Biscuits Weren’t Enough

Yesterday I was in work helping move our HQ from one side of the site to the other. We have new offices and stores, which will be nice. The cadets did most of the work and I’m really pleased with the results. We’ve now got a good space for administration of the unit and filing etc. We had a box of biscuits left over from a competition in April and so I carried them to the cadets, thinking I would make their day. But, as it turned out the Kent and Sussex Air Ambulance landed just as I brought the biscuits over. The cadets were super excited by the Leonardo AW169 and the biscuits were a long second place.

Kent Air Ambulance
Kent Air Ambulance

Obviously it’s not a good thing that the air ambulance lands near you. It means you either live in a hospital or airfield, or something terrible has happened to someone nearby. I do hope that whatever and whomever was affected are ok as can be.

Air Ambulance operated by SAS
Air Ambulance operated by SAS

Given that summer camp didn’t happen this year for reasons of pandemic it was nice to be close to an aircraft and also hear the start up sounds that I miss so much. It’s a really impressive piece of kit and I thought it was pretty quiet – other staff thought it was loud but then they aren’t often around twin afterburning jets.

Specialist Aviation Services Kent Air Ambulance
Specialist Aviation Services Kent Air Ambulance

Later that day I took part in our virtual sports day. I went for a 10 km run but made sure that kilometres 2-6 were at a “competition” pace. I did not enjoy anything from about 3.5km into the race onwards. But I did it and got what I think is a respectable time.

1km time - I'm happy
1km time – I’m happy

These times have now been added to the virtual competition and while I know I’m not the fastest, there will be points for participation. One member of staff I spoke to managed the 5km in 18 minutes. They have longer levers than me though and age on their side.

5 km - not to be repeated
5 km – not to be repeated

So, an interesting day. Helicopters, commissions, books, DVDs and VHS tapes all needed to be sorted out. Then the challenge of not killing myself while trying to run “fast”.

CCF Camp SHY

It’s the end of a great week and tiring week at RAF Shawbury. I spent a week there with the CCF RAF cadets and I’m pretty sure everyone had a great time. I’m struggling today with being super tired [fault of seeing Rammstein last night] and so have decided to write this instead of doing some pressing work badly.

Baby Helicopter, Moody Sky
Baby Helicopter, Moody Sky

RAF Shawbury is home to the helicopter flying school for the three services and there is a mixture of uniforms walking around.

On the Sunday we had some time on a high ropes course in Telford and then went to fly some birds of prey along with seeing owls close up. I got some excellent photographs and I endeavour to show them on here at some point.

Monday was the first day of section visits and we had the RAF Police tell us about their job and demonstrate restraining an adult volunteer [me]. One of the Midlands ARVs also came along to show us what kit they have and what they do. In the afternoon we had talks about training Air Traffic Controllers and we saw the simulators they use covering RAF Cottom. We had a tour around the dry helo training area run by the Ascent military contractors.

Apache
Apache

Tuesday brought a trip to nearly RAF Cosford and involvement in training the Midlands police how to cope with public demonstrations and protests. The cadets also learnt how to use riot shields correctly.

Wednesday for me was time spent at the DCCT block and then on the range in the afternoon. It was a little disconcerting that we had to stop often as there was a helicopter taxi way just behind bullet catcher. The last thing we needed was a stray round to kiss a Juno flying ten feet above the ground.

Thursday meant a visit to Air Traffic Control and a drive across the airfield. Then we nearly all had a helicopter flight in the afternoon piloted by an Army major. In the evening we had a camp meal out at The Red Lion in Shrewsbury.

In The Air Again
In The Air Again

On Friday I had a very short visit to the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford and then another afternoon on the range. It was very hot and there was a lot of aircraft activity including a visit from an Apache and two Pumas. We managed to get a tour around the Pumas. In the evening an ex-SAS member gave us a talk on motivation. This was followed by the traditional ceremony of the plates.

Only a PUMA!
Only a PUMA!

The final day meant tidying rooms, packing and then a journey home. Mind you, I had to stop at Milton Keynes to see Rammstein burn gallons of fuel during their concert. The review should follow shortly.

