Basic Training

Exactly two years since I started basic training, I’m now writing up my experience. I started on the 26th November, 2014 and graduated on the same intake I started with on the 17th February 2015. It was an incredible journey. This post has been under construction for almost exactly one year. I hope it’s useful and interesting to all who read it.

Just a quick note before I get into this essay… it’s not wholly accurate and it’s not fully inclusive of everything that happens at Halton. It’s an in-depth overview of the most memorable times. It’s an honest account of what the 10 weeks generally involve and what attitude you need to have to get through it. Different intakes will do it different, and it’s been well over a year since I did basic training so the course content and structure may have changed. Please take this blog entry as a guide only. I hope it proves to be as helpful and as reassuring as I’ve been told the rest of this blog is.

The Arrival

The cliché image of a bunch of recruits arriving at Halton with oversized bags and ironing boards under their arms is very much the reality. After eventually finding the right entrance, I hauled my stuff up what seemed like a mountain, but was in fact an ordinary set of steps in the corner of the car park. I met some other people in the car park who I recognised from PRTC. They were looking equally apprehensive. No matter who you are, how old you are, how big you are… This is a nervous time. We were greeted at the top of the steps by a few SATTs (Servicemen/women Awaiting Trade Training). SATTs are the people who have graduated from basic training but are now holding at Halton while they wait for their phase 2 training course start date. Quite helpfully, they had a couple of trolleys for bags. Unfortunately, they were full by the time I got to the top of the steps. Brilliant! We waited a while for a few more people and then made the walk to the block – our home for the next 10 weeks. The source of many of our problems but also the place we desperately wanted to retreat to after a long day. Just inside the door was a list with our names on which told us what room we were in. The ground floor is always the girls’ floor. At this point I knew I was dragging the suitcase I literally couldn’t lift off the ground up at least one flight of stairs. I broke a sweat just pondering the thought. I wasn’t on the next floor either. I was on the top floor. Of course I was. And so it began… the ascent. The guy I met in the car park from PRTC was also in the same room as me, but he’d chosen to evenly distribute weight by having two medium sized bags. This was quite a good idea (top tip number 1). I made it to the top of the stairs a few minutes later and found the bed that I wouldn’t be getting enough sleep in for the next 10 weeks. I hastily threw my suitcase on my bed, opened it up, found a pen and pad (top tip number 2 is making a pen and pad more accessible than I did), and headed downstairs to the briefing room.

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I wasn’t joking about the ironing boards!

The initial brief was actually a lot more friendly and welcoming than I anticipated. However, don’t let this give you a false sense of security. We went around the room and did the usual stand up, say your name, why you joined the RAF and an interesting fact about yourself. You’ll get used to these icebreakers pretty quickly! The instructors told us about themselves and their careers and what we could expect from them/what they expected of us. We had a little bit of reinforcement of what they expected of us given by a slightly unnerving Regiment Sergeant. After this, we were given a list of tasks to complete for that evening and then we were dismissed. After heading back up to our rooms, we all started talking unpacking and getting on with what we had to do. The list mainly consisted of labelling things, completing forms for the next day, and also phoning family/friends to let them know you arrived safely. I thought that was quite a nice touch.

The first night is an early night where you can get to sleep around 10-11pm so make the most of it! It’s also a good idea because tomorrow is your day 00 fitness test. You’ve probably only recently done your PRTC fitness test, but this one is still important. Believe it or not, people do fail it. The fitness test is exactly the same format as PRTC, so there’s not much to report here. Day 00 is also your attestation date which is quite exciting. It’s where you formally become a member of the RAF. Out of everything at Basic Training, it’s the one date that will stick in your head the most. That and graduation day but that’s a long way off yet. Depending on your beliefs, you can either take the Oath of Allegiance (to God) or the Oath of Affirmation (to the Queen). Most people choose the Oath of Allegiance, even if they’re not hugely religious or religious at all. It is entirely up to you though and it’s one of the few things at training you actually get a say in, so do whatever you’re most comfortable with. Attestation is also an event your family can attend. Mind you, you will only see them for about 15-20 minutes at the end of the ceremony which seems a bit rushed.

And so it begins…

Day 01 was honestly one of my least favourite days. It’s the day of your initial kitting at clothing stores. Honestly, the whole ‘getting changed as fast as you can’ thing doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. There’s nothing fun or amusing about it. You get a tiny little cubicle and we were given less and less time with each ‘round’ of dress state. So for the easiest clothes to get into, you get about 6 minutes. That’s fine. But you have to first find the correct piece of clothing (you have an absolute mountain of it in this cubicle with you), unpack it, take bits of cardboard and clips off it, get it on, and dress yourself correctly in it, then parade outside in a line perfectly dressed. I honestly hated it. I have to stress that at the time, my intake had the strictest and harshest flight staff at Halton and our intake instructors were feared by everyone else on other intakes. Your experiences will hopefully not be as horrendous as mine! We ended up owing around 20 minutes of time for being late out of the cubicle. This was usually just because of one person but the mantra at Halton is if one person messes up, you have all messed up and you will all face the consequences, no exceptions. Those 20 minutes hung over us for the duration of the course, and we had to complete various tasks to lose or gain minutes, depending on how we did. We ended up owing a stupid amount of time, something like 140 minutes but we never had it used against us in the end. I’d like to think they thought we didn’t deserve 140 minutes of hell but it’s likely they just forgot. I wasn’t complaining either way. Once the nightmare of initial kitting is done, you’ll struggle to put everything in a big bin bag and then you’ll get on the coach to take it all back to your block.

Your first few nights are some of the most stressful and busiest. Guess what you have to do with all those lovely new clothes? Labelling and ironing. Good news – the requirement for sewing labels has gone. However, ironing is still going to take up your whole night. And your clothes will probably look worse when you’ve finished than they did when you started. You’ll get there though, just like we all did. Give it about 9 weeks! The first few nights are horrible but this also has its benefits. It’s horrible for everyone, so you kind of automatically gel with people a lot better than you usually would because you’re all going through a bad time together. You might not like someone, but if you’ve finished ironing and they have 2 shirts left to do, you’ll do one of them. They’ll do the same for you when you need it. That’s my top tip number 3 – always give your spare time to help others. It’s worth it when you’re running late and you can remind them that they owe you a favour.

Another brief talking point regarding the first few days is the initial medical at training. I’ve been asked if this is in-depth as your original medical with CAPITA. It’s not. I can’t quite recall the way it goes but it’s nothing like your pre-joining medical. If I remember rightly, it’s just immunisations. I had about 4 or 5… Not the most comfortable thing in the world.

Not too long after you have all your kit and you’ve done the medical, you start foot drill. This was one of the parts of training I was kind of ‘meh’ towards. It’s hilarious to begin with, but it gets tedious quick. You can spend some long hours on the parade ground, especially when you’re going through training in winter. There’s a lot to take on board during drill and it’s really easy to get frustrated but muscle memory will come into effect without you knowing much about it and things suddenly seem to get easier. It helps if you’re into music and can stay in beat/have rhythm. There’s always one or two people who are, what can only be described as a lost cause when it comes to drill but nobody on my intake got re-flighted because they couldn’t march. And trust me, some of them were horrendously bad, and they wouldn’t mind me saying that because they knew! Everyone makes mistakes. At the beginning it’s due to inexperience and at the end it’s due to nerves. Either way, everyone is going to make themselves look stupid at least once.

