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Five Years Ago

Old 14th Apr 2012, 19:33
  #1 (permalink)  
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Five Years Ago

Five years ago tomorrow I left the Royal Air Force after a 29 years and 76 days career. I often look back on why I left and whether I made the right decision. I know why I left, but whether I made the right decision I will never know. I left for two reasons; the first is very private but the second is quite frankly because we left Germany. I honestly think that if any RAF Station had remained in Germany, I would have overcome my private reasons and I would still be in today.

Do I regret leaving? That is a definite Yes and No. Yes I regret leaving because I miss the people, the banter, the excitement, the aircraft, the pi$$ ups and of course the going into work and not knowing what the day might bring. No, I donít regret leaving because I donít miss the changes I saw over the years and the changes that I knew were coming in the future. I certainly donít miss the Political Correctness in so many things that crept in and brainwashed so many people. I donít think I need to list them as I am sure that you know what I mean.

What do I think of Civvie street? Well Civvie street is a very interesting placeÖÖto start off with it really is like the adverts on TV. Now, donít get me wrong, I landed on my feet in Civvie street. I work with some fantastic people and in a great environment. I work for a rather large organisation who to be honest are good, but at the end of the day when it comes to crunch, one minute they tell you that you are their most valuable asset and the next day you are just a number with the risk of being made redundant. I am one of the lucky ones; I have survived two redundancy campaigns in the last five years.

The most interesting thing about Civvie street is that so many managers think they are leaders. They read a couple of books, do a few courses and they honestly believe they have cracked it. But when it comes down to it, they canít really talk to people at all levels. They can tell people to do a job and they can tell them the most efficient way of doing things, but they canít sniff a problem with an individual and they cannot communicate in a way that natural leaders do. When I compare (most) OC Sqns with some Project Managers (multi pound projects) most PMs fall very short indeed. To be honest, in my opinion, true leadership is a rare quality in Civvie street.

In nearly 30 years of serving in the Royal Air Force I have no idea of how many people I have met. Arguably 300 ish new people every three years and all the rest that you meet around the station, on detachment and around the world. I am still in contact with so many people. That is an attribute I think that makes me understand and appreciate so much more about people of this planet.

In my opinion, anybody who serves in the RAF (or the Army and Navy) is very lucky that they experience something that most people in a normal life donít.

If I could turn the clock back I would not change a single aspect of my career. It moulded my life and made me a better person, but better still it moulded my wife and two daughters who appreciate everything about living.

To all those still serving, good luck and enjoy & treasure every moment.

Thank you Royal Air Force.
SRENNAPS is offline  
Old 14th Apr 2012, 19:45
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On behalf of the 6 or 7 of us left in, you are welcome!

Could you come back please, we're a bit short but nobody is admitting it. If you could bring a flying machine of any type at all too, that'd be just wonderful.
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 20:07
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Amen SRENNAPS, apart from the two daughters bit - one of each for me. But apart from that, spot on.
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 20:21
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Over 29 years myself m8, and less than 4 to go until retirement.

Pretty much agree with what you say.
just another jocky is offline  
Old 14th Apr 2012, 20:32
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The most interesting thing about Civvie street is that so many managers think they are leaders. They read a couple of books, do a few courses and they honestly believe they have cracked it. But when it comes down to it, they canít really talk to people at all levels. They can tell people to do a job and they can tell them the most efficient way of doing things, but they canít sniff a problem with an individual and they cannot communicate in a way that natural leaders do. When I compare (most) OC Sqns with some Project Managers (multi pound projects) most PMs fall very short indeed. To be honest, in my opinion, true leadership is a rare quality in Civvie street.

SRENNAPS - I'm of a similar age to you but I'm guessing that I've spent more time in Civvie street (23 years). The problem with most leaders/managers is that they don't have followers and this is their undoing. The ability to communicate to all members of your team is alien to most people because they only see management of the level below themselves and not beyond. The ability to communicate is a skill that many don't understand fully because its not taught as a core value.
A leader is somebody who has followers - nothing more, nothing less.
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 20:37
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I wholeheartedly agree. I've been out for 5 after 24 in and miss all the things you state also. I was lucky enough to spend my entire career as an engineer on 1st line and was privileged to work with some truly exceptional leaders, JEngOs, SEngOs and Aircrew. I can think of 2 particular Sqn Commanders (F3 & GR7) who I would readily have followed off a cliff! Indeed, one of them was decorated for said leadership on return from OP TELIC.

