Armed Forces Champion Dee Appleton-Cairns blogs about her experiences in the RAF and why it is important to show support on occasions like Armed Forces Day…
You never forget your service number. It’s etched into your memory as a symbol of your life as part of the armed forces.
Since then, I’ve worked on cruise ships, started a family and re-trained in HR with a post graduate diploma in HR and a Masters in Strategic Human Resources to become Deputy Director of HR at the Countess, but even though I’ve done a lot since leaving, it was those years that shaped who I’ve become.
It’s where I had my first real taste of working life, where I learned meteorology, to drive a land rover, use a sub machine gun, decipher encrypted messages, had amazing adventures and where I made friends for life.
I worked as an air traffic controller, with posts at RAF Lyneham, RAF Shawbury and RAF Hereford. It was my responsibility to direct aircraft across the MEDA (Military Emergency Division Airfield) onto the local flight pattern and safely into the air or onto the ground.
Sometimes people are surprised when they hear about my background – there is this idea that ex-service personnel are beefy male soldiers and that is a stereotype we need to dispel. I am classed as being on active service due to the fact that my service commenced during the Falklands conflict. We were moving troops and equipment half way around the world on C130 (Hercules Transportation Aircraft), on a 20 minute turnaround at its height. Lyneham was also commissioned to fly food and medical supplies to Ethiopia during the 1983 famine, prior to the Live Aid fundraising efforts.
All kinds of people, from all walks of life, can have a huge role to play both in the forces – either full time or as reserves – and if they ever decide to subsequently return to civilian life like I did.
The skills, discipline and teamwork ethos that are drilled into you in the forces can be vital to employers, but I particularly believe they are qualities that can be utilised to great effect in the NHS.
I’m proud that at the Countess we have attained the Bronze Award in the Armed Forces Covenant’s Employer Recognition Scheme for actively supporting those who serve. We have members of staff who are reservists and with our close location to Dale Barracks and it’s important we show that support.
In my role as Armed Forces Champion I collaborate with the SaBRE campaign to see how we can help reservists and any member of staff interested in joining the reserves is welcome to get in touch if they want to find out more.
Standing side by side with others who serve creates an immense bond. The only other place I’ve experienced that kind of camaraderie is in the NHS – where everyone is unified by the single, larger goal of what is best for patients. For me the two go hand in hand and it’s incredibly rewarding to be in a position that has links to both.