GST/GSK (General Service Training/Knowledge) makes up a big part of the first couple of weeks of basic training. I actually have the GST book in front of me (don’t ask me why I kept it… I kept all the books from Halton). Firstly, the GSK exam is nowhere near as intimidating as people make it sound. There’s a lot to take in, but the exam is actually mostly common sense, with a few questions that actually make you think thrown in. There’s 25 chapters in the book with topics like RAF core values ( most important), health and safety, pay and allowances, air power, security, and flight safety. Some of this stuff is dull, some is actually quite interesting depending on how geeky you are and what trade you’re going to be. Adminners will get excited about the pay topic in the same way I got excited to learn more about the RAF aircraft platforms. Health and safety might have a few people nodding off though! You start GSK on or around day 4/5 and your final exam is on or around day 20. You’ll have a progress exam or two before then to see what topics you’re struggling on. Pay attention to the results as this is really helpful to show you what you need to study more of. Like everything (generally), you get 2 attempts at the final exam.

The best day yet!

Before the exam, you have a visit to RAF Museum Hendon, London. This will be your favourite day of the course so far. You’re in civvies (albeit smart), so you feel at least a little bit normal. I felt like a prisoner on day release at the museum. You’ve been working long days and nights every day since you arrived at Halton and this is your first opportunity to not worry and to be back in the real world for a bit. Seeing normal people does feel a bit weird after being in military isolation, and so does having freedom. It’s a great day out and its aim is to reinforce and develop what you’ve already learnt as part of GSK (Air power, RAF history etc). We had about 3-4 hours at the museum and had quite a bit of free time to walk around and look at whatever we wanted.

During the build up to your exam, you’ll also have a couple of inspections. They’re not big, end of the world if you mess up, kind of inspections. A bit like how you have progress exams, you have progress inspections. However, with each progress inspection, standards are expected to increase quite rapidly. The big ones come on day 21 and day 63 (or somewhere close).

The formal inspection

Day 21 inspection is your first big, formal, pass/fail inspection. It’s up to you when to start prepping for it. I’d recommend starting about 3 or 4 days before. You have a specific lay out that you’ll need to follow and downstairs in the common room you have a lifeline. The common room has a ‘demo bed space’. Essentially, everything you have in your bed space (bed, military locker, civvy locker and bed side table), but in the common room. This should be set up precisely how they expect your own bed space to be set up for inspections. The order of clothing items in the military locker and layout of items to go on your bed should be copied exactly from the demo bed space. I used to go down, jot the layout down on a pad and stick it to the inside of my locker door. This saves having to go up and down every time you need to remind yourself of the layout. Looking back, the day 21 inspection isn’t too much to stress over. It’s nothing like the day 63 inspection but obviously you still need to be putting max effort into it. On my intake, one of the biggest things peopled failed on was loose threads on PCS top/trousers. Every time you get issued new kit, you have to inspect it closely for ages until you’re satisfied you have cut off all the little loose threads. Other than that, just iron and polish well and you should be fine. Dust is always a big one too. If it’s a surface, it’s got dust on it. Make sure you get a good polish and dusting cloth and dust everywhere… relentlessly.

The inspection marks the end of your coverall phase. You can (mostly) say goodbye to the green denims and start dressing primarily in PCS as the next phase you enter is IFPT (Initial Force Protection Training) with the RAF Regiment. However, you’ll be doing a week of Adventurous Training first. I also took the opportunity to use my Saturday off to go gliding at the end of this week. Anyone at Halton is welcome to have a walk (or drive if you’re feeling lazy) down to the flying club and have a go at gliding. The guys at the flying club are really, really nice too so I’d definitely recommend it. It was a great day!

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Flying low and fast over the ridge behind Halton camp. Notice the parade ground and the mini Tornado!

The best week of training

AT week was honestly the highlight of basic training for me. Most people say the Regiment exercise (Ex Blue Warrior) is the best and yes, it’s fun, but I didn’t join up to do that kind of stuff although obviously I knew it would play a big part. AT however was definitely more my thing. Half of our intake went to Crickhowell FDTC and the other half (my half) went to Fairbourne FDTC (although Fairbourne is closed now). It was a good 5-6 hour coach journey there… and we weren’t allowed to sleep. However a few of us nodded off anyway and nobody really noticed. We arrived to find we were in 6 man rooms with two bunk beds. This was heaven compared to rooms back at Halton! And we had proper matresses for the first time. The food was amazing also. We basically felt like we were being treated like royalty because we’d become used to having things so bad. If I went back to Fairbourne now, it probably wouldn’t seem so great. It’s a well needed break though.

Over the week at Fairbourne we did many team building challenges which meant enhancing our followership skills and a little bit of leadership too. The activities we did included kayaking, indoor climbing and navigation exercises. I think kayaking was probably my favourite. We played a few games with various rules which if broken meant you’d have water projected into your face via everyone else’s paddles. Once we’d finished messing about (and falling into the water), we broke up into two teams and went head to head in a scrapheap challenge style race. With only our kayaks, rope and other basic materials, we had to build a boat that could fit our whole team in and then race to the finish line. This was a huge amount of fun and actually required quite a lot of brain power, which for the first time we actually had as we could get a decent sleep the night previous! My team actually lost the race in the end. The water was a bit choppier than we’d have liked and we started taking on water fairly early on. We didn’t sink but we didn’t win either! I believe there was some forfeit but can’t for the life of me think wat it was. It was probably to dismantle the other teams boat as well as our own or something like that. Overall though, a really fun week. Although I’m not sure I would have agreed with myself on the Nav exercise walking over hills with sideways rain and knock-a-human-off-their-feet strength winds!

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Nice 6 man rooms with comfy beds for a change!

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Not a great time to decide you don’t like heights…

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Couldn’t complain about the views

The hard work starts

You get back from AT and the real hard work starts. You don’t see too much of your regular flight staff at this stage as you move down to the RAF Regiment for IFPT (Initial Force Protection Training). You’re up early, you muster outside your block like you have every other morning and you are met by your regular flight staff, you go to breakfast as usual in the mess and then you march down to begin your day with the Regiment. You’re down there all day until evening meal when you come back up to the main camp. I could scrutinize every detail about IFPT but it’s mostly as you’d expect. I’ll cover the main points, however.

IFPT starts with about 3 days First Aid. It’s relatively basic First Aid. You learn how to treat bleeds, fractures, shock, how to deal with patients and now more than ever – health and safety. First Aid comes to a close with a practical (and I think there’s a written one too) exam in which you’re presentated with a situation and a casualty and you have to explain and demonstrate the best way to treat them (taking into account hazards etc).

CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear) training is next and it’s arguably one of the more grueling parts of the course. I was doing it in the middle of winter, and by the amount of water I lost through sweat while wearing a CBRN suit, I wouldn’t fancy doing it in summer. However, you don’t actually wear a CBRN that much. You first become proficient in how to use and maintain your respirator (gas mask in layman’s terms, but never call it a gas mask in front of the Regiment). You then have a bunch of theory lessons with a wide range of information to note down. There’s a lot of notes to take here, and I’d suggest taking them all. It can be quite hard to stay awake in these lessons as they’re not the most engaging and you’re shattered 24/7 by this stage but try your best to keep your eyes open. The Cpls don’t take very kindly to people falling asleep on them and you’ll likely have something thrown in your general direction or be woken up in some less-than-amusing way. You do get text books to work from, the same as you did for GSK. These can help if you do miss any notes as most of it is in the book any way.

Of course, the main aspect of CBRN and possibly one of the most defining and memorable moments of Halton is ‘initial exposure’ AKA getting dragged into a building filled with CS gas, taking your respirator off and dying for as long as is deemed necessary. Initial exposure is supposed to make you trust your equipment. You can walk in that building all suited up with your respirator on and feel nothing, but you know it’s working because when you take it off… you feel everything. We all got lined up outside in two separate lines. One line went through one door, the other line through another. We all filed in until there were about 10 of us in each room. We were briefed once inside that we were to take our respirators off one by one standing in front on the Cpl and we were to shout out our name, rank, number and favourite sports team. There was one rule – no laughing. If you laughed at someone, you’d be staying in there for longer. I decided to have a bit of fun and try and make people laugh. I took off my respirator and instantly couldn’t breathe and couldn’t open my eyes well. Every time you talk, it’s like you can’t and you keep gulping in air to form a word or sentence but you’re just gulping in more gas. It feels… horrible. I did quite well, I said everything perfectly until I got to the sports team bit. The Cpl shouted ‘Are you enjoying yourself?!’ and I managed to splutter out ‘Loving it, Cpl!’. This got a few laughs. It wasn’t intentional by this point but it made a couple of them stay in there longer. 1-0.