I now work for an airline and can only say things are very different!
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 20:46
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True leaders earn the respect of their followers. From a gained respect they develop more following. In civvie street, very few individuals are leaders, because this is a generation of no respect. How therefore can a corporate manager today lead, because the majority of them have no respect for themselves, nor others. See it, live it, witness it every day. It comes from the top where our political masters are such a lot of useless tossers, that it is mirrored and replicated throughout civilian strata. Take the banks, the politicians, the youth, the education systems of today. I feel for the OP, because it must be a bit of a shock coming out of a structured and organised way of life, to the 'civilian way'. As he rightly highlighted he would not change a thing, because it had made him what he is today, respect!
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 22:28
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just a number with the risk of being made redundant
Not so different is it?

You would not have wanted to experience the last five years of UK Mil plc for its Govt sponsored decline is barely restrained by the positive mindset of your typical serviceman. Sadly the really good bits are gone forever and the only saving grace is that new guys know nothing different.
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 22:55
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I found this comment:
"A leader is somebody who has followers - nothing more, nothing less."
very interesting, I do think that it is completely correct, but may be completely missing the issue of leadership IMHO. Yes a leader will have followers, but it is his/her qualities that makes people follow them, and not the mindset of the 'followers'.
I think that leadership is quite common in the military, but very lacking in civvy street. The reasons for this are just so obvious (to military types) that they don't need explanation, but are also beyond the mind scope of many civilians.

It must be fair to say that followers of a 'leader' may well work harder for him/her and show loyalty to the leader, but the same group would not follow a simple 'manager' or work to their best for him/her.

It reminds me of another quote that is a favourite of mine:
"Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad"
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 22:59
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After 20 years in the RAF, and a similar period in civilian management jobs afterwards, I came to the conclusion that leadership stemmed from power. Specifically, 'the ability to lead' stemming from 'power to break the rules'. Let me explain.

Even as a junior RAF officer I had enormous powers to put wrongs to right. If someone had a family problem and had exhausted their annual leave, I could get them compassionate leave. If they couldn't afford to go home? A railway warrant. A relative seriously ill? An aircraft (on one occasion, via a specially tasked Shackleton from Ballykelly to Waddington on a foggy night). Bigger money problems? An advance of pay. And I could (and did, more than once) take over airmen's bank accounts and negotiate with their creditors so that we sorted it all out, much to the relief of their bank managers (I know, don't laugh, it was a long time ago). And I left the youngsters concerned, I hope, with money management skills that no one else was ever going to teach them. And to solve residual problems when an acute family problem had been addressed? The wonderful SSAFA. And so on. On exchange with someone else's air force, I came across a crying airman with similar problems, only to discover that his officer had "looked in air force regulations and unfortunately could do nothing to help." I felt good about the Royal Air Force that day. The word 'Trust' appears on my Commission. She does and did, bless her.

In civilian life, such actions common in our Service would represent gross intrusions into subordinates' private lives! 'Referring them to HR' would be rule in most organisations, and it would be hard to dream up a bigger abrogation of leadership responsibility for 'your' people than that. So, where you can, you do it the RAF way on the quiet, giving time-off, advice, confronting problem people, etc. You are regarded as a bit of an eccentric anyway, because of where you came from, but from those you have quietly helped the respect flows - you can feel it. And the word spreads.

Looking back now from retirement, you realise that joining the Royal Air Force was the best thing you ever did.
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Old 14th Apr 2012, 23:10
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Leadership? everyone I know only followed because we would have been locked up if we didn't!

Last edited by Heliringer; 14th Apr 2012 at 23:46.
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Old 15th Apr 2012, 08:47
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I left after just under 20 years. Some of my leaders were excellent; some so-called leaders I wouldn't follow to the pub out of choice, even if they were buying (which they probably wouldn't be, as they were only interested in stepping on heads to get their next promotion).

