Royal Air Force aviators alongside Royal Navy and Army colleagues stepped in over the Christmas period to ensure essential services continued during national strikes.
More than 200 RAF personnel were part of the military contingent who covered the duties of UK Border Force staff and ambulance drivers during strikes in late December.
The aviators, some as young as 17, received praise from the public and their Border Force and NHS colleagues for their professionalism and attitude. RAF staff based at airports identified a significant number of people needing attention including criminals and fake passport holders trying to enter the UK, and vulnerable people in need of help.
After conducting training in early December, the military personnel were called on to undertake border checks at major airports across England and Scotland with around half of those involved providing border security for Heathrow Airport.
Squadron Leader Xavier, an RAF Regiment Officer based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, was the Commander for the team covering Border Force operations at one of the airports. He has experience of providing support to the civil authorities having been previously assigned to the London Crisis Department during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I was proud that we could provide support to the country during this period. It was an unfamiliar role for my team, a fresh challenge, but we approached it with real positivity.
Squadron Leader Xavier
RAF Regiment Officer
One of the other members of the team was Air Specialist (Class 1) Rimmer, an RAF Musician based at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. She would usually be performing at ceremonial events – in 2022 she performed at the funeral of Her Late Majesty the Queen, and earlier in the year at the Platinum Jubilee.
Over a similar period, RAF Drivers were familiarised with the operation of NHS ambulances in preparation for the ambulance drivers’ strikes. They provided cover across several NHS Trusts and were ready to respond to any incident deemed urgent but not requiring the use of the ambulance’s emergency lights or sirens.
Squadron Leader Merry is one of six staff from RAF Waddington near Lincoln who supported this task.
We covered a range of topics to ensure that we could drive the ambulance safely, whilst keeping it comfortable for the onboard patient. We were given training on basic medical issues, some of which were familiar from military training and some new. This was definitely an opportunity to support the community in a direct way and one that those working alongside the Yorkshire Ambulance Service were keen to be involved in.'
Squadron Leader Merry