons spreading the word.  Word of mouth clearly is a powerful thing as, given the very short timescale, we were able to capture the following reserve squadrons assisting RIAT 17.  These were 3 Tactical Police Squadron, 501 Sqn, 502 Sqn, 505 Sqn, 600 Sqn, 605 Sqn, 612 Sqn, 614 Sqn, 4624 Sqn, 4626 Sqn, 7010 Sqn and 7644 Sqn.  I have no doubt other reserve squadrons were also present but not captured.

RIAT 17-group.jpg

Many, but not all, reservists were performing duties in support of their squadron’s primary role; there were those undertaking medical, logistical and Force Protection responsibilities and yet others carried out a whole host of duties including VIP Guest Management (providing support to Chief of Air Staff delegations from around the world) and Site & Logistics.  This highlights not only the variety of duties undertaken but also how truly embedded the reserves are within RIAT.

Hopefully now that the groundwork has been done we can build on this for next year and future years to come and capture all of the support that Reservists provide.

Flt Lt Caroline Krolikowski