The Football Association (FA) visited 24 (XXIV) Squadron, the training squadron for the Atlas (A400M) formally known as the Operational Conversion Unit, at RAF Brize Norton earlier this week for two days of mutual training and development.
The training allowed the RAF and FA to exchange ideas about making decisions under pressure, using the RAF A400M aircraft simulators - XXIV Squadron’s state of the art training facilities - and top-class RAF instructors to highlight and experience first-hand how RAF personnel are taught to deal with high pressure situations.
FA personnel included football legend Steve Walsh (Leicester City and Everton), Steve Morrow (Arsenal), Brian Tevreden (ex Ajax), Heather Cowan (Birmingham City), ex England International Les Ferdinand (QPR), Dougie Freedman (Crystal Palace), Gretar Steinsson (Everton) and Jim Fraser (Chelsea). All managers are on a FA Elite Managers course.
“I will tell my players to focus like a pilot trying to land a plane with passengers on board and under fire like the RAF aircrew we spoke to and heard stories from.”
The two days started off with brief's on security and the role of RAF Brize Norton followed by a talk from the RAF Presentation team, giving a flavour of life and opportunity in the RAF. Two brief's were given by pilots who had seen combat first hand and in doing so dealt with extreme pressure, one who was shot in the head but saved by his helmet whilst carrying out Medical Evacuations in Afghanistan, and the other had to deal with a severe explosion when her C130 Aircraft hit an Improvised Explosive Device when landing on a dirt runway in Afghanistan, 2010.
In the A400M simulator it was a ‘hands on’ experience for the individuals from the FA it tested them in a new and dynamic environment. The RAF Brize Norton training team also gave the FA rigorous group training activities. The importance of being able to simulate and discuss these experiences was invaluable for both organisations
“Their professionalism in a high-pressured environment was impressive. They improved and adapted after a few sessions and only crashed a few times!”
Flight Lieutenant Mark Brodie
Atlas (A400M) Pilot
The RAF manages threats and stress through rigorous training. To recognise when team members are in ‘stretch’ and about to go over the edge is very important, especially in a cockpit in a hostile environment. Learning with, and understanding, your team is vital in the RAF and as such we produce adaptable and capable people who are team players.
“Being in a simulator has given me confidence to try things I may not have done before.”
The event came about through Squadron Leader Tim Barlow, an experienced RAF Training Officer and Director of the RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s team who before joining up, was a professional rugby player. Alongside his RAF Career he has coached international level rugby 7s. Coaching the RAFs rugby 7s teams over the last 10 years led to shared training sessions with the England Rugby 7s team and through this came an invitation to assist the FA.