News & Events
17 August 2012
Dawn McCafferty today took over as the Commandant of the Air Cadets – greeted by permanent staff as she entered HQ Air Cadets.
The baton of command was handed across by out-going Commandant, Air Commodore Barbara Cooper, who retires from the RAF.
Dawn, 48, who lives near Grantham, Lincolnshire, and has headed up the Royal Air Force Families Federation for the last five years is the first Full Time Reserve Officer in the position. She was selected amidst fierce competition for the post.
She said: “I feel immensely privileged to be given this wonderful opportunity to lead the Air Cadet Organisation. I am thrilled and very excited at the prospect of getting involved in the youth agenda; I have no doubt that the energy of the cadets and all those in support of them will prove inspirational.”
Born in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, Dawn moved with her family to Wigston Magna, near Leicester, and then to Kettering. She joined the RAF at 19 for a four-year Short Service Commission as an Administrative Secretarial Officer and left the RAF in 2006 after 23 years.
She enjoyed a varied career in the RAF which culminated in her appointment as the Group Captain Inspector of Recruiting. Before the latter she undertook a wide range of management roles within the Service, including command of the Personnel Management Squadron at RAF Wittering, and the Administrative Wing at RAF Waddington. Dawn completed staff tours in Command Headquarters and in the MOD, London.
Dawn opted to leave the RAF in 2006 as she did not want to live away from her family which had settled in Lincolnshire. Repeated staff tours in MOD and Air Command beckoned and, having stabilised her children’s education for the first time, she opted to leave and find employment closer to home but still linked to the Service. After a short spell as a volunteer for HQAC focusing on planning, she then set up and led The RAF Families Federation which launched in 2007 supporting serving RAF personnel and their families.
Air Commodore McCafferty was interviewed about her new role by Denise Parker Housby, Head of Media & Communications at HQAC. See below:
Q. Were you ever a cadet and if so at which squadron and for how long?
A. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to join the air cadets when I was younger but I did join other uniformed youth organisations, namely the Brownies and the Girl Guides; I guess they helped instil similar qualities of discipline, teamwork and service before self, albeit, sadly, no flying, which I suspect I would have found very exciting at that age!
Q. What do you think is/are the most important issue/s affecting the ACO at this moment?
A. From what I’ve learned so far, which I am sure is only touching the surface, I believe the biggest challenge is to preserve all that is great in the current cadet experience, particularly the air experience and gliding opportunities that make us unique in the uniformed youth organisations, whilst also trying to grow the Organisation in line with the Chief of the Air Staff’s and Ministers’ intent, against a background of Defence cuts and staff reductions, I also see a need to ensure that the volunteer cadre, who are the backbone of the ACO, continue to feel valued and that their contribution is recognised at all levels.
Q. How do you intend to address these issues?
A. I think my initial approach is to get to know the business properly and that will mean consulting current staff and volunteers and getting out and about to meet cadets at “the coal face”. I am aware of a wide network of support to the ACO and I will want to establish links with many key players who can help us achieve our goals.
Q. You have an RAF recruiting background, how do you think we should grow the cadet numbers to 50,000?
A. Carefully! I would wish to ensure that in growing the Organisation we don’t risk diluting the cadet experience or overloading our volunteer cadre or supporting staff. Whether we grow current squadrons incrementally, seek to establish new ones, or a mix of the two, I will need to understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead before deciding how best to proceed.
Q. Adult volunteers are the lifeblood of the ACO. What do you think about their commitment?
A. I am in awe of those who give so selflessly to the youth of today and I very much look forward to meeting as many of the Adult Volunteers as I can. The good news is that, as a member of the RAF Full Time Reserve Service (FTRS), I hope to have slightly longer in post than most predecessor Commandants so I hope to have even more opportunity to meet the volunteers whose goodwill underpins the ACO’s success.
Q. You are quite an action woman, cycling in the Far East etc, do you plan to join cadets on activities?
A. I am an intermittent “action woman”! But yes, I do like to keep fit – swimming and cycling and undertaking sponsored challenges. I completed the Inca Trail in Peru in 2008 and a 420km Vietnam to Cambodia cycle last year. I have a great sense of adventure and love to travel and try new things. So even at my ripe age, I am up for a challenge and look forward to joining the cadets on activities wherever I physically can and where I won’t cramp their style!
Q. Are your children in the ATC or CCF (RAF)?
A. Can I admit that our daughter, Laura, was an Army cadet for a while? Will the air cadets hold that against me? Probably! Our son, Peter, isn’t quite old enough to join the cadets yet but I have told him that as I’m now the Commandant he has to join – no pressure!
Q. Membership of other organisations?
A. The RAF Association, Association of WRAF Officers and the Royal British Legion.
Q. What do you have for breakfast?
A. I love bacon butties and poached egg on toast, not necessarily at the same time. Chocolate works for me at any time of the day!
Q. Favourite band/music?
A. I am heavily influenced here by our children, both of whom are very musical and neither of whom necessarily agrees my taste. One of my favourite male singers is Josh Groban, I love Green Day, and I also like Adele.
Q. Favourite book?
A. Anything by Jodie Picoult, who writes great human dilemmas, often with a legal dimension.
Q. Favourite film?
A. Meet Joe Black – but only because it’s Brad Pitt at his best.
A. Walking our two dogs, Blake the springer spaniel and Bobby the springador, cycling, swimming, gym if I have time, reading, cooking, going to the theatre and watching films.