My experiences as a CI


#1

My caveat to the below is I still think the RAF is a great Organisation and anyone thinking of volunteering should consider it, Squadrons are crying out for good help and they (the Squadrons) do so much for their communities.

Having read a few posts on this forum about CI experiences within the RAF, I wanted to say hello & write about my own experiences. Things I know now I wish I’d of known before I offered to volunteer, and hopefully this may help others.

To quickly outline a bit of my history;

I used to be a cadet for a small period of time as a young person, but whilst I was interested, was something I couldn’t really pursue at the time due to being from a somewhat vulnerable background. Fast forward 25 years and I now have a family member in a Squadron and I’ve watched them flourish as a person with tremendous thanks to the Squadron who have helped with everything including confidence and character building alongside providing experiences they’d not usually get if it weren’t for the RAF.

To that end I’m enamoured with the organisation and was deeply passionate about supporting my local Squadron who do great things for the community and after all, I’ve experienced first hand the impact it can have on people. I’m at a point in my life where I can donate time and expertise in my sector to a Squadron, and it’s something I thought would be relished.

So, I was surprised when upon joining the squadron several things became very quickly apparent. I should also make it clear I’ve been involved professionally as an outside consultant within other areas of the Military and felt I had a good grasp with what I was letting myself in for.

So;

The organisation of paperwork and logistics is shocking, and considering this is the RAF I’m staggered everything from qualifications, certs, no knowledge of my existence in various records, not being listed as a CI, the list is endless, and the problems rife. I’ve turned up to several events, (sometimes with Cadets in tow) to not be on any register, my car number plate not being logged, and me being refused entry to sites I’ve been asked to attend.

I’ve been asked to drive cadets to events without anyone checking my insurance status, or before all the appropriate background checks had been fully complete, and it’s only recently after some Safe Guard training I realised how vulnerable both the cadets and I was! I didn’t have any knowledge of the cadets, any contact details for parents, nothing. Yet they were all bundled up in my car. (my partners a teacher and informed me there could have been several breaches here which left me quite shocked)

But as a volunteer led organisation strapped for resource, that’s not as much a surprise as that at Squadron level, for me, the experience of trying to volunteer my time and get involved with the squadron initially has been impossible. A highly political and ‘cliquey’ staff team who look on outsiders with disdain and contempt. Various OC and Uniformed staff who use the association with the RAF seemingly to prop up their social status in the outside world only, not caring about delivering anything of any value. As a CI, I’ve been left to my own devices, with no one to talk to and more importantly, feeling like I have no one to talk to.

The on-boarding process is horrendous, and anyone not familiar with the myriad of Three Letter Acronyms for everything from Uniform to various forms, paperwork or even hardware leaves you feeling lost. No one involved in the Squadron I’m at has taken time to address any of the obvious issues with logistics mentioned above, and I’ve also witnessed inappropriate conversations about Cadets and such like, frankly I’m appalled.

I’ve been third hand witness to my involvement with the Squadron being questioned, and comments about me from someone who I consider a bully at the Squadron, and it’s clear I have absolutely no chance of being able to do anything about this. So I’m left volunteered for an organisation but on the fringe of it, feeling like an outsider, and ironically, the complete opposite to my position in industry, (also something which appears to be treated with contempt).

My advice to anyone looking to join the RAF as a CI is to learn it’s politics, pick your Squadron (and people carefully) and really understand why you are doing it.

As a positive note though, the one thing I will say, Squadron-wide, any cadet I’ve met has been absolutely spectacular. It’s a shame the adults can’t always behave.


#2

You have witnessed first hand, unfortunately, the way the management of the ATC treats all people who selflessly give up their free time and the worst part of this is that many are volunteers themselves, who you correctly identify have an over inflated sense of themselves and again as you correctly identify revel in being in uniform and love the status they feel it brings. I found it funny when someone showed me a member of staff’s LinkedIn listing. Their picture was them in uniform and the things they did in cadets was more prominent than their work related stuff. This person was at the time 38, so not a 20 something ex-cadet, needing to prop up a weak work related profile.

On HIGNFY this week they said the MOD has a book of 370+ pages of acronyms and abbreviations that it has all them all listed and has been told to cut down on them. I said to my wife, it must be the abridged 6 pt font version. Apparently the defence minster has got fed up with people coming and reeling off strings of letters at him, no ■■■■ sherlock, I get fed up with it and I’m not even doing it as a job. They put a few up in something they called “WTF Does That Mean” and one of them was DVD which is apparently Defence Vehicle Dynamics, but I imagine knowing what the MOD is like there is probably more than one, one of them no doubt being Digital Versatile Disc. If anyone from the MOD was watching and they didn’t see how stupid it made them look, then they are a bit too full of themselves. When you get a camp programme come out and it lists these meaningless groupings and when you get there it’s still meaningless as to what they actually do for a job. Even those of us who’ve been doing this for year they are a mystery. I like to make my own meaning of them, but these are far better than what they are.

Volunteer staff of all sorts get lost as all the people who turn up for selfies with cadets pass them by, so being ignored or not acknowledged is par for the course.

As for the politics like work, you never find out until you’re in just how bad it is.