So you get thrown out the door by the Cpl when they think you’ve been exposed enough and suddenly you can breathe. But everything burns. Face, eyes, skin, throat, lips, everything. Honestly, everyone who comes out of the room looks like a possessed zombie. It’s hilarious. You have no dignity by the end of it. You’re just a walking, barely talking, dribbling, snotty mess. Your nose will stream as will your eyes and you’ll be told to walk around a big bush/tree until the effects wear off. I almost threw up in the bush but somehow managed to fend off the urge. About 5 laps of the bush later, I felt like a relatively normal human being again, so I headed over to wash my kit and get all the CS off everything. What an experience!

You’ll be glad to hear that’s the first and last time you get exposed to CS at Halton. Phew! Now you move onto weapons. This was probably my least favourite part of basic training. It’s just not my thing. I didn’t join up to play real life action man and so my experiences of this phase are mainly negative because it was a chore. I don’t think it would be fair to go into too much detail because it’ll end up being really negatively biased.

Before you get to do any real shooting, you have to learn about the weapon. Oh yeah, never call it a gun in front of the instructors. It’s a weapon/rifle. Same as the gas mask being called a respirator. So you have to learn all the components, how it works, how to clean it and how to disassemble it and put it back together. You spend quite a while doing this and you have to pass a few tests before you’re actually allowed to do anything with the rifle itself. There’s a theory test along with this as well which goes for most things. There’s always a practical and a theory test. One thing I will say, it’s actually worth getting confident with this stuff now because you’ll be doing a Weapons Handling Test every 6 months for the rest of your RAF career. Every year you’ll also be doing ICRT which is like a condensed Regiment phase where you learn about security threats, first aid, and you also have to pass a WHT (weapons handling test) and shoot down at the range. Getting to grips with it now means you’ll never really have to stress about it again.

Once you’ve done the theory and practical tests, you can start shooting. But you won’t do live shooting straight away. You go to the DCCT first (Dismounted Close Combat Trainer) but it’s basically a range simulator. It’s pretty cool. You have a rifle which is hooked up to a gas bottle and it fairly accurately simulates the noise and the recoil when you fire. You’ll be shooting at targets that come up on a big screen in front of you. You do shooting in the prone, kneeling and standing positions. You have to hit a certain amount of targets to pass and I don’t think anyone had too much trouble with this. I really struggled shooting while standing up but my method wasn’t working. I was attempting to fire, take a couple breaths and fire again. Wrong. I found it best to find my aim, hold my breath and fire all my shots consecutively leaving no more than 2 seconds before each shot. This seemed to work and I passed with ease. Winner.

Next, it’s on to live firing. It’s pretty much exactly the same but obviously there’s no room for errors. Safety is a big thing and the last thing you want is an error in drill or a negligent discharge (ND). You will always be told what to do when handling weapons, and while you might be scared to ask questions at other times during basic training, live firing is NOT the time to do something you’re not sure of. Follow instructions, and if you miss an instruction, put up your hand and ask. Nobody is going to scream at you because you’re asking an instructor to repeat themselves, however you will absolutely get screamed at and probably a lot worse if you miss an instruction and go ahead and do your own thing anyway. The shoot isn’t actually as bad as people think. The DCCT helps massively but there are slight differences. Added pressure means you’ll likely not be as calm and still, meaning your shooting may not be as accurate as in the DCCT. Also the recoil and noise are amplified in reality. This only takes a short time to get used to though so it’s not a big deal.

During the shoot, I think you fire approximate 60 rounds in the different positions you practised in the DCCT. You’re responsible for ‘bombing up’ (putting rounds into) your magazine, doing all the correct drills, firing accurately, unloading, and doing the relevant safety drills at the end. As mentioned above, you’ll be told what to do at all stages. Listen and do what you’re told and you won’t have anything to sweat about. The shoot went well for my course with all but one passing. This day in particular ended with a huge sigh of relief from most of us.

Exercise Blue Warrior

The post-weapons weekend off is much needed. Not only to relax, but also to prepare for Exercise Blue Warrior. You’ve completed all of the IFPT modules and now you’re ready to do everything you’ve learnt for real.

You’ll be familiar with kit lists by now, and you’ll have one for Blue Warrior. You’ll be packing (or attempting to) all your stuff into your bergen (big rucksack) and webbing (where you keep your mess tins, water bottle etc).

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Packing for CPT. It has to get messy before it gets clean, right?!

Once you’ve struggled with that for more time than you’d like, you’ll be ready to load your stuff onto the rather ominous looking military truck that gets parked on the parade square ready to ferry your stuff to the exercise on Monday morning. You load it up on Sunday night so the only thing you have to take the next morning is yourself. First stop (after an early breakfast) is the armoury, where you get issued a weapon. This rifle goes EVERYWHERE with you. If you go to the toilet, it goes with you. You sleep with it and eat with it. If it’s more than an arm’s length away at any one point during the exercise, expect shouting. And a beasting. Oh, sorry, I mean ‘some light physical exercise with encouraging language’. (Hahaha, no.)

So you hop onto the coach feeling all nervous. Failure is on everyone’s mind. Blue Warrior is where most of the re-flights come from at Halton, but before you read on with dread and worry, there was only one re-flight from Blue Warrior on our course. He was a previous reflight too, so he’d failed it twice… which is extremely rare. The coach journey doesn’t last nearly as long as you want it to. You arrive at Bramley training area (Or at least that’s where we did it in January 2015). You disembark the coach and you’ll be told to pick up your stuff from the lorry that you’d loaded up the night before. Once you’re all kitted up, weighed down, and generally as uncomfortable as you’ll ever be, the orders start flying in. I can’t remember why, or what for, but someone must have said or done the wrong thing and before we knew it, we were sprinting to a small building and back in the middle of a field… in ankle deep snow. The instructors kindly told us to beware of rabbit holes. We made it back from our little warm up and the last person was made to do a few push ups (standard!). We formed into a square shape and got a brief from the instructors about what we were doing and what was expected of us. Essentially, this just involved them wanting 110% effort at all times and nothing below that was acceptable. Simple, really.

We set off on the tab (fast walk/march) to our home for the next couple of nights… an empty hangar with no doors which seemed to somehow be colder than it was outside. I don’t feel like I should explain absolutely everything that happens on the exercise because the point is, you face unexpected situations and you’re supposed to know what to do from what you’ve learnt. So I think I will just cover a few of the stand out memories for me personally.

You do many various tests and exercises while you’re there. It’s hard but it’s also fun. The most fun I had came late one night when our section was tasked with a routine patrol. Our instructor decided that was boring so he decided we should ambush and open fire on another section who were also on routine patrol. Our instructor was a sniper by trade and the stealth instinct definitely showed. We were creeping and crawling through the trees undergrowth in the pitch black darkness of the cold winter night. We had the other section in our sights, so we lay in position and waited quietly, stalking our prey. We waited for a good 20-30 minutes for them to walk straight in front of us at which point we unleashed a relentless assault in which they tried to defend themselves but the element of surprise had them looking like a deer in the headlights which was pretty funny.

I think that was one of my highlights of Blue Warrior; that and the final firefight on the last day, which is basically an all-out war to get rid of the last of the rounds. It’s chaos and a really fun way to end the exercise.

