Squadron Leader Marc Cornell

Squadron Leader Marc Cornell Squadron Leader Marc Cornell

Sqn Ldr Marc Cornell's story...

STATIONED:
RAF Leeming - 135 Expeditionary Air Wing

TRADE:
Catering Officer

LENGTH OF SERVICE:
26 Years

HOME TOWN:
Liverpool by birth, but now living in
Cyfronydd, Llanfair Caereinion, Mid Wales


CAREER HIGHLIGHTS/EXPERIENCE:

Joined the RAF on 10 May 1982 as a Cook. Graduated from RAF College Cranwell on 20 July 2000.
Served at various Stations around the UK and in Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia and Saudi Arabia.
A former trade instructor, I was a founder member of the Combined Services Culinary Arts Team and during my years as a chef won the titles of Armed Forces Chef of the Year and RAF Chef of the Year in 1997. I was awarded the Hereford Trophy in 2000.
Currently OC Catering Flight at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, I will be taking up the post of OC Community Support Squadron at RAF Marham in August.
Married 27 years, with 2 children and 2 beautiful granddaughters.
I am very proud to serve in the RAF and even more so to have been selected to command the deployed operating base at Innsworth Station in support of the RIAT Colours Event.

Day 1 - 1st July 2008
Day One for the majority is actually Day Nine for the 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) Headquarters staff. Churchill’s Few has been resurrected once again and are busy defending the ravages of a base that has been under care and maintenance for several months. Phase One – establishing the deployed operating base at Innsworth Station - was completed on schedule and with no casualties (so long as you do not include the odd headache in the statistics). Phase Two – inloading personnel – has been far more entertaining and challenging. As a dedicated desk jockey I rarely move more than 10 yards (metres) without assistance from my Warrant Officer – he gives an excellent piggy-back! If we were not meant to use cars, they would not have been invented. Anyway, with a lack of vehicles at Innsworth I have had to resort to ‘walking’. If it were not for my boots my feet would now resemble the limbs of a duck-billed platypus; handy in the bath, but not really an advantage in the middle of a mini heat wave. I am not overly sure if my room-mate is being polite or he has simply lost his sense of smell. Either way, I now routinely find my socks and boots on the window sill. Unfortunately, he has not lost his hearing and he has already informed the rest of the detachment that I will be representing the UK in Beijing in the Olympic Snoring Marathon: oh, if only I had time to sleep.

Day 2 - 2nd July 2008
Today has been a mixed bag of events. An early start to prepare for the arrival of a number of media people was followed by a late lunch and a meeting with the company that will be providing us with transport between Innsworth Station and RAF Fairford. Important tasks only made light by the fact that I drove a double decker bus around the parade square! A few near misses and even more worried faces – the parade had not been dismissed at this point – and it was back to reality and a call back to Leeming to find out what I have missed so far and more importantly what I have to face when I get back.

Rain clouds hampered some of the parade rehearsals today, but they did not appear to dampen our enthusiasm. Probably the highlight of the day was seeing 220 personnel singing happy birthday and raising 3 cheers to Sgt Ali Gowland – a sign of real team spirit in action.

Day 3 - 3rd July 2008
There is something strange about repeatedly delivering the same brief time and time again to differing audiences. It is a bit like saying the same word over and over again; the sound coming out of one’s mouth quickly fails to make sense. So far my team have briefed in excess of 500 new ‘ DOB’ entrants ranging from fresh-faced trainees to hugely experienced officers, WOs and SNCOs. I fear the message we are delivering might soon appear as white noise if we are not careful as we roll from one brief to the next. Without the briefs, however, it would be very hard for our newcomers to understand how far Innsworth Station has changed over the last few weeks. Empty rooms and dripping taps have been transformed into a vibrant, focussed environment that has already attracted much praise from our new arrivals. What is the magic ingredient for effecting these changes? Well firstly, it is ownership. 135 EAW was tasked with establishing, sustaining and recovering the DOB. By understanding the task we are all committed to seeing the job through to the end. Secondly and closely linked to this, is team work. By having ownership of the task, we are accountable. To achieve this we must work as one across the rank and trade ranges. Someone once told me: tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I’ll remember; involve me and I’ll understand. I have seen this work at Innsworth to excellent effect.

I thought the start of this detachment was busy, but our daily schedule has really ramped up now. All bar one of the Standard Parties arrived today (and tonight); each member needing to be briefed, accommodated, fed and watered. Unlike the earlier arrivals that came in groups of around 20, today saw 60 teams of 4 arrive. The detachment strength now stands at 520 personnel and will grow to 800 tomorrow when the Queen's Colour Sqn and 34 Sqn RAF Regt arrive. Fatigue is setting in fast and I have the added responsibility of maintaining the morale of my team whilst ensuring that Innsworth Stn is capable of delivering real life support to the total detachment strength.

All members of No 3 Mobile Catering Sqn are working flat out to feed us: on detachments like this, food is a key contributor to morale and as such needs to be of a high standard and with plenty of variety. Being a caterer myself, I know only too well how strenuous it is to deliver meals to such a large audience - I cannot praise my trade colleagues enough for their marvellous contribution so far. As for me, well my feet are bearing up, my determination remains high and yes, I am still snoring.

Day 4 - 4th July 2008
Six coaches and a number of support vehicles arrived this afternoon. With everyone finally bedded in at Innsworth Stn it is only now that we can finally see if our detailed planning was robust enough to survive initial contact with the 'enemy'. First indications are good, but tomorrow morning will see 800 people rise at the same time, eat at the same time and ...I can probably leave the rest for you to guess! Joking aside, providing sustainable life support to so many personnel is a real challenge and one that requires my team to remain focussed, flexible and, as far as is possible, in good humour. There is no let up from here on in. We do not expect to get much rest before we wave a fond farewell to the last of our guests on Saturday morning (12 Jul 08), so it is vital that, regardless of the task, I remain alert to the needs of my personnel.

Day 5 - 5th July 2008
09:00 and I hear band music mixed with a fair bit of 'encouragement' as well. All parade personnel are out on the drill square and it is a truly magnificent sight. My oh my, HM is in for a spectacle on Friday. There is a real sense of importance circulating around Innsworth Stn. Personally, I feel a little left out as my involvement next week will purely be in a supporting role. For those on the square, they will be able to look back on this historic event and say "I was there".

The weather was our enemy today, but as the Parade Marshall reminded me - skin is waterproof. If only my feet knew that.

Day 6 - 6th July 2008
I thought we were going to add Noah to our detachment strength this morning. After a relatively quiet evening the 6 o'clock alarm was accompanied by the sound of rain, rain and more rain. Out came the waterproofs and it was on to the parade square for a full parade run through. With the echoes of the band gently playing in the background my team set about our latest challenge; getting 800 personnel on to the right bus at the right time with the right kit.

Carol Vorderman would have been proud of us as we calculated the how to best put the different numbers in the parade formations on to buses with differing seating capacity who must all arrive at RAF Fairford in a set sequence to be able to change in different size marquees! One from the top and 5 from any where else please Carole! We didn't quite manage to get 10 points, but we do have a plan. I think I have said that before somehow.

Come 12:00 and Noah was stood down along with the rest of the parade personnel. The sun came out just in time for my team to shoot over to Fairford to put up tents and move 800 chairs and Lord knows how many hanging rails into position for tomorrow morning's onslaught. A quick call to the caterer to confirm the delivery arrangements for 830 packed meals, 3,000 litres of water and a fair few rubbish bags and it was a quick dash to get in front of a TV to see young Hamilton cross the line first at Silverstone. If only our buses could travel that fast!

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