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.
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.
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