My least favourite parts were cooking in the mess tins on your little hexi stove, the morning inspections (of which you have to pass one out of three as a minimum), and the constantly being cold and wet. You may hear some rumours before blue warrior. These will likely stem from the senior courses who want to scare the living daylights out of you. You may hear about something called the ‘Sqaure of love’, ‘Sqaure of Death’, or if the rumour-starter is a little more brutal, ‘The killer Square of Death’. Despite what you may hear, nobody has ever died or come close to dying while taking part in the Sqaure of whatever-you-want-to-call-it. It’s just a very physically demanding exercise and depending on the weather, it can be unimaginably wet and muddy. This was also another least favourite part of mine, but it’s not so bad now I think about it!

After an exhausting few days, and after the chaos of the final firefight, it’s almost time to go home. Just the tab to the coach is left to do. This will burn your legs and every inch of your body as you ache from the previous day’s activities but you’ll make it… eventually. This is the point in which you can finally see the realistic prospect of graduation. It’s always in the back of your mind but this is the first time you feel like you may be on the home straight. The biggest hurdle between you and graduating is the final inspection, but we’ll get onto that later.

The home straight

The idea of graduating will soon slip away from your mind, and all you will want to do is sleep. When you arrive back at Halton, it’s time to clean your rifle… and it’s filthy, so it’s going to take a while. I distinctly remember this being a very quiet and relaxed activity. No instructors were shouting, there was a time limit but it felt more than reasonable, and everyone was just kneeling down cleaning as best they could. It was nice to chill out for a little bit. Weapons cleaned and handed back, it was time to clean everything else up and get ready to head back to the main camp. That little hill from IFPT to the main camp feels like a mountain on the march back!

One of the less glamorous parts about returning to Halton after blue warrior is the post-CPT inspection. This isn’t like a conventional inspection where everything is ironed to within an inch of its existence but t’s basically to inspect all your CPT kit (greens, webbing, bags, boots etc) to make sure they are clean. Of course the clothing will need to be cleaned and ironed just as well as any other inspection. This means a manic weekend of washing, washing, and more washing. You’ll find and develop methods for cleaning that nobody knew existed before and everyday objects will become cleaning tools. Basically, anything you need to do to make sure your kit is 100% clean, neat, tidy and presentable… you will do it.

This inspection marks the end of your greens phase. From now on, you will only be wearing your blue shirts and trousers. This is the start of your graduation preparation.

Arms Drill

You’ll be so good at drill by now that you’ll be laughing hysterically at new courses attempting to march in time. However, things get a bit more complicated when you include a rifle and have to learn new drill moves with it. Without a doubt, you will have bruises all over your arms by the end of this week and your muscles will ache like you’ve gone crazy in the gym. It takes a while to get into the groove of marching with a rifle but the best was I learn to do it was to actually listen, rather than watch everyone else. Especially for ‘change arms’ which is essentially swapping the rifle into your other arm, you can listen to the sound of everyone else doing it and find the same rhythm if you’re struggling a bit. Just try not to stab yourself in the hand with your bayonet and all will be good!

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Training in January has it’s disadvantages

Many long days and nights will be spent on the parade square this week and even when you’re in your room, you’ll be signing out wooden rifles and practising in your spare time too. Another notable event of the last week is the final fitness test. Nobody should be failing this! However, that is not all you will be doing this week…

The final inspection (Day 63)

The time has come for the big, scary final inspection. Your standards should have been increasing incrementally over the last 9 weeks. You will have had many progress inspections along the way which should have highlighted areas that you personally need to work on.

The amount of prep needed for the final inspection is monumental. In addition to what you already have presented in your military locker, you’re going to need at least another shirt, maybe two, some more trousers, shoes and everything set out in the exact way you’ve been shown. Your bed space has to be spotless. No doubt you will have disasters along the way like a few of us did. I remember the night before the final inspection really well, because about half of our course were up until about 3 or 4am making the final touches. You are supposed to sleep in your bed every single night and anyone caught will be disciplined and every night I did sleep in my bed… apart from the night before final inspection. I made my bed immaculately at 2am and I was not going to touch it again, so I opted for a few uncomfortable hours on the floor. As well as your bed, you’ll most likely need to re-label pretty much all your kit (with green sniper tape and stencils.. which takes ages and is very tedious), dust relentlessly, and then dust again, and hoover pretty much everything. I’m not sure what the state of the vacuum cleaners at Halton are like now, but they used to put more dirt on the floor than they removed for me so I used to do it very briefly with a hoover and then pick up all the individual pieces of fluff and dust/dirt with my hands. Best way to do it! If I did Halton again, I’d absolutely invest in a small handheld vacuum to make your life easier, although everyone will want to use it I’m sure!

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Shoes slowly getting there!

The morning comes and you’re getting ready to make sure you are as clean and presentable as your bed space and lockers are! The final inspection requires you to be dressed in your Number 1 uniform, which also means being the most uncomfortable you could be. I was on the very top floor and they always used to start inspections at the bottom and work their way up. We were stood by our beds for almost 2 hours for our final inspection. Make sure you have some water to hand! After your stuff gets scrutinised and you pass (hopefully – if not, the re-inspection is the next day), you can finally solely concentrate on your arms drill and graduation preparation.

Graduation

The graduation practice week comes to an end. You’ve put in many hours on the parade square and in the Burton Drill Facility (BDF), and you’re only one full dress rehearsal away from graduating into the Royal Air Force. The weekend prior to your graduation on Tuesday is usually free (unless your drill is horrendous – which it usually isn’t by this stage), and the dress rehearsal is on the Monday. The rehearsal gets watched by some senior officers and also the Station Commander. I think the decision comes down to him or someone of equal importance whether the standard of your dress rehearsal is good enough for you to graduate the following day. I can vaguely remember a course having to delay their graduation because they made too many mistakes on the rehearsal so it’s really something you have to nail as an intake.

Rehearsing with the band is a lot different to marching along to a CD being played, and so it’s something that again, takes a while to get used to. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be ready to graduate on the Tuesday though!

Grad day feels good purely because it’s well deserved. It sounds cheesy but it’s your time to look good and show off what you know rather than the instructors doing it. It’s nice to have your family/friends/loved ones around and it’s definitely a day you will always remember. Hopefully the weather will be decent and you have the outdoor graduation rather than one in the BDF. Plus if it’s outside you’ll probably get a flypast too! Once the parade is finished, you get a while whoever came to see you. You can have a walk around the camp and show them your block and then you go off to get a drink and have some pictures taken by a photographer. It’s a really nice chilled out afternoon and a great way to end a hellish 10 weeks.

Beyond Halton

Graduation signifies the start of your actual career in the RAF. You are now ready to diperse and learn the trade you signed up to do. The sense of respect and self-worth is evident and you’ll be a lot more confident and comfortable in a military environment from this day forward.

Halton is just a game. That’s all it ever has been and all it ever will be. You learn a lot, but the real test is just being able to follow orders and have the right ‘can-do’ attitude. If you can do that, you’ll get through it no problem whatsoever. I hated it at the time, but looking back now, it really wasn’t so bad. I still have conversations with people at work now about funny and ridiculous things that happened during basic training and you really do make some great memories. Usually a few of your basic training course will be the same trade as you, so you’ll all be going off together for phase 2 training. The way in which you have to get along with these people makes the next stage a lot easier too. Friendships have already been formed and you’re used to helping each other out when it’s needed.

It’s taken me almost 2 years to complete this blog entry. Since I graduated Halton, I’ve spent 6 months on Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic training at Cosford, 14 months at Coningsby as an AMM on Typhoons where I’ve done QRA duties and was awarded a flying scholarship on the side which had me flying solo in less than 10 hours of flight instruction. The opportunities are endless once you get out of training. There are loads of adventurous training and expeditions you can go on, educational courses you can take advantage of and hopefully some good detachments too. Some popular ones from the fast jet side of things include Nevada, Abu Dhabi, and Estonia. Good times are ahead, and it’s really important to keep that in the forefront of your mind when you’re crawling through mud and you convince yourself your lungs are about to implode during your time at Halton.

