OASC Diary Nov 2016
Arrived RAFC Cranwell main guardroom approx. 16:15hrs. Collected visitor pass and car pass. Entered station, parked car at Candidates’ Mess. Collected room key with station map. Walked to room with luggage, unpacked. Went to dinner at Sgt’s & WO’s Mess (canteen in Candidates’ Mess closed all week – unsure why). Returned to Candidates’ Mess for arrival briefing.
Arrival briefing commenced 18:30. Roll call taken, timings for Monday confirmed, blank candidate summary forms distributed, hangar exercise guidance notes distributed. Stay in bar for 1 drink but other candidates leave to complete candidate summary forms, so I do the same. Accommodation basic, serviceable, cold, and got colder through the night (I later retrieved an electric heater from my car!)
Wake 06:00. Breakfast 06:30. Walk to OASC Reception (Adastral Hall) for 07:30. Fob on room keys can be used to open two shortcut gates which lead directly from the back of the Candidates’ Mess to the back of the exercise hangars adjacent to Adastral Hall.
Report to OASC Reception, hand in candidate summary form, collect coverall (needed to know my height in feet and inches). Syndicate bibs distributed. Two syndicates of 5 candidates, two of 6 candidates, 22 candidates total.
Syndicates collected 08:00 and taken to waiting room. Briefing on group discussion. We were told that candidates are expected to be accurate to within 10 seconds, and that we were to report to our syndicate rooms at 08:09, lined up outside in reverse order of candidate number, ie. B6 entered first, B1 entered last and closed the door (this meant the candidates were in order from left to right from the perspective of the board).
Once we entered, we were briefed on the exercise (there would be 3 topics, 15 mins total) and had the opportunity to ask any questions. Then we re-arranged our chairs into a horseshoe, and the board set the first discussion topic: Should we be spending money on foreign aid? Should the taxpayer fund the repairs to Buckingham Palace? All the topics were similar to the examples I had seen previously and none of them required specialist knowledge.
We then left the room for a short break, and came back in the same manner as before (accurate to within 10 seconds and lined up correctly). Two tables had been placed in the room and our chairs were now around the table. There were two sheets (one scenario setting, one accompanying map) in front of each chair, face down, and blank paper and pencils for everyone. The board briefed us on the group planning exercise. We had 20 minutes private study to make notes on our ideas. After 20 minutes, time was called by the board and we had to turn our scenario setting sheets face down. Answer sheets were distributed. We had 5 minutes to write an outline to our preferred solution, and any alternatives we had considered. The answer sheets were collected and we could turn our scenario setting sheets face up again. Then we had 20 minutes to discuss our ideas as a group and come to a preferred solution. The board interrupted our discussion at various points and prompted us to think about particular solutions, often trying to get us to focus on what the group concluded was a red herring (an item had been included in the scenario that none of us could see a practical use for). After 20 minutes, the board stopped the discussion and asked each of the candidates a number of questions about the group’s chosen solution. Some of the questions were asked in a confusing manner (intentionally?), and some group members found it helpful to ask for clarification before they answered. After the board finished asking us questions, we returned to the waiting room and told to wait to be collected.
We were collected and taken down to the exercise hangars. Although the guidance notes said the hangars could be cold, they were warm when I was there. I was wearing a long-sleeved base layer and tracksuit bottoms under my coverall and was just the right temperature. Others wearing more (fleeces etc.) were far too warm. We were told that the hangar would be warm when we collected our coveralls. Some candidates hadn’t read the guidance notes and had not brought trainers, so they had to complete the hangar activities in parade shoes – not ideal. The fire assembly point and escape routes were highlighted, then we began the hangar exercise familiarisation.
The familiarisation expanded on all the points on the guidance sheet we had been given the night before (eg. the equipment colour code, general rules, H&S notes) and showed us how to safely create full and partial bridges. I was expecting to have chance for each syndicate to try an exercise as part of the familiarisation, but we didn’t. After we had been shown the techniques, we were taken to a “hide” to wait for our leaderless exercise. (The “hides” are small cubicles with 6 chairs and a water cooler that are located around the edge of the hangar. Syndicates wait in a “hide” between each exercise.)
