THE RAF Reserves Force Protection Squadron based at RAF Honington have celebrated the graduation of three female regiment gunners; the first to join the Squadron since the exclusion on women serving in Ground Close Combat roles was lifted in 2016.
Reviewing Officer, RAF Honington Station Commander Group Captain Dutch Holland said:
Our Regular personnel give enormous commitment to the RAF and our nation; however, our Reservists give this commitment on top of their civilian jobs, lives, hobbies and relationships. Their commitment is remarkable and they bring a richness and experience to the RAF which is unique. We in turn provide them skills, knowledge and experiences which they take back to their civilian lives and which makes them better people. I’m also delighted to welcome 3 new female RAF Gunners into the Corps – this is a hugely welcome step forward in diversity and mirrors recent successes in our Regular Force; diverse organisations are good organisations! All these Reservists are truly remarkable and I am delighted to share in their successes today.
Having completed their final 2 weeks consolidation and assessment of their fieldcraft on Ex OMEGA at RAF Honington and STANTA Range, the 3 new graduates Leading Aircraftmen (LAC) Smith, Bailey and Knowles, now join their fellow male gunner reservists on the Squadron.
Graduate LAC Bailey said:
As a school housemistress and mother of 2 the Regiment is very different from my day to day life! I have been incredibly well supported throughout my training by all my instructors, my squadron and my peers. It felt fantastic to complete Ex OMEGA and I feel very proud to be joining such an inclusive and welcoming Corps.
LAC Knowles said:
I was expecting the final exercise, Ex OMEGA to be physically a very challenging 2 weeks. Although physically challenging at times, it was the mental challenges which I found most rewarding and the greatest sense of achievement overcoming.
The last 2 weeks has taught me that pushing through your comfort zone boundaries is when you learn the most about yourself and achieve the greatest rewards.
Squadron Adjutant, Flight Lieutenant Pirt said:
Absolutely thrilled to support the graduating gunners and to witness them being presented their Mudguards. The Squadron’s Regular and Reserve staff have invested in their journey from civilian to RAF Regiment Gunner and seen their commitment and determination backed by unselfishness and a sense of humour to achieve it. These female Gunners have proven themselves equal in all respects.
All RAF Regiment Reservists complete Phase One training in the first instance which is 4 weekends with the FTRS instructors on the squadron and 2 weeks at RAF Halton Training Wing. This is followed by Phase Two training which is 5 weekends with the Squadron’s FTRS instructors and 2 weeks consolidation and assessment at RAF Honington Training Wing on Exercise OMEGA.