Could be worse.

(That’s a lie).

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142 thoughts on “Basic Training

  1. Hi Ryan, My daughter is about to start the process of joining; I think the next step is PRTC. She is quite introverted, but applies herself to whatever she needs to do. I assume your Basic Training was mixed, male and female, but how different, if at all was it for the girls and is there anything, in particular, that she will need to be aware of?

    • She has done well to get to PRTC so that is an achievement in itself! Good question actually and quite refreshing to answer as nobody has asked it before!

      My basic training intake was relatively small. I think we started off with 70. Around 10 of those were girls. While you are obviously all in it together as an intake, you are split down into flights. We had 3 flight and 4 flight. You get to know the people in your flight much better than you do the other flight so already you’re not really in a group of 70 any more. The girls are all in the same room provided there’s not too many of them and people in the same room more or less have to get on and help each other. While there are many trials and tribulations during the working day, many challenges arise when you’re in your room in the block. You need to help each other out almost constantly so that introverted nature will soon fade instinctively. I was rather introverted when I joined but there’s no time for it at Halton. You’re constantly chatting, solving problems, cracking jokes and making light of situations which would be otherwise depressing. I’m sure she will have no problem making friends and hopefully some of the other girls will be applying for the same trade as your daughter so friendships can be carried forward to the next phase of training.

      As for differences between male and female – I can’t think of anything significant. Basic training is hard but it’s all in the name – basic. We had a girl who had done 6 years in the army on our course and we also had guys who were fresh out of college. The girl in question was above and beyond pretty much everyone in most aspects. Generally though, I’d say being fit will help. Going into the Initial Force Protection Training stage (IFPT), you’ll be doing a lot of stuff with the RAF Regiment and preparing for your 3/4 day exercise. This does involve carrying quite a lot of weight and for smaller people, male or female, that can be a challenge. We did have one girl who was quite small who really struggled with the weight of her bergen on the exercise but she was not disadvantaged because of it. She still graduated with us so it’s nothing to worry about. Apart from that, I can’t think of any great differences at all. Everyone is treated the same which is basically being treated like a child!

      Seriously though, if the RAF is good for one thing, it’s equality and diversity. Nobody is ever disadvantaged because of who they are or anything like that and if at any point someone feels like they are, then there are people that they can talk to. We all feel like a rabbit in the headlights at some point. Or maybe lots of points. The best thing going into somewhere like Halton is learning not to take anything personally. Even the best recruits are going to be screamed at and made to feel small. It’s all part of the learning process.

      I’m sure she will do great and wish her all the best for PRTC. Don’t hesitate to ask questions on here if you have any more!

      • Thanks Ryan, that’s really helpful. She really wants to do this and has worked very hard on her fitness and studying all things ‘RAF’, so there is plenty of commitment.

  2. Hi Ryan,

    I finished my BRTC 2 weeks and waiting for my phase 2 next (an AMM as well!).

    I just wanted to say thanks as this helped me mentally prepare for what was a challenging 10 weeks.

    I did enjoy it, even though we got our yellow badges put back in on day 64 and reemed to death!

    • Hi Jay,

      Thanks for the comment. How was your BRTC experience? Anything hugely different to what I wrote about on here? It’s always good to try and keep it as current as possible.

      All the best for cosford. I’m here at the moment and it’s not too bad. I’ll mostly likely chuckle to myself when I see you new AMMs marching around properly all the time and doing your over-enthusiastic halts and fall outs haha! You’ll miss RIAT though so you’re pretty lucky there.

      Give me a shout if you need any help or advice while you’re here!

      • I was there back in September and from what I remember they do sell irons and ironing boards but I’m not sure if they’ are the best quality? You can order one online while you’re there! Just ask your flight instructors and they should be able to give you the details for postage,

        Dale

  3. Hi Ryan,

    Sorry I know you’re probably feeling like an agony aunt by now!

    My bf has passed his PGSC and found out in his final interview that he’s through to basic training but does not have the date for it yet. We’ve been together for 3 years and I was wondering were there other guys along the way that were in relationships that are now not? Pretty difficult scenario because everyone is different but I’ve also heard that quote saying at the beginning of basic 80% have a girlfriend 20% smoke and then by the end 80% smoke and 20% have a girlfriend haha.

    Just be brutal I can take it, I’ve cried so much I can’t cry anymore!

    Thank you

    • No problem! This is actually a very good question. I’m sorry for the delay in replying but I’ve just had a couple of weeks off and I wanted to sit down and reply to this properly. Most questions I get on here require me to give an opinion or some advice but I feel qualified enough to give factual evidence for what I’m about to tell you which makes a nice change.

      Firstly, you’ve been together 3 years. That in itself is a huge achievement and I know you will have had to overcome big challenges already. Basic training and life in the RAF may seem like the biggest challenge you could possibly face, but I’m sure it isn’t.

      As for guys who had girlfriends but now don’t, yes I do know a few. However, in none of those cases has it been the guys decision. It’s usually the girl who decides she doesn’t like waiting around or being apart during the week. If you’re willing to overcome that then I’d say more than half your battle is won.

      The 80-20% quote is a lie. I’ve heard it many times but there’s nothing to support it. I started basic training in a brand new relationship. If that quote was going to apply to anyone, it surely would have been me. But it didn’t. My girlfriend can just about handle the long distance which I’m thankful for and it’s never once felt like I would have to choose between the RAF and my relationship. You can have both and it can work out just fine.

      Truthfully, it’s going to be a bumpy road. It’s not going to be easy but it’s going to be a hell of a lot easier for you with 3 years under your belt already. If it’s worked up to now, I genuinely see no reason why it won’t continue to work when your boyfriend goes off to basic training. I think it’s harder for the people back at home more than those of us who join up because we’re being kept busy 24/7 and you’re just kind of say there waiting for a call or a text which doesn’t come sometimes. Don’t get frustrated, he’s gonna be busy and very tired. There’s no reason why he can’t manage a couple of texts or one quick call per day but just ride the storm and know it’s only a few weeks before it gets better.

      No need to be brutal! I’m sure it’s all going to be fine. If you need any more guidance or advice while he’s away at basic training then I’m always checking on here so just leave a comment and I’ll reply asap.

      Good luck to you both!

      • Hi Ryan 🙂
        Just passing by, I read your post a few months ago as my bf was in the process of joining the RAF.
        He’s now gone to do his basic training himself, and must say it’s pretty hard! Been together for 6.5 years so sudden seperation feels quite harsh but and it’s good to read your insight and put things into perspective.
        As you said, it might be harder for us back home waiting for some news or so but they keep you guys so busy it’s understandable…
        Anyway, thanks a lot for putting this all together, it’s helpful to have an account of the whole experience and this last comment was also relevant to me. Thank you and all the best !

      • Hi Elea,
        Thanks for the comment. Glad to hear he’s made it through the process okay and that he’s started training. I would definitely agree that’s it’s harder for you guys back at home. I’m sure you’ll be fine though especially with it being a long-term relationship already.

        You’re more than welcome for the blog and I’m glad it has helped. If you have any further questions over the next few weeks of his training then I’m always happy to help!

      • Hiya Ryan,

        Would like to thank you belatedly for your previous comment, it made me feel so much better about the situation! I have to say, the build up and anticipation of him leaving was so much worse than the reality of it. Initially my boyfriend told me he was leaving in January and then dropped on me that it was going to be October so I was devastated at the time but now I am so glad he did it earlier. He is just starting CPT today so I won’t hear from him until Friday. However, apart from these four days I have spoken to him every single night! He will either face time or call me whilst he is doing his ironing, cleaning .etc. he just keeps his phone on him and uses earphones – thank god for unlimited minutes haha. Obviously the first four weeks of not seeing each other was hard but it actually flew by and the calls every night made it a lot easier. His first three weekends were working and then I saw him on the fourth for home leave, fifth local, sixth home and 7th local. I won’t be seeing him now until Christmas leave begins on the 16th December and then three weeks off which I cannot wait for! But if it wasn’t for Christmas he would only have 3 and a bit weeks left.