Dakota Overlord

This last week saw a fleet of Dakotas fly from Duxford to Caen in Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. If I spend too much time on this matter I will descend into a melancholy beyond which we’ve seen in these communications. I shall leave it here and show some photographs I took.

Dakota
Dakota

The above baby flew over my house the weekend before the anniversary and it was extremely pleasant to watch. These really are gorgeous aircraft.

Flypast
Flypast

It was wonderful to see so many aircraft flying towards us while we waited on the school field. It’s a shame they were about half a mile west of us but still a great sight.

Finally, here’s a photo taken of my cadet contingent to commemorate the anniversary.

D-Day 75 MGS CCF
D-Day 75 MGS CCF

He Said What?

Over the weekend I went to a chapel communion service and I did this voluntarily. I was away at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre and while there one of the members of staff was going to deliver the chapel service. I went to the chapel service to support her and be a part of her experience. There is also the very slight possibility that one of these services might persuade me a little to partake in religion. It’s not happened yet and perhaps I secretly want this. I am, very slightly, jealous of those who have such faith, such comforting thoughts about the world.

As it turned out my friend couldn’t deliver the service because there are rules about who can touch certain parts of church paraphernalia and I guess you have to be a certain rank within the church before you are allowed to commit certain acts. I find it all rather confusing and very amusing. I think that every church has these man-made rules to govern who can do what within their made up system of belief. Everyone seems to take this very seriously.

I was once at Amport House and someone mentioned that although gay priests are allowed your vicar licence has to be approved by the local bishop and if that bishop is homophobic then you lose your licence to priest if you come out to the church. That seems utterly ridiculous that your ability to church is dependent on what your human boss thinks. But then again, the idea that a committee of humans can overturn the common ideals of a religion within a committee and change a religion’s view on a particular issue amuses me greatly.

The sermon on Sunday was interesting. The padre [I honestly don’t understand the terms for vicar/priest etc] spoke about Valentine’s Day and the love that we receive from partners on that day. He then linked this into the love that Jesus gave to us and also the love that God gives us. There was general chatter about two holy men who gave their lives for strangers. One of them was at Auschwitz and he sacrificed his life for another man. The other man went on to live to an old age and had many children. The other priest was a man who got entangled in another soldiers parachute on D-Day. The priest cut himself free to fall to his death and the other soldier went on to do his job. These stories were interesting and not ones I had heard before. While they showed a love for the stranger I do think they missed the point that they occurred within a time when there was great evil on the Earth and millions were dying in concentration camps and in battle. But religious people gloss over the problem of evil.

Within the sermon the padre talked about a passage from John. He mentioned words that Jesus said:

[side point: Jesus didn’t say these things. This was written about thirty years after Jesus died. Go back and think about any conversation, important or not, from thirty years ago and try to be convinced about how accurate you are. It amuses me just how much study is made from the EXACT words in the bible when it’s all translations and copying errors]

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Hey, it’s only my way or no way. You must do as I say or you won’t get to heaven. Do as I say you muthafuckers because I will damn you if you don’t follow my exact words.

“But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

This part was read out and the message was meant to be that if you love Jesus you will get to heaven. My problem is the bit IN THEIR OWN BOOK which clearly shows signs of an abusive relationship. This part wasn’t talked about in the sermon and it’s interesting the bits of their own book they are willing to gloss over. You see that little bit in there which is along the lines of:

Follow my rules or else. Follow my rules and I will love you. Don’t follow my rules and you are damned to everlasting hell.

Do as I say or you will be burnt and suffer in indescribable pain forever. This section of the reading was glossed over in the sermon but it screamed in my head and really bothered me. If christians take this book so seriously and believe it is the word of god then why don’t they see these parts. The parts that require complete submission or else. They don’t see them because they are either glossed over or they think it is a good thing. That passage has really bothered me for a few days now.

Follow my rules or get fucked.

It’s not like following the laws of the road or those at work. This is referring to eternal damnation and the only path to heaven is through following the rules of Jesus. Well, screw that. This book has been used to justify hatred and murder for the last two thousand years and probably will be used for another millennia. I do hope that one day we grow out of following a book written by men about two thousand years ago which is demonstrably wrong about so much.

