In the first of a series of personal resettlement stories, David Craven shares how his route took him right back into uniform as a Reserve.
Yours is a resettlement story in three acts; can you outline how it played out?
I did 30 years Service in the Air Force and I left in December 2011. I tried civilian life for a couple of years. It was different to what I was used to and I was always looking, if possible, to get back in at some stage, somehow, as a Reserve but it wasn’t until January this year that a job that was very similar to what I was doing when I left the Air Force came up on the full time Reserves website.
Basically, it’s as a Hangar Manager at RAF Brize Norton, looking after the biggest hangar in the RAF, which is the third biggest hangar in Europe.
Can you outline the relationship between the Regular Forces and the Reserves?
At the moment it’s fairly prevalent in the news that the MOD are very keen to recruit a large number of reserve forces at the same time as they’re reducing their regular strength, if you like.
A lot of jobs on RAF stations which were previously regular Services are changing over to Reserve posts. You’re seeing, particularly at Brize Norton, where I am now, that there are a high number of Reserves personnel so it’s being seen as part of everyday life now.
What are the key tips and advice that you learnt along the resettlement route that you would like to pass on to people as they approach the process?
As people approach the two year point from which they’re coming out of the RAF they get involved in a resettlement phase in their last two years of Service. What I would say is that it’s very important to make the most of that in terms of applying for courses that will prepare you for life outside of the RAF. The MOD fund, quite readily, a variety of courses and training packages to prepare people to transition into civvy street.
I did several courses and I found them very useful. I put them into practice when I left and gained civilian employment as a production manager, initially for a cardboard manufacturing company and then later on as an operations manager at the same company.
What I would say and recommend to people is that they also attend the many briefs that are put in place: financial briefs which tell people about pension facilities, housing facilities if you’re in married quarters and looking to buy your first private home. I’d recommend that they take advantage of all the workshops that they’re offered, for example, the Career Transition Workshop which is very useful, taking you through CV writing, interview techniques and practicing, letter writing; basically being able to sell yourself to a civilian employer.
From my own personal experience, if people are considering going back into the Forces as a Reserve they should think very carefully about how it impacts pension benefits. At the moment there are several pension schemes going on in the Air Force. What I would say to people is to look at re-employment literature that gives you details of the impact that re-employment has on certain benefits in whichever pension scheme you’re on, because on some of them, if you get a lump sum, say; if you leave the Air Force on a Friday, get your lump sum and then join the Reserves on the Monday, you have to hand it back.
It’s very easy to get caught out. It is very precarious and they have to look very closely at the small print.
What were the best lessons that you were able to take from your Service and apply to your roles on civvy street?
The Military do train you exceedingly well. As you progress through the ranks structure, you become more involved with managerial aspects of life so that helps when you come out into civvy street.
How are things at the moment?
I’m doing a job that I enjoy; that I love. As a Reserve you can serve until 65 if you’re fit and well and as long as that post is established. Not that I’d necessarily serve until I was 65 but you never know. It’s an option.