News & Events
28 May 2010
A new Commandant has taken over the baton of command at the Air Cadet Organisation.
Air Commodore Barbara Cooper has made history because she is the first ever female Commandant of the Air Cadet Organisation – which comprises the Air Training Corps and the Combined Cadet Force (RAF). She took over from Air Commodore Ian Stewart who is posted to NATO.
The most senior female officer in the British Armed Forces, she takes up the reins of the post in charge of the 60,000-strong ACO and is also believed to be the first female Commandant in 150 years of the Cadet Forces.
She will launch herself into to a packed programme of events celebrating the 150th anniversary and will have an audience at Buckingham Palace with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who is the Air Training Corps’ Air Commodore-in-Chief.
Air Commodore Cooper, the longest serving of four female one star officers in the RAF, is a highly experienced Personnel Officer. She was a keen aviator at the start of her career and also held a Private Pilots’ License. She fulfils a dream in being selected for the appointment.
She said: “I am absolutely thrilled with this fantastic opportunity to lead the Air Training Corps and the Combined Cadet Force (RAF). I have always had a great deal of respect and admiration for both cadets and adult volunteers who give up their valuable time as well as the permanent staff who work so hard to deliver a complex programme.”
Born in Canada, Air Commodore Cooper moved to the UK aged 11 and attended Evesham High School, Worcestershire. She was commissioned in the RAF in 1978 as an air traffic control officer. After a seven-year short service commission she left and gained qualifications in property management but missing Service life she regained her commission in 1987 this time choosing the Administrative Branch.
She had several personnel tours in the UK and in Germany, including a post as staff officer to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS). From 1998-2000 she commanded the administrative wing of RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her work there.
Among other postings she was Deputy Director Service Personnel Policy (Operations and Manning) at the outset of the last Gulf Conflict, which included responsibility for operational welfare policy. She also ran the UK’s Prisoner of War Information Bureau, liaising with the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2003 in support of the operation, she was recognised in the Iraq Operational Honours List as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
In 2005, she assumed the appointment of Director Royal Air Force Division within the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, Wiltshire. She was selected as a member of the 2007 entry of the Royal College of Defence Studies and completed six months before being promoted to Air Commodore and being posted into the post of Assistant Chief of Staff Manpower & Personnel Capability at HQ Air Command, High Wycombe.
For Air Commodore Cooper this is not her first involvement with the ACO, she has undertaken the role of reviewing officer at a number of Combined Cadet Force biennial inspections over a number of years.
Air Commodore Cooper is also president of the RAF Netball Association and president of the RAF Theatrical Association. She enjoys gardening, walking, cycling and the theatre. She is married to William, a retired RAF officer, their home is in Cirencester.
Quick fire questions for the new boss:
Your favourite posting to date?: I have been lucky in that I have enjoyed all of my postings. One of the most interesting was as Staff Officer to CAS, but I suspect my tour as Commandant of the Air Cadet Organisation will be my absolute favourite. I can’t wait.
Person who inspired you most?: Emily Pankhurst – she showed what can be achieved against strong opposition.
Favourite author?: Shakespeare
Favourite play?: Anything by Shakespeare
Favourite actor?: David Tennant – not only was he the best ever Dr Who but he made an amazing Hamlet in a recent modern version of the play.
Any pets?: None, I like cats, but I am allergic!
Favourite vegetable: Raw carrots, but my favourite vegetable to grow is the potato – you just pop one into the ground, cover it up and a couple of months later you have a whole crop of them – magic!
Favourite music?: Very mixed, depending on my mood. Anything from classical to modern.
Favourite sport?: Horseriding…I have taken too many falls to ride these days, but I enjoy watching eventing and polo.
Social networking?: I will soon be on Facebook as the new Commandant.