Monday, 11 November 2013

Lest we Forget

As the guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we all sit here in quiet reflection, but what do you readers think about?
As a member of the Military I reflect on all my friends that didn't make it, the ones that are mentally scarred that could never come to terms with what they saw, the ones with injuries that serve as a constant reminder of the times they served, the ones that are serving a different kind of her Majesty's pleasure, but most of all the families of these men and women.

For them another date on the calendar, an empty seat at the dinner table and a missing presence at Christmas. The family that buying a poppy has extra significance, they are the unlucky ones...yet the one thing they all have in common is that their family member died doing what he enjoyed the most. When it comes down to it, the bond that Forces personnel have with their friends is deeper than you can imagine, and whilst its a factor that you could die, in reality its just another day eating crap food, having some good banter with your mates and doing a job. The fact the locals don't like you very much, only really enters your thoughts when they turn their rockets on you as you die for cover,and wait for the all clear.

I found out today one of the dambusters that I had met Sqn Ldr Tony Iveson had died today. He was an amazing gentleman and he inspired me on the two occasions I met him. The Bomber boys were a different class, they got into an aircraft everyday knowing full well it could be their last and that they were only expected to live for 9 missions. Some defied this destiny of course mostly down to the skill of their crew, the weather and in some cases luck. It doesnt detract from the fact that Bomber command were the largest loss of life for any unit of the war, and yet it was their efforts that really brought the war home to the enemy.

My last thoughts of today actually derive from my rememberance service from yesterday.  I met a man yesterday and he wore his grandfathers German Iron cross, and for the first time you realise that we are remembering  them too, at the end of the day they too were having just another day of crap food, good banter with their mates and doing a job.

I will close with the inscription from Headley Court:

" Its about the blokes,our men and women of the Armed forces. Its about Derek, a rugby player that has lost both of his legs. Its about Carl, whose jaw is wired up, so he has been drinking through a straw. Its about Richard who was handed a mobile phone as he lay on a stretcher so he could say goodbye to his wife. Its about Ben,Its about Steven and Andy and Mark. Its about them all.They are just blokes, but they are our blokes, they are our heroes and we want to help our heroes...." 

But its also about the blokes that didnt come back....Rest in Peace

Lest we forget



Thursday, 3 October 2013

Kit Us outs latest kit recipeint

Last week I had the honour of arranging and delivering a pair of spikes to the ivory coast national triple jump champion Fatima Diasso. She is training hard to qualify for Rio 2016, and fortunately for us she paid a visit to France to further her training, and through ordering through the Nike France website we were able to get the spikes to her before the competition in France.
That takes up to 60 athletes so far and the mission continues....

Latest News

Ok blog fans, i have been away quite a bit, so progress so far,we will start with the job front before i end up on another tangent... I applied for th Bridge keeper position at Sutton Bridge and whilst I as informed by one of the guys, that 60 applied they only invited 6 people to interview, but they were really quick in telling me that I was unsuccessful, I have requested feedback and I should get that tomorrow, In the meantime I have a Network Rail interview on Tuesday, The only good news on the job front is that I actually passed my IPMA level D APMP exam which makes me a certified Project Management Associate, trying to find entry level positions is proving challenging though.

It is becoming increasingly apparent as this government strives to save money ( not very well) that they have taken their eye off the ball. There are thousands of Servicemen being made redundant and everyone of them that I have manged to speak to are finding it difficult to find a job. One of them is now living day to day because he doesnt know where the next meal is coming from let alone getting any money...

In the meantime, Life on the Costa Del Gedney continues to improve, dont get me wrong being this remote is challenging, there is no mains gas and until today we were on a card electric meter which would cut the electric off at a moments notice without any warning. We need to get more involved with village life and the people, because whilst everyone is very friendy and always says hello, its the old adage its not what you know its who you know..
The Hot Tub is settling in nicely, it doesnt have a name yet, but with the onset of inclement weather we have ordered a gazebo so that we can continue to enjoy the tub in the cold.

The thing we are really pleased about is that we have lived here 2 months today, and in those two months we have had more visitors than we had iin the whole 13 years we have been married and working in the Royal Air Force.


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Today and 22 years ago

Well,today is my first day as a veteran officially. To be fair I don't feel any different to yesterday, I managed a walk to the post box, and enjoyed the peace and quiet and the sounds of the birds, that were then disturbed by some heavy machinery, and despite where I currently live we are not talking of the airborne variety( which strangely haven't been here for a couple of days...hmmm I wonder if something is about to kick off?). It was the largest Combine Harvester I think I have ever seen, it took up all of the road and had to mount the kerb every time he came to a parked car, but anyway I digress.

