At the beginning of June I travelled to RAF Cranwell to attend my Officers’ Initial Course. I have recently been commissioned into the RAF VR(T) and I had to complete this course before I could formally wear my rank tabs. I wanted to get the course done quickly so that I could then go on a week’s camp and not have to wear the white (trainee) rank tabs.
I drove up on the Sunday and Warned In to the mess [what normal people would call “checking in”]. We had a briefing and were told about the expectation of behaviour and where to be at what time and in what uniform. It was quite exciting.
The first day was a mixture of classroom activity and drill. It turned out that some of us weren’t very good at drill and we had to work quite a lot on the basics, which wasn’t too bad as the older ones of us needed the practice. Our homework for the day was to prepare a presentation in groups. I was not selected as course leader, which would have been good fun, but at least I wasn’t responsible for a bunch of people I had never met before.
Tuesday morning was our first inspection and I had spent some time shining my shoes to make them lovely and also ironing my shirt. My trousers I had left as they were. I passed the inspection but there were some points to work on: seams in shirt sleeves and tying my tie a bit straighter. We presented our talks and the feedback was pretty accurate. We had more classroom activities and plenty of drill. Tuesday evening Mark and I went for a drive to Lincoln, just to get out in to the normal world for a while.
Wednesday was another inspection and my comments were just to work harder on everything. The day was very busy with more drill, more classroom stuff and finally a lesson on leadership and a small command task in the ATF building. This was a good precursor to our work on Thursday. Wednesday evening was mostly about preparing uniform and helping a couple of others learn how to “bull” their shoes. The Flight Sergeant has asked me to help a couple of the other members of the course and so I had to make sure their shoes were shiny, but I helped them rather than do it myself. Some of the female members of the course had found an interesting currency to barter for shoe shining services from the Navy pilots staying at Daedalus mess.
Thursday was the final inspection from the Squadron Leader who was also ex-Queens Colour Squadron, so he knew about how to look good. The only comment he had for me was to lower my chin by a few degrees. That pretty much means that I maxed the uniform part of the inspection – I was very happy about that. For the rest of the day we were doing command and leadership exercises in the ATF building and also in “The Hanger” used by the Officer and Air Selection Centre. Think of “The Crystal Maze” but without all the fancy sets. My leadership task went OK and the feedback was good. The best part of the week was having the Flight Sergeant and Warrant Officer commanding us over a particular obstacle set. It was great to be shouted at and have everyone working together efficiently. We also had about 20 minutes to talk to them about how to use these skills in the field.
Thursday evening we had a lovely silver service meal in the mess. The Red Arrows flew by as the RAF Officers on their IOT had passed out that day and the Arrows were planned as part of their celebrations.
The Friday was about a final few lessons, our individual feedback and our graduation. We weren’t allowed to graduate in College Hall and so we had to have our celebration in Daedalus mess. It is a shame as I have not yet walked across the “commissioning carpet”. There is a carpet in College Hall that only commissioned officers are allowed to walk across. This would have been the final part of our ceremony but I will have to wait for another visit to RAF Cranwell.
The week was great fun, I met some lovely people and above all I surpassed my personal targets for the week. It’s a shame it was only one week, two would have been perfect!
As we were told at Cranwell: It’s all about credibility.