RAF Officer Cadets are being put through the final demanding tests at RAF College Cranwell before they graduate.
Cadets on Exercise Decisive Edge have been facing a series of challenging scenarios in the final ten-day testing phase of the 30-week Initial Officer Training course at RAF College Cranwell.
Training the next generation of RAF leaders is Wing Commander Ash Bennett and his team of operationally-experienced instructors:
For many of the cadets, the RAF has been on active operations for most of their lives. They’ve seen what the Service achieves, where we’re fighting and the kind of leaders we need.
We recognise that some of the people we’re training today will be on the front line within weeks; it’s imperative we give them the skills they need to be effective RAF leaders.
The instructors bring the realism of what actually happens on operations into the training world so the next generation of officers are capable of leading in Afghanistan or wherever else the RAF might find itself.
On Exercise Decisive Edge we’re preparing for true expeditionary operations. We are simulating what it can be like in the earliest days of a conflict, such as it was in Iraq or the Balkans, so cadets have to build, sustain and motivate an operational unit from scratch.
This way, when the RAF next has to set up an operation in the field, our young officers will be ready to work in austere conditions under extreme pressure.
Cadets range from eighteen-year-old school leavers to former Senior Non-Commissioned Officers going through the commissioning process in their thirties.
Training alongside them are those on the Specialist Entry and Re-Entry (SERE) 10-week course and their part-time equivalents on Reserve Officer Initial Training.
Officer Cadet Charlie Davies, 25, is a SERE cadet, joining the RAF as a fully qualified doctor:
I first got involved with the RAF through the University Air Squadron at Southampton University. Despite having no military background the RAF way of life felt very familiar and friendly; I really like that feeling - that’s why I’m here today.
On the exercise we’ve been learning a lot of basic military skills, from how to live in field conditions to force protection; how to protect ourselves and others. We’ve covered the roles of the RAF, the type of missions and tasks we will go out on, as well as how to be a leader, an officer.
The biggest challenge has been mentally proving to myself that I could do this. For my assessed lead I was the Combined Incident Team Commander.
As a doctor, this was completely new to me, and there was a lot going on.
I had exercise injects ranging from personnel issues to responding to enemy small arms fire. There were times where I really felt I was out of my comfort zone, but that is what this training is designed to do, push you beyond what you think are your limits.
The lessons I’ve learnt here will stand me in good stead for my RAF career; Exercise Decisive Edge has really helped prepare me.