You identify correctly though that the cadets put their heart and soul in and really enjoy it and seeing them come in and grow/develop is never a bad thing. But our Lords and Ladies at the top have no experience of seeing a little Yr8 join and then develop and the work we at the squadron put in, to make them selfie material for them. I think all people involved in the ATC should have to be as part of the T&C of employment be involved at a squadron local to them (and in this I include Wing and Regional CFAV) just so they can get a proper appreciation of how the turd fest they push out affects people. They would find it’s not just the few on here and similar, that aren’t happy on a daily basis.

I am glad that I am in the twilight of my involvement and where as at one point I was intending to remuster as a CI, now when I go that’ll be it. I have got irons in the fire that I find as rewarding as the ATC, but without the BS.


#3

Thanks for posting this. I found myself two years ago on a CivCom( very reluctantly) trying to raise money for these young kids to go out and attend events they would have never imagined going. The volunteers were very sparse so I moved over as a female CI. I have now been a CI for 6 months and after attending my AVIP realised safe guarding not only protects the children but also ya in a ever changing world. I was looking to become as officer as I felt that role fitted me most but in reflection I realised I could do the same time as a CI without all the constant BS I see and hear. Love what so do and seeing the kids engaging and improving every day but boy there are times when I want to say thing to certain people that so really shouldn’t. I have learnt very quickly to shut my mouth and pick my battles.


#4

I’ve very recently just ‘resigned’ as a SNCO after spending just under 4 years in the role. I stood down for similar to what you put above: the awful politics, BS and other uniformed staff crawling over each other and taking the rank and uniform far to seriously, that it seems they forget why we became CFAVs in the first place.

I am much happier being a CI again as I’m basically doing exactly what I was before without getting caught up in the rubbish. But still, there is still a lot that annoys me about the organisation.


#5

Possibly a minor point, but - no, it isn’t.


#6

Now it may not be, but it has that ‘branding’ as in some places that is all they will see of the RAF.


#7

Guys it’s really appreciated you’ve taken the time to reply. I’m really keen to ‘stick at it’ because I feel I really would add value and theres so much I could get out of it, but at present I just feel so fed up and intimidated that there’s no one I could speak to about this!


#8

Maybe speak to your padre or wing padre? They could act as a great middleman and counsellor and sort out any issues you may have?


#9

yes sorry I do appreciate it’s not, I was typing too quickly - fair point


#10

I’m considering this yes


#11

If you’re not happy in your current Sqn, do have a look around at other Sqn’s - Sqn’s 5 miles apart can be so different in culture and atmosphere that you’d not believe they were part of the same organisation.

It’s easy to transfer, it’s just helpful/politic to have some plausible cover story - distance from work, spending more time with a new girl/boyfriend, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you don’t write ‘my OC is a total throbber and the FS touches children’. If you’re new, you won’t know who is friends with who - be honest with your prospective new OC’s, tell them what you want to do in the org and what you want to offer, and be honest, but not rude, as to why you’re looking for a new Sqn.


#12

I promise you this is not normal for an Air Cadet Unit. If it doesn’t improve, move to another nearby unit and hopefully your experience will improve!


#13

My time as CI has seen me complete a first aid course. I don’t have the brain cells to take on anything like DofE or going to courses that may end up in me teaching cadets. I don’t feel confident to teach as I have a short memory that gets confused easily :frowning_face:

And with respect to other staff, I found it difficult in the beginning as the staff had all known each other previously. I felt like an outsider with ideas, but those ideas got shot down each time. I went through a phase of not going cos I felt awkward and that I was just getting in the way or not being useful.

Changes in the Sqn with staff etc…oh and I got keys to the building means I can sort stores out and make sure the building is safe for staff and cadets. I often go to activities that other staff can’t make due to work commitments. It helps that I get on with cadets and can have a laugh. If they need anything, they only need to ask and I’ll order in what they need. We have active staff who can control a room and they do it so well, I just mull about the place doing what I feel comfortable doing. You could say I’ve become the CI that I had at my Sqn when I was a cadet :grin:


#14

Absolutely, the branding is all RAF, roundel and words Royal Air Force, at a time when we have been told we are not part of the RAF.


#15

Enjoy it while it lasts, the next change will be only uniformed members of staff being allowed building keys.


#16

Well if and when that happens, our Sqn will go back down the toilet when it comes to looking presentable. And in this civilian organisation, to be able to have keys I’d need to be a civilian in uniform? I did read something about this but didn’t take much notice. A normal parade night would mean me waiting for our busy uniformed staff who work to open up, and once opened I’d not be able to do anything I usually do on Sqn with cadets walking about from room to room etc


#17

You need to get rid of that feeling!
My suggestion to you is go and do the courses: intro to the DofE and DofE leaders courses through your wing, they are really simple courses that gives you some qualifications and lets you start off helping very easily in the DofE scheme.

you have a short memory, don’t worry you end up with a nice reference book that you can refer to later.

So don’t worry about not having brains, go for it and see how far you can go yourself!


#18

Yep. Been alluded to pretty heavily by RC(N) as the reason sqns need uniformed people in order to stay open. The uniformed personnel are the ones who are liable, so they’re the ones with the responsibility. The change will almost definitely come in during the next year.


#19

Well, my cadets and I will be stood outside the building waiting for the best part of an hour before someone can come and let us in then, ridiculous. And what happens if the uniformed staff are all away for some reason?


#20

With far less actual power than a traffic warden.