I have since done about the same amount of time as a civilian. Since then I've had a few good leaders and some very poor ones, too.

As far as civilian leaders go, some of the best and some of the worst were ex-military.

The military reflects society as a whole, in my experience.
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Old 15th Apr 2012, 08:54
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A couple of the key qualities in a good leader are the willingness to take responsibility and to consider the consequences of his actions/decisions on his people.

Personal responsibility is something that seems to be sadly lacking at all levels in todays society.

I think that in todays RAF we often seem to be promoting people simply on their ability to do the job (which is of course very important) and before they have had sufficient time to properly learn the basic skills that will enable them to become effective leaders. Is 3 years as a JNCO really long enough for example.

You can be an effective manager based on your trade ability but leadership is about being effective when the unexpected happens or when things get difficult. This is the time when your people will be looking to you for guidance, where they will judge your perfomance and apply a degree ofrespect based on what they see.

Of course in the ever shrinking RAF there are fewer and fewer opportunities to learn these skills, fewer expeds, fewer courses and of course a decreased willingness to release people to take on these experiences. That said when the opportunities do arise it is often disappointing to see the lack of uptake, even when there is no cost and it is in work time. I am in the process of putting together a Staff Ride and it has been an uphill struggle to fill the 10 places available.

I don't know what its like in civvy street, I've another 3 years to wait before I find out. I do know that the RAF has changed almost beyond recognition since I started out 35 years ago and much of the change has not been for the best.
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Old 15th Apr 2012, 10:03
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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was in for a paltry 8 - been out for 9 and a bit.
Outside is crapper in many respects, it is full of self seeking tossers who do not even know how to spell TEAM.

where I work we have expanded 7 fold in less than six years.
my boss has changed into a petulant tosser who seems to take delight in dishing out kickings.

I manage a team of 4 - and I try to manage like I was still in, my role is to support them and let them do the work, I provide everything they need, insulate them from shit from above and take the blame for them when they screw up - something about the privelidge of command. I make them work the job and not the clock and so when they need a bot of flex the flex is there.......

it seems to work better this way, anyhoo I felt I ought to say thanks to all those who taught me the little I retained about leadership - especially the ex flem who felt the need to take me round the back of the hanger...........

I was gobby and crossed the line - he reminded me where the line was....

Thanks to one and all, and to both of you still in - fly safe.
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Old 15th Apr 2012, 19:40
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Happy Anniversary SRENNAPS!
Good choice, excellent foresight and timing.
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Old 15th Apr 2012, 20:53
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Inter Arma Enim Silentius Lex Legis
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Nice one Srennaps, for me it will be 10 years out next year after 28 years and one week in. You have hit the nail on the head. Nice post and happy anniversary!
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Old 15th Apr 2012, 23:25
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Did 12 years, learnt a lot, couldn't wait to get out.... Job prospects far better in the real world, the grass really is greener, the difference is that in the real world you make your own promotions.
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Old 16th Apr 2012, 00:26
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Okay, I'll bite that one.

How so?
Scuttled is offline  
Old 16th Apr 2012, 03:13
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: ACT, Australia
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I wont bite.

I joined on 17 Oct 1978 as a scruffy erbet going nowhere.

I left on 18 April 2003 as a man.

The good parts outshone the bad ones by many a mile. I just wish i could have "bottled" the view from the back seat of a Jag over Moon country because i would be very rich!!

Im lucky to live in Australia now, IMHO Britain PLC and with it the RAF is finished but am glad i was there when it was not.

Enough said.
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Old 16th Apr 2012, 18:31
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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I too wouldn't have missed it. I left because of a total lack of prospects in 1988 (just before they first paid people to leave).

I do remember lots of people who had a higher rank than me being totally useless and having to suffer under them. The only reason they were there was because they had done the time and they had been promoted as the easy option of getting rid of them.

Met one or two idiots in civvy street too, but at least I had the advantage of being able to tell them where to go if I wished and the option of leaving for another job should I care to.

I do miss the airforce at times, but its a different world these days. Saddly not the same animal anymore.
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