KELLY RICHARDSON, RAF RESERVIST
The Reserve Forces are an integral part of the nation’s Armed Forces. With the government’s plans to increase the size of the Reserves to create a more balanced Armed Forces structure, their contribution will be more important than ever. In the third and final part of our series, read about some of those who’ve already joined up – and how to find out more if you decide to follow suit.
Kelly Richardson has been an RAF Reservist with 3 Tactical Police Squadron based at RAF Honington in Suffolk for the past year. She doesn’t have a typical 9-to-5 desk job: working for Collett’s Mountain Holidays, a Saffron Walden-based company specialising in mountain holidays, she spends most of her time managing European resorts, and developing new and exciting locations for the business.
‘I love my civilian job,’ she says, ‘but I had become quite settled and a bit too comfortable, and really needed a new challenge. I wanted to spend my weekends doing something more meaningful. I was also craving being surrounded by similar and likeminded people.
‘In the last 12 months, I’ve enjoyed a brilliant work–life balance, which I was really craving. My employer now has an extremely happy and motivated member of staff as a result. I am gaining skills and experience that I am, without doubt, applying and using in my civilian job.’
Having joined the RAF Mountaineering Association (RAFMA), Kelly has already attended a number of their meetings in parts of the Lake District, Scotland and Wales. ‘I am currently working towards my Mountain Leader qualification, which I am gaining through the RAF – an incredible opportunity and something that I hope to give back in the form of sharing the skills I’ve learned with new members in the future.’
During 2018, the Royal Air Force has, of course, been celebrating its 100th birthday. A mountaineering expedition to Nepal (Himalayan Venture 2018) has been organised in honour of the RAF celebrations, which will bring all of the RAF family together, with Air Cadets, University Air Squadrons, Regulars and Reserves all heading to the Himalayas for the month of September. ‘I am thrilled to have made it on to one of the teams,’ says Kelly. ‘It has been quite an extensive selection process, with superbly organised training along the way. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I really feel like I am part of something much bigger than myself, which I would not have gained access to in the civilian world.’
With such a busy lifestyle, the inevitable question looms. How is it possible to balance Reservist life with work and personal commitments? ‘It’s not always easy, but provided you manage your time correctly and communicate well with everyone involved, it is very achievable. The Reservist Phase 1 and 2 training is planned and split so that it is spread out over a number of months, so that you can fit work, life and holiday commitments around it. It feels comprehensive, without being overwhelming.They can also all really complement each other, and there is plenty of opportunity for your family to get involved with events taking place.’
In many ways, the RAF is close to Kelly’s heart. Her father was a long-term RAF Reservist as a gliding instructor, and her fiancé is an RAF regular and officer with the Regiment. ‘My advice to anybody considering becoming a Reservist is, go for it! It can seem like quite an intimidating process at the beginning, with a whole new military language to learn (and a lot of acronyms!). My biggest fear was not that the training process would be too intense for me, but that I was going to do something wrong or salute the wrong person. This seems very daft now of course. Everyone has been through exactly the same process in one way or another, and every person I have met in my journey so far has been incredibly approachable, open and encouraging.’
My advice to anybody considering becoming a Reservist is, go for it!
Thinking of joining?
In the past 15 years, Reservists have been called out to serve on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a few, resulting in many employers experiencing the mobilisation of one or more employees. Research suggests that 87% of Reservist employers who have experienced mobilisation were very supportive. This is good news, as Reservists could not carry out their important role, and train to the high standards of professionalism required, without the cooperation of their employers.
Working in pressurised conditions during training or periods of mobilisation inevitably develops Reservists’ self-confidence, but it also helps them develop skillsthat many organisations in the civilian world don’t have the time or money to develop. In fact, research has found that the average employer would have to pay over £8,000 a year to purchase the same training in civilian skills as their employees receive from their Reservist training. Skills gained include soft skills such as leadership, initiative, decision making and working as a team – all important attributes for people working in many different sectors.
The government wants to make joining the Reserves more attractive to ex-Regulars and, to this end, has simplified the Regular-to-Reserve transfer process, reinforcing it with financial incentives such as the Commitment Bonus. Introduced in 2013, this provides a payment of £5,000 over three years for ex-Regular transfers. In addition, Service leavers will be able to retain their rank on transfer to the Reserves and receive access to higher rates of Training Bounty on account of prior regular service.
Throughout history, Reservists have provided the capacity to expand the Regular Forces to face new challenges when needed, and it would be impossible for the UK to mount a major military operation without the support of the Reserves.
To find out more about joining the East Anglia Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, like Kelly, visit www.earfca.org.uk
Defence Relationship Management (DRM) is the single point of contact that links employers with the MoD. To discover more, visit www.gov.uk/government/groups/defence-relationship-management
Find out more about the benefits of being a Reservist here:
Army Reserve www.army.mod.uk/reserve/31781.aspx
Royal Naval Reserve www.royalnavy.mod.uk/rnr
Royal Marines Reserve www.royalnavy.mod.uk/careers/skills-and-specialisations/royal-marines-reserve
RAF Reserve www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment/lifestyle-benefits/life-as-a-reserve/