Basic Training 22 years ago is a world away from what they do now. The first day consists of decivilianising your appearance, so everyone receives a set of green coveralls and the same haircut. You are issued a pair of trainers, two pairs of shorts and two T-shirts, your combat clothing,some socks and a pair of boots.
The first week consisted mainly of physical training, Drill and briefings about Service life, but in reality that was the day routine, the night one consisted of polishing everything, and then spending about 4 hours polishing the floor ( and when I say polishing, I mean 10 guys in a row adding polish to the floor by hand, one guy with a brick on the end of a pole with a duster on it buffing and then two guys on a polishing machine ( one holding the handle and the other sat in on top of the polishing machine, putting washing powder in front of the brushes to make sure it polished correctly) and then setting your bed up for the inspection and then sleeping on an abandoned bed frame. It meant we are only getting between 4 and  6 hours of sleep per night, so we were knackered most of the time but became accustomed to it.

 Its quite a surreal experience to be asleep in the darkness and yet you can here the other 14 guys breathing and snoring. The guys I shared my room with, were not team players and we didn't get on. Fortunately I met a fireman called John ( he was our Senior Man)  and we came to a mutual arrangement, he did my bed pack ( which is your blankets,sheets and covering all folded together so that you can pick them up with one hand so it doesn't fall apart. The acid test was being picked up by a pace stick in the morning) and I polished his shoes. If I had stayed with my fellow room mates, its fair to say that I would not be here now. I lasted in there two weeks and then moved rooms to the same one as John. The atmosphere was completely different and we all did each others kit. There was a knack to doing each piece of equipment and they all had to be identical, so having the same person do them all seemed a logical step.Now the first weekend is always a lock in, to enable the flight to pass "Drill Check" which is a series of drill manoeuvres ending in an inspection all with commands. Our flight was dismal at drill. The man at the front who everyone was trying to mark from just marched too damn fast so,during drill check at one point everyone else was six paces behind him and the the three rows of people that stayed with him had a sweat on. We were the first flight in 20 years to fail Drill check. In fact we ended up marching and doing drill pretty much for the whole weekend....its a good job the Naafi did good pizza. to give you some idea if what we went through heres someone elese swinderby memories, itl give you the right idea and I too was in Gibson Block Middle floor but I was at the back...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLewo6_K4eg and here http://youtu.be/T9icMo4ZWU0 The second video is two years before me and yet nothing will have changed...I may convert my Graduation video to DVD yet..I was 2 sqn 2 Flight. If you ever went to Swinderby, we had diffferent scarves round our necks. 1 sqn was red 2 sqn was blue and 3 sqn was green. By 1991 3 sqn had disbanded.

Swinderby was a proper 1950s RAF station, one of the hangars had been converted into the gym, all the domestic accommodation was on the other side of the road. It was always neat and tidy because lets face it when you have over 500 people going through basic training there are no shortage of "volunteers" to make sure standards are maintained. When I think back though, it was August 1991, the war in Iraq was still raging, ( not that we knew how it was going because we didn't have access or time to watch any TV), we had radio though, and I can tell you "More than Words" by Extreme was in the charts and there didn't appear to be very much news on the radio channel we were listening to. I can tell you this, I was developing a loathing for our female drill instructor. She was Evil. She made the TV in Willo the Wisp seem nice in comparison...( for the kids that was the original series from 1981...check out kids TV here http://youtu.be/sAwtC0b_gf4) but kids tv  from when I was a Lad is a completely different subject....



Monday, 26 August 2013

The last day as an airman

So where do you go on your last day in the airforce? Well I went back to where it all began.
I went home. Sometimes we all associate home as a house, but whilst the district  I live in is Home, I associate Home as the village where I grew up, so I went to Whaplode.

It was flower festival weekend and the church smelt absolutely fabulous, it was quite poignant as it was the first time we had been to that church since mums funeral in 2008,but more than that I met school friends I hadn't seen for over 25 years, it was really nice to catch up and I do hope they keep in touch! and bizarrely I climbed a tree to rescue a parachuting teddy bear that had got stuck in an almond tree...( its ok I was a bit of champion tree climber in my day,been a while tho, but I am pleased to say I've still got it!)

We had a Laddies ice cream in Holbeach on the way home, and all those that are from the area know that Laddies is an institution, and I'm pleased to say that the strawberry and vanilla ice cream flavours haven't really changed since I was a kid.I have decided that every time we drive by that shop if its open we shall partake in a laddies ice cream..

