Is the ACO fit for purpose?


I think that the ACO does very well on the soft skills (personal presentation, leadership, responsibility etc…), and the ‘hard’ lifeskills that enable some degree of independence - in my Sqn for example, pretty much every cadet leaves having learnt to bake bread, make a tea loaf, a lasagne, an omelette and a crumble - but the aviation stuff, the RAF stuff has not far off disappeared. I’ve got cadets - lots of cadets actually - who have not only never flown or visited a flying station, but who don’t know anyone who has ever flown or visited a flying station.

The crux of that loss wasn’t the loss of mass RAF station camps or AEF flying, or opportunity flights, it’s VGS.

We maintain AT only because we’re a very AT centred Sector, and we make deliberate decisions to concentrate on AT and ignore some of the other things that the ACO would obviously prefer us to do - not that the cadets would prefer us to do those things, but hell, who cares what cadets would prefer to do…


Whose level of conformity - society when it comes to wearing a suit.
polished/clean shoes
pressed trousers and shirt
tie at the waist/belt buckle

i wear a suit to work - as do the majority of my colleagues.

men not wearing a suit to interviews is not an excuse to not know how to wear one although unfortunately i have seen what you have. I was at a funeral recently and shocked and disappointed at the lack of “formal” suit attire people were wearing. I am not necessarily indicating they were scruffy, but basic level of dress was missed.


Are we at a point where what the RAF can actually offer and do for us needs to be honestly put out there by the RAF? Not some faff, but hard commitments to things and then WE are given the ability to decide where WE go with it.

Flying, camps, uniform are among the big things where afaic we have been failed by the RAF, who seem to think just offering scraps is good enough, but which has adversely affected the ‘cadet experience’. There is no point regardless of how excited the cadets get and speak about it to their friends, unless it is happening all the time.

We have people who seem to be far too twitchy just in case something happens, who have adversely affected the ‘cadet experience’. The ultimate sign off should be with parents, not someone sitting in an office with a tick list.

People running the show who show no understanding of the lives / world that we the CFAV and how changes to our personal circumstances affect us, has adversely affected the ‘cadet experience’, by people leaving.

Not understanding that unless we (CFAV) get something out of the organisation, other than constant form filling and changes, saps enthusiasm and morale.

Insisting that people get qualified for things and then not ensuring these are run in sufficient quantity as delivery is expected to be by CFAV. In this respect not mapping to civilian providers and getting us discounts through these providers, so we are not hemmed in to the limited opportunities.

Having limited and sometimes specific interest camps is not the way forward, unless there is more than one run a year and we don’t want highly paid individuals turning for a selfie opportunity.

It is apparent that “fit for purpose” is a postcode lottery and has been for the last few years, even at wing level.


This would be dependent on what you do and or who you work for and should not be seen as something everyone should be doing.

I don’t think people don’t know how to wear suits is a problem as people do.
As for basic level of dress, this is a generational thing. I am positively scruffy in relation to my dad, who always wears a blazer/jacket with collar/tie and shoes when he goes out, even to the shop for a paper. But that’s how he was brought up in the 30s/40s. The “modern” way is to dress more casually and I don’t see this as a necessarily bad thing, it’s just society changing. When I was growing up, go out for a meal and it was collar and tie, when I first went to night clubs/discos it was collar and tie. Now though practically anything goes.


i don’t disagree or have said it should be - simply indicating that i wear a suit to work

i also wear a suit in my various hobbies outside of the RAFAC - in some cases for formal dinners. All which started when i was a Cadet…i learn the etiquette at Squadron events


I think we try to deliver way too much, spread ourselves too thin and fail to achieve as much as we could if we were more focussed.


But what should our focus be?

With the national reduction in local military presence, people seem to think cadets are some sort of rentamob for parades and events. Take RAF100 the word from the top is/was different to what seems to be the local message. There’s something going on we expect cadets to be there and squadrons involved in something inviting others, as they want to ensure large numbers to look good. I would say ½ dozen cadets at some would be a good percentage representation of the RAF as it is now.

You are absolutely spot on when you say we try and do too much. We do more things at weekends than I ever remember as a cadet and I was an active cadet, as my dad and a few other dads of my time would testify. We have always done things that many cadets aren’t interested in, but now with the nonsense of SMS data it is seen as a failing that you don’t have more than 3 or 4 cadets doing something, which increases the pressure on staff to take them, as parents can’t or won’t take them. But this sort of number hasn’t changed in my time as a cadet or staff, so why it should be thought that it should be more now, baffles me.

I think we should look at the Scouts and see how they manage to deliver and stay relevant and use that as a model to base the future ATC on that.


I have started to really loathe the sheer volume of parades we are expected to do now. We used to do just Remembrance and Battle of Britain with the occasional Wing Parade. Now Wing parades are annual, we have Armed Forces day parades, various organisation anniversary parades and more. All days we could spend doing something else spent generally doing a remembrance service. (Our local Armed Forces Day Parade is essentially the same as Remembrance parade just hotter.)
But that’s just one example of my point.


Join the CCF - we never get asked to parades!*

(Admittedly some city centre schools do - the Oxford Remembrance Parade is a good example.)

*Yes, yes, obvious joke


Armed Forces Day seems to stretch over 3 or 4 weekends now. But this seems to be purely for the benefit of people who like to dress up in uniforms from WW2 to the current day. AFAIC Armistice/Remembrance is Armed Forces Day, not this made up thing in the Summer, which was invented like Help For Heroes by pressure from the dribblers who read red tops.