        Any other couples in this similar situation, take note, it is not as bad as you are anticipating. It will fly by and the pride you feel for your partner is indescribable.

        Thanks again Ryan, I cannot wait for graduation day now to see that all of their hard work has paid off.

        x

      • Really glad to hear a positive update!

        Technology is great isn’t it?! Ha, some people have more success with calls and such than others. Some parts of Halton are black holes for signal but it looks like your boyfriend got lucky!

        I appreciate the details, as I’m sure many other readers will so thanks for that. Hope all goes well for him on CPT (and I feel for him as I know exactly what it’s like to do it in the height of winter!)

        Enjoy Christmas leave and the graduation shortly after. Just know it all gets much better after Halton, although it seems like you’ve handled it well and kept positive which always helps.

        All the best to you both.

  4. Hi there Ryan, loving the blog. I was wondering if there is any points during the 10 weeks where you can visit or get visited by friends and family?

    • Hi Ben, glad you have enjoyed reading!

      Absolutely. Usually from week 4 or 5, you get weekends off. You may be able to go home on 2-3 of the weekends off, the other weekends will be local leave (You can leave camp, but must stay in local area. Most people just end up going into Milton Keynes for the day). I would say it’s quite unusual for friends/family to visit the camp while you’re there. You can definitely ask the instructors when you’re there and I don’t see any reason why not, I’ve just never heard of it being done before.

  5. Hi Ryan. A huge thank you for the blog – it has helped us as a family prepare for our daughters RAF journey. The next part of her new life starts next week for Basic and she cannot wait to go. The packing………………….has been a nightmare – what can I say! It has been a very long 16 months but we are all looking forward to her new journey.

    • You’re welcome! Ha, yes the packing is a nightmare. I still have vivid memories of dragging my suitcase and ironing board up the stairs when I arrived! Best of luck to her and if you have any questions while she’s at Halton then as always just send them on here.

  6. Hi Ryan.
    Thanks for this blog. Me and my daughter have just sat and read this start to finish. She has just had and passed her medical and her fitness test is next week. She is 17 now and her dream since 12 has join the RAF and we are just about there now. I dont who’s more worried me or her. Her for whats to come or me to let my little girl go and live her dream. Youve raised lots of question from simple things like what to pack and how is she gonna get home to yorkshire but guess this is normal. Sorry to waffle on but these are things in my head. Shes joined as Avionics tech so im happy with that route.
    Anymore little inside secrets or tips will be greatly appricated.

    Regards
    A jittery Dad

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m really happy to hear she’s going down the technician route. I’ve worked alongside a lot of avionic technicians on typhoons and there is definitely a need for more females. It’s great to see girls stepping up and pursuing a career in STEM subjects so congrats to her for that first of all!

      I absolutely understand that families worry a lot more than we do as recruits. We’re busy, you’re not. While our lives are moving at 100mph, we often forget that our family is back home sitting around just waiting to hear that we’re doing okay. Just know that you’re not alone, and while you may not hear from your daughter as much as you’d like during basic training, she’s going to be well looked after by the instructors and fellow recruits.

      Glad to hear you’ve had a good read through this blog, but don’t just leave it there! If you have questions, please ask. I’d rather 50 questions all in one go rather than someone being worried and unsure. As for packing, the kit list items are obviously essential, however there are extra things you can take to make life a little easier. I can’t remember exactly what is on the kit list, but if I could take a look when your daughter gets sent one, I’ll give some advice on any extra items. Getting home is pretty easy, even if you don’t drive. Most people just take the train (Wendover is a little under 2 miles from Halton. It’s walk-able but I’d suggest getting a taxi especially if you have a heavy bag).

      I can give plenty of advice, but there’s so much I wouldn’t know where to start. As I said, please don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more, the better!

      Good luck to your daughter for her fitness and I’m sure she already knows, but think of the fitness as a progress test. Just because you pass doesn’t mean you can ease up with physically preparing for basic training. Fitness tests are a part of your career and the initial one is just the first of many. It helps to keep fitness levels high at all times!

      Hope it goes well and hope to get some questions and hear about her progress soon!

      • Thanks for replying Ryan.
        You actually answered a question right there about a kit list she will get sent so we can tick that off.
        She’s been in Raf cadets since 13 so hoping some stuff regarding kit etc will already be imprinted on her mind.
        Ive told her numerous times that hard work will pay off and any beasting arnt personal they are just there to get you where they need you to be.
        10 weeks of hell to get to the career of a life time.
        Im sure during the hours of darkness i’ll think up numerous questions ha ha ha. Its good to know we found someone to answer them silly questions.
        Thanks again 👍

      • Cadets will certainly help. A lot of people turn up to training (myself included) never having done anything military-related in our lives. She will already have an edge and can help those around her who are clueless!

        No problem! Here to answer questions whenever you think of some.

        All the best

  7. Hi Ryan

    Thanks for the blog it was a great read!

    I am planning on joining the RAF as an aircraft technician in 2 years once I complete my apprenticeship and I’ve wanted to join for over 3 years now so it’s been a long wait! haha. I’ve done quite a lot of research while waiting to join and even dragged my partner to Cosford airshow so I could have a look at the training hangars and talk to a few of the cpl’s. however I still have a few unanswered questions and I thought you might be able to assist as you’re exactly where I want to be in the next few years.
    What’s life like when you’re at Cosford for trade training? Is it quite strict like Halton or is it a bit more relaxed?
    How much free time do you get to yourself during trade training and while on squadron?
    When you’re qualified do technicians usually stay at the same squadron for most of their career or do they get moved between squadrons and locations often?
    What is your typical working week like both at Cosford and as an AMM on a squadron?
    Is there anything you’d recommend me doing over the next 2 years to prepare ?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hey Liam,
      It’s great that you are thinking and planning well in advance. It’s really good to have the advantage of time to prepare. I’ll go through your questions one by one.

      1. What’s life like when you’re at Cosford for trade training? Is it quite strict like Halton or is it a bit more relaxed?

      Cosford is a training environment, but it’s nothing like Halton. The idea of Halton is to take you from civilian life to military life. Essentially, you’re being mounded into a whole new person and therefore you are treated like you are clueless… because you are for the most part. Cosford is much different in that you’re now learning your trade. The instructors are just normal people who have likely come off a front line squadron quite recently. You won’t be calling a corporal by their rank every 5 minutes, and that’s the same for sergeants too depending on how chilled out they are. You are still a trainee however, and you’re still expected to move around the station as a course and march (although not like Halton, literally just walking in formation and in step. No swinging arms if you’re wearing a backpack which you wear daily anyway). There’s a 00:30 curfew at cosford currently which is slightly aggravating, but again it’s better than Halton. We have discips where as well who will try and catch you out for stuff with the most common reasons being talking when marching, not halting/falling out properly, failed inspections etc. Punishments are usually a ‘do it again’ parade on Saturday morning, which is basically a Saturday drill lesson. These aren’t common however. I’ve had one since I got here last November and I think most people on my course have had one at some point. My best advice is don’t get caught! As SACs, we find it quite hard to conform with all the rules 100% of the time. We’ve been out on a squadron and treated like an adult and now we’re back being treated as kids. AMMs have more discipline than we do, but it’s still there for us too. So in short, it’s not as strict as Halton, definitely more relaxed but discipline does exist as it does in every RAF training environment but the worst that might happen is a do it again parade or formal inspection.

