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...