We’ve been invited to our “local” one, which 12 miles away and despite pictures of cadets on social media, I can’t be bothered with it. There are some Air Cadets there, so good enough.

How much does seeing others on social media pressurise people to attend things?


Surely it’s better for staff on a Squadron to spread themselves thin rather than just go to Wing full time and leave the units a person down completely?

While some Wing roles can be argued to be of dubious value others really are needed. Band, First Aid, AT, Shooting & DofE are all posts that need to be filled either to conduct training for Staff to enable Squadrons to run activities or to directly run activities which can’t be run at Wing level.

Now I can see the argument for making them all full time roles as well as the argument for making them all Secondary Duties and I think it’s very dependant in what the Wing does with these roles as to which argument is best. What’s more value a First Aid Officer who is on a Squadron full time and runs the odd weekend course or competition? Or one that is out and about in the Wing running regular Heart Start of Next Squadrons and Course every fortnight?


Most of the problems with the RAFAC ( why change the name anyway if it is not broke why fix it) this time and money would have been better spent on important things.anyway, most of the problems with the cadets are down to the incompetence and arrogance of the sudo RAF leadership. Never before has the phase Lions lead by donkeys been more appropriate. The average cadet nco would show more gumption and honesty.


I am getting very frustrated with the structure we are putting place

  1. PTS is designed in such a way that only very basic ‘Blue’ can be delivered locally
  2. All activities now require staff to be qualified or authorized to a much higher level than previously to allow them to continue
  3. SMS is designed around a military mentality where things happen - not flexible to allow for the fluid situation of cadets wishing to take part/change minds before an activity
  4. Etc

The generic solution from the CoC (and for PTS by design) are more Sector/Wing events at weekends and outside normal Sqn hours - requiring more staff input and parents having to make time to transport their kids all over the Wing.

For SMS you appear to be dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. Put in a SMS early and it is normally incomplete as it will need attendees updating after approval (negating some of the reasons for checking) or put it in late when all complete and be castigated for making Auths rush their jobs to approve in time. :rage:

With most Sqns running below their establishments (not just uniforms) this involves more commitment from staff not only to get qualified for various activities but to devote even more time to RAFAC to enable the cadet experience.

Therefore I think the ideal staff criteria may need looking at:

  • Ex Cadet aged over 30 (for life experience/responsibility)
  • Stable employment (so time to spend on RAFAC rather than real life)
  • Single or involved with like minded individual (no distractions or conflictions of interest)
  • No other hobbies (lots of free weekends)

So until my wife decides to divorce me my cadets are severely limited!!


The question that needs to be answered is why have the problems only really come to the fore in the last few years? We have had similar types come into run the Corps from the RAF for years and the ATC worked perfectly well. So what has happened in the last few years for it to have become how it has become? I feel one of the problems has been FTRS and inventing jobs for the sake of inventing them so that RAF types can remain in their comfort zone and do nothing vaguely useful. Using SM is not a productive use of anyone’s time…
If you had a management board in a company like we have, all earning a decent salary and what has happened, happened they would have been long gone and replaced until the right people get into the jobs. If you were to look at it in terms of football team managers, they’d have been out after at most a season.

This then brings into question, who exactly runs the ATC, the people at HQAC or the RAF? If it’s the former I see no evidence of this in the people, as if they are, their management competence has to be seriously looked at. People running organisations need to be innovative and show initiative, anyone seen this in the last dozen or so years? Even if it’s the latter there seems to be no evidence of innovation or initiative.


Staff should be
Unemployable or retired or huge personal wealth so they don’t have to work
Orphans with no other family, unable to have relationships (of any sort) and loathe children, ideally be unable to have children
As said no other interests, hobbies or anything that will distract them from Air Cadet activities.

The points on staff qualification and course attendance requirements is spot on and hampers doing things. But the more qualified you get the greater as you say draw on your personal time.

Is this organisation worth chucking your marriage into the long grass for, no.


You have not met my wife!..

…but you are still right :cold_sweat:


The problem is with that many cadets you need staff and you need them at the squadron, which isn’t always feasible. However HQAC and others will look at the stats and think they’re OK with 5 staff, when you in effect have 2 or 3, which is a problem when you just look at the numbers.
You say 50-60 a night, but what is the book strength? We have got 28 book (which has been around that for some time) and on a good night we get 20ish, (tonight is 15 due to exam season and may fall lower) which with the staff we have is comfortable. I would get weekends and week nights back not after too long of dealing with 50-60, regardless of what NCOs you have and how useful they are.
Trying to keep those numbers needs a lot of attention and the only thing that happens is burn out. I’ve seen it in the past.

Oh and I doubt it’s easier being a full-time teacher, judging by the number we have lost in the last academic year and struggling to get replacements. CI or full time teacher, CI every time. You could not pay me enough to be a teacher in today’s system.


Not wishing to put to fine a point on it. In the past the ACO was run by a senior front line RAF officer (exclusively a former pilot) with honour and integrity, imbued with the ethos of the RAF. now it is run by a civil servant with an honorary rank. the downgrading of the appointment has inevitably resulted in the downgrading of standards.


The last two AOCs were both ‘blunties’ which is the problem.


As a former bluntie I do slightly object to that that term alone implying incompetence. I’ve known and worked with/for some outstanding non-two winged master race officers. Similarly I’ve known some utter numpties who really earned the cockpit epithet.

You get good and bad of both ilk. Simply being from one or the other is no guarantee of quality.