National Armed Forces Day 2019 - We interviewed Steve, former RAF Corporal

Erica Boiano Erica Boiano Monday, 1 Jul 2019

For more than a century, its commitment to defend our skies and save our Country has been shining bright through its Pilots and Officers and the over 50 specialisations that make the RAF such an important military organisation. 

We are proud to bring about the RAF’s legacy of excellence in the education and development of our Officers and nobody better than Steve, CIS Training Manager, can give us an insight on what being part of the RAF means. 

What made you join the RAF? 
I wanted to get away from home, a fresh start. Initially that didn’t quite work out, as my first posting was 33 miles from where I lived, but it was a start and I was thrilled to embark onto what I’d always looked at as an exciting new chapter of my life. 
How old were you when you joined and how old when you left? 
21 when I joined, and I left when I was 28.

How was RAF in terms of gender balance back then? 
On most cases, it was very much a male-dominated environment probably 80/20 split. However, one of my postings was at a military hospital and that was more like 20/80.
Which rank did you serve into and where were you based? 
When I left I held the rank of Corporal.
Tell us what you enjoyed the most about being part of RAF? 
When you’re 21 you feel the world’s your oyster! And being part of the RAF opens up a great deal of new opportunities. I wanted to be part of something great so, in hindsight I can tell I enjoyed everything about it. I learnt so much, teamworking, skills, pride in yourself, the technicalities of what was my actual job and much more. 
Was it something you had always wanted to do or was it more an out of the blue decision? 
I first looked at it when I was a young boy at school, but I was too young for the trade I wanted to learn, so I waited patiently, and I applied as soon as I could. It had always been an ambition of mine and I was chuffed when I knew I’d got in! 
What was your life like after RAF?  Did you know what you wanted to do afterwards? 
Life was very difficult when I first left. I had signed up for 22 years’ service which meant I would have left the service at 43 years old. However, the Armed Forces went through something called “Options for Change”. This resulted in a lot of service men being made redundant. I didn’t even know how to join a GP or Dentist, as this was always sorted out for me in the service. As for what I was going to do for a job, I would never think about private security. 
Do you apply any skills you developed during your time in RAF in your role as Training Manager at CIS? 
It’s always easy to have 20/20 hindsight! If you had asked me that at the time, I would have said no, as I felt I only learnt two skills, how to shoot and shout. However, when I look back on it now, I can say I learnt so much. It’s like looking at a painting from up close, you can’t really see the bigger picture if you don’t step back and the skillset and abilities gained from my experience in the RAF are priceless. 
Would you do it again? 
Definitely yes. 
What piece of advice would you give to those who are thinking about joining the Armed Forces? 
Do it, just make sure you learn a trade whilst you’re in, so you have something to use when you leave and your transition from military to civilian life will be smooth and easy.