When I knew...
This week, I got the news that my extension of service with the RAF was finalised and had been formally added to my record.
This means that I will now be able to complete 30 years of service it total, giving me an exit date of 29 October 2017. And this news arrived just a week after I had completed my 22 years.
Shit. That's a long time. As someone on Twitter said - "If I'd have killed my first CO I'd be out of prison by now!"
Anyway, it IS a long time. Why have I spent so long in the service? The pay? The pension? Not having to worry about what clothes to wear to work?
Well, actually it is all back to a day in 1989. I had just graduated from my training course and was posted to 29(F) Sqn at Coningsby.
Here, until I had done my equipment courses and got a bit of expereince then I was pretty much useless to them at fixing aircraft...so I was given over to an experienced Corporal to do, well, stuff. The sort of stuff that makes a squadron work, like ohhhhhhh I dunno, sorting out the spares locker, sorting out tools, and sorting out the communications between the Hardened Aircraft Shelters (where the jets were parked) - the phone lines, the radios and so on.
So there I was checking out phone lines and I found that HAS 2 wasn't connected to the exchange...so I went out and followed the wire and found it had been cut by some contractors doing some digging.
It was a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon in April - and I spent the next hour sitting in a hole looking for both ends of the wire, splicing them together, sheilding the cable and then filling in the hole.
Now those of you in the know will be able to say that as well as the Tornado F3's, that were based at Coningsby, the vintage aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were also based there and in April they shake the dust of the aircraft in readiness for the display season of airshow to come in the summer.
So there I was in a hole, digging, on a glorious sunny spring day...and there over my head was a Spitfire, doing it's first practice display of the year.
And that was when I knew. That was when I thought it couldn't get any better. This is how and why I want to earn my living for as long as I can. Every so often an F3 would start up and taxi and take off and still the Spitfire flew. Old and new on the same airbase. 50 years seaparating them but flying still. And me there too.
And I was part of that. I was a part of putting those new aircraft in the air...I had no idea where that would take me and what I would do. But I felt part of it.
I think that we ALL want to feel part of something. It's what makes us human. We have a desire to have attachments...friends, teams, clubs, lovers, marriage. We want to be associated with others and what others have done.
In my case I wanted to feel part of an organisation that had done something. That was doing something. That still does something.
That organisation was and is the Royal Air Force. I am proud to be a member and I intend to stay in it for as long as I can.