      2. How much free time do you get to yourself during trade training and while on squadron?

      Unlike Halton, if you’re not in lesson at Cosford, the time is yours. You can leave camp whenever you want and as long as you’re back by 00:30, it’s fine. You can’t take your own leave, but you get block leave and bank holidays off. There’s 2 weeks off for Christmas, one week in April, one week at the end of May, 2 weeks in August, and another one in October. When you are at Cosford, work days are standard 08:30 – 17:00 usually and Fridays are usually 15:00 finishes or maybe even lunch time if you get lucky. On a squadron, it’s much better because you’ll likely be on shifts and you can also take your own leave whenever you want. I had alternating weeks of days and nights so I worked Monday to Friday on days, and then I started nights the following Monday at 16:30. Nights is from Monday to Thursday night and then you start days again the following Monday at 07:30. This means you get a 3 day weekend every weekend which was pretty good. There was a really good shift pattern at Brize Norton on 99 Squadron (C17) where they worked 5 on, 5 off. Unfortunately I think it’s changed now but it shows how much it can vary between squadrons. Again though, when you’re not in work, the time is your own. You only work weekends if it’s operationally necessary like when we did QRA. QRA is Thursday to Thursday so you get a 4 day weekend at the end of it.

      3. When you’re qualified do technicians usually stay at the same squadron for most of their career or do they get moved between squadrons and locations often?

      When you graduate as technicians, you get posted to either a front line squadron or a bay. My course is expecting our postings imminently actually so this is quite a relevant question to where I’m at right now. Your first actual posting as a fully qualified technician will usually be around 3 years. For some it’s longer, for some it’s shorter. You will often move between squadrons when you get promoted and sometimes this can be between different aircraft types. Some people also choose to go for a commission (officer branch) and so this means you could leave the squadron or bay you’re posted at well before the 3 year point. It’s very unlikely you will stay in one place your whole career.

      4. What is your typical working week like both at Cosford and as an AMM on a squadron?

      Okay so this requires a fairly detailed answer but I’ll keep it as short as possible. Starting with Cosford and as I mentioned above, it’s a standard working week. We have to ‘muster’ in the mornings which means all the courses will line up together so that they can check everyone is there and fit for duty. This sometimes involves a kit inspection too (but nothing like Halton). After muster, we go to lessons. Lessons are theory or practical. We get a morning tea break (30 mins), lunch (1.5 hours), and an afternoon tea break (30 mins). Once or twice a week we also have directed PT which might be anything from a circuit to swimming, sport or an outdoor run. The pace of learning at Cosford is pretty fast so you have exams often. That means it’s probably a good idea to spend a bit of time each evening going over some of the theory you’ve learnt but as I’ve already said, time in the evening is yours to spend as you wish.

      On a squadron, it’s a little different. Obviously this varies massively from squadron to squadron but I’ll talk about my experience on a Typhoon squadron at Coningsby. We had alternating days/nights, we also had something called swing shift and then we had QRA too. A day shift is strictly 07:30 to 16:30. There are no set break times, you just take a break when there’s nothing to do but usually you’re kept fairly busy. The night shift come in at 16:30, so you always know you will be finishing the day shift at 16:30. Night shift is different as you generally work until there’s no work left to do. As an AMM, you won’t have a great deal of work to do if the jets aren’t night flying. You can usually find some trade work to do so you may spend the evening with the mechs or avionics guys but if they have nothing for you, you might be finished before midnight which was always good. During night flying, the jets land around midnight so you can usually expect to be finished by around 2am. Swing shift is what connects night shift to day shift. Swing shift come in at midnight and finish at 07:30. It’s their job to service the jets and make sure everything is ready to go for the next days flying. It never really took the whole shift to service the jets so you’d usually be done by 3 or 4am, and then you were done until midnight the following night. As for the work you actually do, as an AMM you will be servicing the jets before and after flight, and doing their see-offs and see-ins. This will keep you busy for the majority of the day/night. When you’re not doing that, you might be with the mechs or avionics helping out with their jobs which is also what you’ll need to do to complete your NVQ. It’s really good to do as much hands-on trade work as you can as it will help when you get back to Cosford. A week on QRA is pretty much a week off. You’re not allowed to leave the QRA building apart from once a day when you service the aircraft you are responsible for. Other than that, you spend the time sitting around watching films, playing games and at first, hoping the alarm doesn’t go off but by the second/third day… you’ll want the alarm to go off. It gets a little boring sometimes!

      5. Is there anything you’d recommend me doing over the next 2 years to prepare ?

      You’re in quite a unique position because you’re asking this question really early which is good. I think the first thing that comes to mind is fitness. Build up to a routine if you don’t already have one. It’ll really help through basic training if you’re as fit as you can possibly be. Don’t overdo it and get injured, but just steadily increase it so you’re at a good level. Academically, get familiar with basic principles of aeronautical engineering. It’ll help you at Cosford and throughout your career if you have a really solid understanding of the fundamentals. There’s plenty of online resources such as pdfs and online courses. I really recommend taking a look at edX courses actually. Sign up for an account and you can do online courses in pretty much anything for free. I’ve seen some really good aero engineering basics courses on there so definitely worth checking out. Everything else pretty much designed to be learnt as you go along. It’s not like you can practise servicing or refuelling a jet before you start so a lot of it is impossible to prepare for. Give it your all and it sounds like you’re doing a really good job of substantiating your interests at the moment anyway by talking to instructors at air shows etc. Most importantly, be enthusiastic. There will be points where you’re really de-motivated and fed up but just remember why you’re doing it and where you want to be long term.

      You asked some great questions and I really hope my answers are what you wanted. If they’re not or if you have any questions whatsoever based on the answers then just write me out another list and I’ll happily go through them.

      Also, check out my new blog. It’s not public yet but if you create an account on here and request access, I’ll make sure you can get onto it. There’s a couple posts on there you may find interesting regarding my time as a AMM and regarding the mechanical technician course at Cosford.

      https://ryandurnall.wordpress.com/

      All the best!

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to give me a detailed reply, I appreciate it! it’s eased my mind as i’m more aware of what daily life will be like and what to expect after Halton. I’m sure ill probably have more questions in the future

        I’ll just sign up now to have a look at your new blog as this one has been very helpful and interesting and I’ll have a look at the edx courses to try and get a base of knowledge before joining and it’ll give me something aircraft related to keep me occupied haha

        Thanks again

      • It’s the same for everyone. I was in the same boat once and if nobody tells you, you think the worst automatically. It has not once been as bad as I thought it would be. Halton is pretty rubbish but it’s a laugh now and then and it’s only 10 weeks. Cosford is good and being in a squadron is really good.

        No worries! In addition to the courses, obviously make sure you’re as clued up as possible for the interviews. Know the RAF stations, the aircraft we have there, which squadrons operate them and what they do. Knowing more than you need to will ensure your interview is a breeze which is more than can be said for most people. A lot of people I’ve met try and wing the interviews and it rarely works. Know your stuff and you can’t go wrong.

  8. Hi Ryan. Great blog, wish I had found it sooner and hope you get this before the day is out. My son graduated on Tuesday and has got to stay till Friday because he has a dentist appointment and then he can come home for the weekend and on Monday be at Leconfield ( you know what he is doing) ready to start TT on Tuesday. We are getting to the point where we are almost falling out because he is giving us information at the last minuet (is it always like that) and I feel he is a bit backward at coming forward. The problem we have is we cant arrange to pick him up at such short notice and he is saying he will need to leave his iron and board and maybe some civi things behind and he will still have trouble travelling home.( theres a lot of kit as you know) I have told him to speak to his cpl to see if they can help but he probably wont. Surely there must be some way of transporting his kit if nothing else, After all he is now a fully fledged member of the RAF. Did you come across a recruit in the same situation? and how did they get on? It is worth mentioning that they promote Independence and they mean it. .Also could you recommend a good base for him to get the best out of his driving and see a bit of the world I am sure you know a couple of MT drivers. Good luck in all that you do

    • Hi Eve,
      thanks for the message. Congrats to your son on graduating! Unfortunately this is the first of many big moves from one station to another. I’m soon to embark on my 4th move and it is still incredibly stressful and one of my least favourite parts of being in the RAF. Your son is definitely not the first to be in the situation that he’s in and won’t be the last. Details often arise very late and last minute plans have to be made. I remember the day after my graduation at Halton very well. A lot of us were aircraft mechanics and were waiting to find out when we were heading off to Cosford. We got told different information 3 times that day… and then at 1pm we were told that we were definitely going and we needed to leave ASAP. It was absolutely horrendous as we just had to chuck all our kit into different cars and get it all down there by sharing cars.