And now dear reader you are thinking so he went back to his childhood on his last day? In part yes that would be correct, because somewhere there the dream was born. I was taught to follow my dreams at that school, so by the time I got to secondary school I knew I was going to join the RAF. I didn't know then what I wanted to do, but that was shaped through my schools work experience, and in many ways I am here again, at that crossroads trying to decide what path I should choose next...

On a side note what a beautiful day we have had today weather wise, not too dissimilar to the day I experienced 22 years ago. I took the oath of allegience in the morning and to newark in the afternoon to Swinderby, although I seem to remember mum and dad taking me to the gates and dropping me off. We were assembled and marcged to our quarters and briefed on the proceedings for tomorrow, which was an early start and included the infamous haircut....

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A year ago today

A year ago today I was at the Paralympic games as a volunteer, initially I was part of the Paralympic famiy assistant programme, but when it became apparent some of the smaller countries werent going to use the programme, I was given the chance to transfer to the Paralympic Village.

On my first day in the village( it was day 8 of my paralympic games experience) they asked me how long I could commit to, with that information I was assigned to the Jordanian Paralympic delegation. This consisted of 9 athetes, 3 coaches, a doctor a chef de mission, an aide( who was actually the chef because he could speak english and my boss effectively) and 4 members of the Jordanian royal family with associated royal protection squad.
                  This picture shows 2 of the table tennis athletes with some of the delegation( doctor,coach and The chef)


This experience truly changed my life, and I don't say this half heartedly. In many ways it was a catalyst to help me move on from the military in a " theres more to life " type way. It became apparent that there are no wheelchair maintenance facilities in the Middle East and all of my athletes had had to fly half way around the world just to get a sports wheelchair.
Now there is a company out there called Ottobock, they are a wheelchair and prosthetics maintenance professional, they travel to major competitions ( like the paralympics) to repair wheelchairs and service prosthetics. Some wheelchairs though are beyond Ottobocks magic touch. Some of my delegations chairs were in this category and so I set out to find some wheelchairs in a better state that Ottobock could fix and that my delegaton could use....unbeknown to me some of my National Paralympic service assistants were trying to do the same. Two of the Ivory Coast NPCAs Dermot and Tariq, were already making makeshift starting blocks for amputees and trying to source chairs for their delegation.By pooling our resources, Tarriq co ordinated the exchange of 22 wheelchairs, including two of our delegations chairs...but this only seemed to be a scratch on the surface and we all met together, I was introduced to Alex mitchell, and we discussed how shabby some of the athletes basic equipment was. Kit Us Out was born right there, Alex has amazing media contacts and Dermot touched base with some of the larger delegations and we set about begging for some of their equipment and distributing it to the athletes that needed it...by the end of the games we had distributed new equipment to over 40 para athletes...

 
 This is Ananias Shikongo from Namibia, he is partially sighted and has to have a guide we kitted out 8 athletes from Namibia and Ananias got a Silver and a Bronze medal at the  world championships.

You need to click on the link now....because our legacy equated for one country that had never won any medals to three at the paraympic games and another 8 at the Word championships and the job is not yet done..We are ensuring that by giving the para athletes the equipment they need, it levels the playing field and makes that discipline about ability...and that is what we are about... to date we have equipped 59 athletes from 60 different countries....

Here we all are, Dermot, me,Matt Dimbylow (Captain of Paralympic GB Football team),Tariq and Alex..We may all be totally different personalities and have different backgrounds, but our combined strengths and determination to level the playing field with the provision of basic sports equipment fills me with joy. Once more the power of poppy and purple....

In the beginning...

OK so Im new to this blogging malarky, but you have to understand one thing. When you are in the military you become adapted to a new lifestyle, you get used to doing everything you can to get promoted. But there is a time when promotion is no longer on the cards and from that day on, you are counting the days to the last day, what we all call the ultimate promotion, becoming a Mister (or Missus).
Tomorrow is that day for me, the end of 22 years service and in todays climate of support of british forces Im going to document my transition to being a "civvy". The thing is that once you are in the military you never really change so whilst I may become a "civvy" I will alway be Ex Miitary, hence the blog title.
Now you would have thought getting a job is easy, but so far, because my CV is miitarised, I'm having to civvify my CV to enable to make me more employable..
In the traditional Cricket score I'm currrently 75-3 with jobs applied for versus interviews. I have had one job offer, but that companies admin is shocking and I have to be self employed and whilst I havent ruled it out, Im having to look into how to be self employed...