You don’t need Jesus to understand that being nice to people is the best way to go. You don’t need Jesus to believe that treating people as you would wish to be treated is a good maxim for life. These things are self evident and don’t require a god or his naughty boy. It’s easy to use the principle of BE NICE to inform all your choices and decisions. If only more people realised you don’t need god [or the threat of hell] to be good.

Gloria in Excelsis

Once again I feel so privileged to have been able to spend time at Amport House in Hampshire. I was there helping to deliver a weekend of sessions for cadets who were learning about:

  • Unconscious bias
  • Listening
  • Expressing views
  • Morals and ethics
  • Self perception

This is held at a listed house in the tiny village of Amport. The house and the [grade I listed] gardens really make this weekend a special event. There now follows a few pictures showing how lovely this place is.

Arrival - The Moon
Arrival – The Moon

Foggy Morning at Amport
Foggy Morning at Amport

Just Before Church
Just Before Chapel

I did go to the chapel service on the Sunday morning but there were important reasons which will be discussed in a future Fooyah.net communication.

RAST Heats

I have spent some time recently at an Army Training Camp with a team of CCF cadets whilst they trained to compete in the Royal Air Squadron Trophy. They worked very hard and won the South East heats and so now move on to the national finals in a month’s time.

I can’t show you any photographs of that because they all contain the cadets. What I can show you are two pictures of Crowborough in the lovely sunny snow.

Crowborough Snow
Crowborough Snow

Another:

Glimmer Of Sun
Glimmer Of Sun

I’m very proud of the work the cadets put into the competition.

Also, while at the defence training area I found an old safe. I thought it looked particularly picturesque and so here it is:

Abandoned Safe
Abandoned Safe

CCF Camp HLW

I’ve just got back from a wonderful week away with the RAF Air Cadets at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire. It might not be in Bedfordshire but Bedford was the nearest largest town/city. It was a very busy week and lots got done. I had a great time and I’m pretty sure the cadets did too. We didn’t get any flying [in aircraft] but there was plenty of shooting and fun.

As is usual we arrived on the Saturday and got settled in. Then Sunday was a day at a country pursuits experience. We went to the English School Of Falconry quite close to the Cardington Hangars. There were planes from Old Warden flying around showing off including a Percival, Lysander, Hurricane and Spitfire.

Cleared For Landing
Cleared For Landing

We all had a go at landing birds of prey and then some archery, air rifles and laser clay pigeon shooting. It was a baking day, really hot.

Monday was filled with some camp admin, getting the right forms delivered to the right people while the cadets visited the RAF’s Centre for Aviation Medicine. I found this particularly interesting as I’m currently reading a book about the development of the pressure suit and it has a lot of medicine development in it. The camp photo infront of the Hawker Hunter gate guardian and then a church service for the RAF100 Baton. I, somehow, didn’t make it to the service but I did get there just in time for another selfie with the baton. My first was at Amport House.

Later that day the cadets had a brief for a Rocketeers challenge they were going to take part in and then in the evening I ran a DCCT range over the other side of the Henlow base. We nearly got stuck in the base as they locked the gate at 21:30 and we finished at 21:25.

Tuesday we visited the RAF Museum at Hendon and in the evening the cadets watched the football match. I went for a run.

Sepecat Jaguar
Sepecat Jaguar

Wednesday morning the RAF Outreach team came to run the cadets through a disaster response planning exercise. After that we headed to Twinwoods Adventure for indoor sky diving. Twinwoods was based on the old Royal Aeronautical Establishment site and actually used the vertical wind tunnel that was developed for investigating flat spin aerodynamics.

RAE Vertical Windtunnel
RAE Vertical Windtunnel

The skydiving experience was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. It was such a high to finish and contemplate the second flight.

I don’t think you can explain just what it’s like to do this. Such an exhilarating time. Wednesday evening I ran another DCCT range practice with the cadets doing the shoot to qualify for their “trained shot” badge.

Thursday was my big day. I had spent hours since arriving at Henlow preparing to run my first outdoor 25m 5.56 full bore range. For whatever reason the CC couldn’t do it and so it fell to me to run the thing. There were range orders to read and a RAM to write along with all the briefings etc. I planned the day so that cadets could qualify for their “marksman” badge. To give you an idea of what it’s like, imagine having six lanes of semi-automatic weapons and 900 rounds to be shot. Then put the rifles in the hands of teenagers. Now, we follow the safe system of operation but it is still an intimidating amount of responsibility.