      I have known of people getting MT to help move their stuff but this is usually when there’s a few of them together and they can get a coach, but usually it’s a case of doing it yourself. He really should speak to the instructors though as even if they don’t have an answer, they should be able to give some advice on how he can get all his stuff to his new place. Sorry I can’t give a more definite answer on this but it’s really down to him (as frustrating as that may be for you!).

      I’ve met a lot of MT drivers over the last couple of years. I mainly knew them from RAF Coningsby as they were the ones driving the big refuelling bowsers that came to refuel our Typhoons. They work really hard and they always deserved respect. I’m not 100% sure how much drivers get to travel, but there’s always plenty of flying squadron detachments which I assume would benefit from taking drivers along. I actually know of a driver currently and her main job is to be the personal driver of a 2 star officer. When he doesn’t want to be taken anywhere, she gets time off work to do whatever she pleases. She has been completing a flying scholarship recently and is likely to achieve her pilots licence all in her time off which is incredible. She’s also off for 6 months to the Falklands soon and while it may not be the most idyllic places, there’s plenty to do and they do important work over there like towing aircraft which is usually an engineers job. All in all, I think there’s plenty of opportunity to do some really interesting things, see some interesting places and take on a variety of tasks.

      If you have any further questions, feel free to ask!

  9. Thank you so much for your reply Ryan. The problem was solved this morning it was a case of my son missing out on something and not speaking out as I said, Backward at coming forward.
    I will explain how it goes in case someone reads this and it helps but do feel free to remove it if you like.
    Graduation is always on Tuesday, Wednesday I will just call dressing down day (Don’t know why) Thursday you are free to go home for a well deserved long weekend.If you are going straight to phase 2 you need to speak to your staff before graduation and explain that you can not arrange transport. They will then sort that for you in the way of MT and you must return on Sunday and they will take you wherever on Monday. If you don’t they will assume you are doing it independently and you say farewell to Halton and transport yourself on Monday to wherever. This is not for the likes of my son who doesn’t yet drive and cant arrange transport. There is simply too much to carry on a train.
    Thanks again for taking the time to reply. You opened my eyes to something i didn’t know but I will leave that for now and let you get on with things. maybe ask you at a later date. All the best and respect.

  10. Hi Ryan

    An absolute fabulous read, a great insight. I attended my sons Phase 1 graduation on the 7th November 2017 and was amazed at how much he had changed. I said goodbye to a boy and was yesterday greeted by a confident and professional young man.

    A very proud father indeed

    Best wishes

    Dave

  11. Just wanted to say that my daughter passed out this Tuesday just gone and it was by the far, the highest point of my life. It was totally amazing and I am still reeling after it. So, again, thank you for your advise along this journey.

    • Jo, thanks for the update. It’s been great to follow your daughters progress from start to finish. It’s a testament to her ability and determination that she has done as well as she has. Glad you had a great day at the graduation! Many congratulations to her and hope she enjoys phase 2 training 🙂

  12. Hi Ryan

    So we take daughter to start her basic on tuesday and everyone getting nervy.
    We take her on tuesday and go back ourselfs on wednesday.
    I have just a couple of little questions.
    1 do we just drop her at the gate. Coz ive heard its frowned up for parents to drop off??
    2 what happens on parents visit and is there a prefared dress code for parents
    3 Is it usually working weekends for new recruits or usually down time??
    Think thats all i can think of at the moment..

    Regards
    Dave

    • Hi Dave. I understand it can be a nervous time, especially for parents so I’ll do my best to answer all your questions.

      1. It’s absolutely fine for you to drop her off. My dad dropped me off as I couldn’t drive when I joined. He was able to go in through the gate and park in the car park. He helped me take my stuff to the top of the steps and then said bye. It’s definitely not frowned upon. Most of the people arriving when I did had someone dropping them off.

      2. I don’t know a huge amount about this as my parents didn’t go to the visit. I don’t see any requirement for a strict dress code but people tend to overdo it, so just don’t ‘under do’ it! Smart/casual is fine. Always better to do more than you think you need to just to fit in. I think you get a little tour of some of the facilities and accommodation so you can see exactly what your daughter is doing and where she is. You will also get to watch her attestation. I do remember that you get a very short amount of time with your daughter after the attestation to say goodbye. It’s very brief so don’t expect too much time with her after the attestation.

      3. Weekends are free usually around week 5. The first 4 weekends are working. It’s pretty much 7 days a week until the 5th week (depending on behaviour and course performance). There are a couple weekends where you are granted full leave which means you can go home if you wish. One or two of the weekends will be local leave only. This means they won’t be working, but can only go out into the local area (Aylesbury, Milton Keynes etc.)

      Hope this clears a few things up and if you or your daughter have any more questions, I’d be happy to help!

  13. Hi Ryan.

    Just thought give ya quick update on last few days.
    Took daughter to start her basic on tuedasy. On arrival everyone so polite and helpfull. Directed us to her block (typhoon) and within 20 mins of arriving she was off and away with tears from all. A texts throughout the evening the last one saying…OMG gotta be up at 5am.
    Next day we arrived for taking if the oath and it was more than we expected. We was given plenty of information in what was to come and supports lines. Met the staff on Arnold intake and they all seem nice.
    We where led into a room in groups and the oath was taken and a very proud moment. Then got 20 mins to chat and say goodbye to her all over again and off we went home.
    Was very impressed with the set and really put my mind at rest on whats to come. Plenty of information and seems to be a strong focus on welfare and support. As i say quite impressed.
    Hope this helps others and answers the questions I had.

  14. Hey, great work on the blog. I have PRTC in a week and a half with my intake planned on being end of January 2018. I knew the RAF was what I wanted and have never felt I couldn’t achieve it but I had been looking for someones story on how it all went and their views on it for a while. You provided me with a lot of information on what I could expect and it’s great that it was relatively recent as most others I’ve found had been before 2010 or a lot further. It was a brilliant read and extremely useful so well done!

    • Hi Connor, many thanks for the kind words.

      I agree that there is a lack of resources like this one and it’s something I’m working with the RAF Recruitment team on to make more available. I’m glad it has been of use to you even though most of it is fairly generic. If you want any further questions answered then I’m more than happy to help.

      Ryan

      • I have one question, what was the role you went in for? I haven’t been able to find it unless I’ve completely missed it. I am going in as Aircraft Technician (Mechanical)

      • As I said, this blog was generic as I wanted it to be relevant to applicants of all trades. I also went for the same trade. A little background on me if it makes it easier for you to ask questions –

        – Joined November 2014
        – 10 weeks at Halton November 2014 to Feb 2015
        – 6 months AMM training at RAF Cosford Feb 2015 – Aug 2015
        – 14 months as an AMM on Typhoons at Coningsby September 2015 – November 2016
        – 12 months further training at Cosford November 2016 – November 2017
        – As of this week I’m now an aircraft technician back on Typhoons at Coningsby.

        Hopefully this gives a bit of an insight into the process you’ll go through over the next few years and again, if there’s any questions at all on any stage then I’m happy to answer.

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