501 (City of Gloucester) Logistics Support Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force
One of the oldest and most distinguished Squadrons in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, was formed in June 1929 as a special Reserve Unit. On the outbreak of World War 11 the Squadron flew defensive patrols until the German attack on France in May 1940. At the end of the War in 1946 501 was reformed as an Auxiliary Air Force Fighter Squadron, finally disbanding in 1957. In 2001 the Squadron was reformed in a Force Protection (RAF Regiment) role and in 2013 its personnel were deployed in Iraq under Operation Telic. April saw the Squadron again taking on a new role as it became a Logistics Support unit, with a wide range of trades on offer within the RAF. The Squadron support both the Logistics Supply, Storage and Distribution Specialists and Driver Specialists trades.
501 Squadron’s task is to provide Reserve personnel who are fully trained logistics specialists to support the Regular Forces on Military Operations and Exercises or Humanitarian Operations, world-wide.
The Squadron also takes part in adventurous training, such as skiing, hill walking, sailing and all the sports facilities available on the base are open to use. Ceremonial events also play a role, including the recent Remembrance Day parade in which 501 played a leading role where members took part in the Royal British Legion Remembrance events in Gloucester and Cheltenham. The day marked the first formal parade since the Squadron reformed in 2014.
Head of Establishment at RAF Brize Norton Group Captain Tozer, presented certificates to members of 501 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Officer Commanding 501, Squadron Leader Andy Marshall, said, “We are very pleased to announce the first 3 personnel, who have been training as Logistic Drivers have achieved and gained their Level 2 Certificates, awarded by the Defence Awarding Organisation (DAO) at Shrivenham”, and are believed to be the first ever such qualifications awarded to RAF Reservists.
Pic 33 – Squadron leader Marshall added, “These qualifications are an important recruiting tool for us, and we are keen to ensure the civilian employers are aware that their employees can gain civilian qualifications whilst undertaking Reserve Training.”
He continued, “Anyone looking at looking at joining the Reserves in the future may see the qualifications as a benefit as they are recognised civilian accredited courses, and might encourage to employers to see the training benefits that can be gained, at no cost to their own company – presenting a great opportunity for them.”
The Reservists had to achieve a level of competency, covering:
Work safety in a Motor Transport environment
Vehicle checks, Cab and Controls
Position and Secure Loads
Transport Dangerous Goods by Road
Defence Transport Documentation
Accident and Breakdown Procedures
Drive vehicles on and off roads
SAC Steve Yapp is a Military Transport Logistics Driver with 501 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton. Steve has been in the RAF Reserves for 5 years and in civilian life is a Police Constable with the West Mercia Police Force, working as a Response and Taser Officer, responding to 999 calls within his area.
Steve was keen to show that his trade within the Squadron also adds value to his role in the Police. He has recently been awarded with his Chief Constable’s Commendation for the saving the life of a victim in a fire. Steve said, “During the incident which we were called to, I was able to give emergency CPR to the victim, and as soon as the emergency ambulance crews arrived my driver training came use as I was qualified to drive the ambulance whilst the crew continued to help save the victim, so my driving skills paid dividends.”
In his RAF Reserve role SAC Yapp is hoping to deploy to the Falklands next year.
Group Captain Tozer is Head of Establishment at RAF Brize Norton.
He presented awards to the members of 501, when he visited the Squadron during a training weekend, and explained to the Reservists how they are ‘Part of the Whole Force’.
Addressing members of the Squadron he said, “It is about what you do and your ability to be trained to step in as a credible Force.”
“RAF Brize Norton is the largest RAF Station in the Country, and one of the most diverse, we pride ourselves on being a ‘Whole Force Station’ – Regular and Reserve.”
There are 5 RAF Reserve Squadrons on the base employing ex Regulars, and civilians alike, opening up scope for a whole range of Reserve Service.
Group Captain Tozer said, “The skill sets that Reservists bring to the party are amazing, volunteering and serving their Country.” He added, “I honestly cannot tell a Reservist from a Regular, and today has been a small celebration of what they have achieved.”
LAC Mark Bissett has just been promoted quite an achievement, as he has only been with 501 Squadron for just over a year.
Mark who lives in Swindon works as a training manager for Anglian Home Improvements, and specialises in sales, management and product training, for the Company.
Mark was inspired to join the Forces by his Grandfather who raised him as a child, he said, “My Grandfather was serving with the RAF during the 2nd World War – James Bissett – who inspired with stories and experiences.” He added, “Joining the RAF Reserves has been the best ever decision I have made, I am really proud of being a member of the Squadron.”
Mark also plays the Pipes and is the Squadron Piper and has played at many high profile events, such as the Battle Proms Concert and has raised over £62,000 for charity by playing the Pipes. He added, “It was whilst I was playing at a charity concert that I was introduced to someone who suggested that I join the Reserves.” Mark raises money for Combat Stress and hopes to reach a target of £100,000 before the end of 2020.
SAC Karen Mellows who lives in Poole travels to RAF Brize Norton at the weekends to train as one of the Squadron’s MT Logistics Drivers. She is a qualified Category C, and Category C&E driver, able to drive vehicles over 7and half ton which means she can drive articulated trucks, and buses. In her civilian job, Karen works at a factory making moulds for cosmetics and has been with the Squadron for 18 months.
She had always thought about joining the Forces, and when she saw an advert for the Reserves, she knew that was what she wanted to do.
Karen said, “I love it, the whole bit, the training, the friendship, having to cope with different scenarios which stretch you, teaching you to cope outside of your comfort zone.” She added, “It took a life changing event to give me the courage to join and I have not regretted the decision.”
Ex-Army full time Royal Engineer, Roger Marston, transferred to join the RAF Reserves in March 2014. A veteran of Iraq serving with the Royal Engineers in 2005, Roger transferred to the RAF when he left the Regular Army. He is now responsible for delivering the Military Driver Training for the Squadron. Roger trains members of the Squadron to drive HGV, Coaches, Land Rovers, and other vehicles in the ‘white fleet’. This includes vehicles used throughout the RAF Base at Brize including trucks used to move aircraft and clear runways, and move supplies.
Corporal Marston said, “The Reservists need a full clean UK driving licence when they join, and then we train them to drive a whole range of heavy vehicles.” He added, “Needless to say, all the driving qualifications we train for are extremely valuable within the civilian logistics sector.”