The day went very smoothly and I was happy with the number of cadets who qualified for the marksman badge.

Thursday evening we dined out at a pub near the base, The Airman. The company was great and the food was ok. The next day one of the schools had to leave for a school event because normally we would hold this meal on the last night.

A Sexy Hangar
A Sexy Hangar

The hangars at Henlow were designed and built before the end of the first world war and they have a beautiful look about them.

Friday I judged the drill competition, went for a run and helped supervise the block clean up. In the evening we watched the Battle Of Britain on the large screen and essentially just chilled. It was a fantastic week and I am really looking forward to next year’s trip.

Home On The Range

Sometime recently I went to a series of ranges near the coast, pointing towards France. I was fortunate enough to have a go on the long range. In the picture below the targets are at 100m. We practised out to 300m. It was excellent.

They Are There
They Are There

If you look closely you can see the targets at 100m. Imagine the size of those out at 300m! I was allowed twenty five rounds and could choose when to shoot them. I had time at 100m, 200m and 300m. I needed a spotter for the first few shots as the weapon wasn’t zeroed to my hold and position. The 100m targets were easy. I took five shots at them and hit 4. I wanted to try ten rounds each at the longer distances.

At the 200m I was aiming correctly but hitting elsewhere (weapon zeroing) and so once I had my spotter I hit the target five out of the ten shots in total. I waited eagerly for the 300m targets, these were 6 second exposures.

Again, I needed spotting for the first few and then after that I hit five out of the ten shots. I am bloody impressed with this and happy. When I thought it was over I checked and I still had one round left. I waited for the target to raise and when I thought there were going to be no more I rested my position. It was at that point the target popped up and I took aim and fired the shot. I can’t remember if I hit that one.

When I spoke to the console operator afterwards he said he was watching me and waiting for me to drop my aim before putting up the last exposure so I was tricked, kinda.

It was a good day and I look forward to the next one.

RAF 100 Baton Relay

As part of being 100 years old this year the RAF has a specially designed Baton travelling around the UK.

I was lucky enough to be at Amport House for its visit there.

I do have a picture of me holding the Baton but instead I’ll settle for this picture of all the group. I’m in there.

Amport House RAF100 Baton
Amport House RAF100 Baton

Amport House

I have just returned from a lovely couple of days away at Amport House in Hampshire. It’s a lovely setting near Andover where the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre is housed. I spent time there on an ACO Personal Awareness Course. Although the course is based at the chaplaincy centre it is a non-religious course which is probably just as well for me as I am completely not-religious and verging on anti-religious. However, the centre made sure that my bedroom was closest to the chapel and my door was literally next door to the chapel organ.

Room With A View
Room With A View

There were a number of cadets there from all over the country. It was a good mix and they all got along quite quickly. This bonding does tend to happen as they already have a common interest. The whole weekend was non-uniform and first names only, even for staff-cadet relationships. This made it an environment suited for the discussions we had. The aim was to raise the personal awareness of the cadets in an intra and inter-personal way. They were tasked to think about dealing with others but also knowing themselves. I am sure all the cadets got a great deal from the experience and it is unlike any other course available in our pseudo-military organisation.

Amport House
Amport House

The house itself has been in the military since the second world war. It has always been used for the chaplaincy and is currently the centre for the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The gardens were designed by Lutyens and Jekyll and are grade one listed, they are lovely.

Lutyens Jekyll Garden
Lutyens Jekyll Garden

Part of the garden was the oldest pleached limes in the country. These are lime trees which have been trained over many years to provide a hedge. These particular ones are designed so that courting couples could walk in privacy between the trees but the chaperones could see their feet and ensure they didn’t get too close to each other from outside the centre walkway.

Pleached Limes
Pleached Limes

It would have been nice to see these in bloom and leaved but maybe next time. On the whole it was a good weekend and I really enjoyed myself. Sitting outside during a break ready a book surrounded by such a wonderful setting was delightfully relaxing.