Our leaderless exercise required us to get the entire group beyond the finish line, to retrieve a sensitive piece of equipment. The entire group then had to be returned to the starting line. We had planks, ropes, etc. There were two special rules: First, we had to get the entire group across the finish line before we could set off back. Second, we could not jump on or off one specific obstacle. We had 2 minutes to survey the course before starting. My syndicate did OK but the rest of the group didn’t remember the special instructions properly. They thought we couldn’t jump at all, when actually the no jumping rule was specific to one obstacle. I did try to point this out!
After the leaderless exercise, we were taken to a shed on the side of the hangar to eat our packed lunches in (standard MoD white bag). There was a piece of card marking where each candidate should sit. At the end of lunch, we had to take our piece of card with our candidate number on, to have our photo taken with it.
After lunch, the syndicate was taken to another hide. The process I am about to describe was repeated 6 times, once for each candidate. The board came to the hide and retrieved the candidate who would lead the next exercise. The board took the candidate to one of the exercises, explained the objective of the task and any special rules, then asked if the candidate had any questions. They would then start a timer and the candidate had 2 minutes to survey the exercise. During this time the candidate could walk about the course freely, picking up any pieces of equipment to see if planks would bridge gaps, how heavy items were, how long ropes were, etc. After this 2 minutes of survey time was up, the 13 minutes of exercise time would begin immediately. The leader would shout loudly “Bravo syndicate!” (or as appropriate) and other members of the syndicate would come running out of the hide to the exercise area, directed by one of the board members (it’s easy to get lost in the hangar as there are so many different exercises!) The leader would brief their team (always from behind the finish line) then re-join the team behind the start line before taking any questions. The leader was part of the team and had to observe all rules, as well as spotting infractions of rules, applying penalties and monitoring the safety of the group. None of the leaders managed to finish their exercises, although some came a lot closer than others. It’s very difficult to give advice on this section as there is one no right answer. Rest assured that the plank you are planning to use will be slightly too short. It seems like they designed the exercises so they were possible, then made a vital piece of equipment slightly too short, too heavy, too large, or whatever would make it almost impossible to solve! I suppose they don’t learn much from seeing someone succeed at an easy task.
After the hangar exercises concluded, we were taken back to the waiting room in the main block and briefed on the individual planning exercise. We would be collected from the waiting room, two at a time, and directed to a study booth in the private study room. Waiting in the booth were two sheets, a scenario setting sheet and an associated map, and plain paper and pencils. As with the group planning exercise, we had 20 minutes to devise a solution. Then we were collected from the study booth and took our notes with us to taken to a presentation room. I wasn’t expecting to have my notes taken off me at this stage, but they were! I then had to outline my plan on a large map on an easel, and answer some basic questions about it, before I was given my notes again, allowed to sit down opposite the board, and had to answer more detailed questions about it. Some of the questions were related to specific speed/distance/time calculations I’d already undertaken, and some of the questions required me to solve new speed/distance/time calculations. You have a pencil so you can quickly do your calculations on paper if that helps – it did for me. The board tried to make me doubt my decisions, calculations, reasoning, etc. but I knew that my plan worked so I stuck to it! The board then asked me what I would do if the route was blocked, so I asked what was blocking it. Eg. If it was a broken down car, I said we would push it out of the way, as we had 5 people available. Speaking with other candidates, it seemed like they were just checking that we would challenge the problem rather than overreacting and falling back to a less optimum solution straight away.
After we completed our individual planning exercise, we returned to the OASC reception waiting room, so we couldn’t mingle with other candidates who had not seen the scenario. After all the candidates had finished, we were briefed on what to expect on Tuesday. 6 candidates were told to be at OASC reception for 08:30, and the other candidates had to arrive by 09:30.
I woke up, emptied my room and then went for breakfast. There was no rush as I didn’t have to be as OASC reception until 09:30. I sat in the OASC reception waiting room (there is free tea/coffee/hot choc/etc.) with the other candidates and we reviewed our notes and read today’s papers. There were 6 boards of 2 boarding officers each, and we were collected by one of the two board members who explained the structure of the interview whilst escorting us to the interview room.
The interview took approx. 45 minutes and was exactly as the guidance and pre-uniform workshop described.
After the interview we were free to leave, and as I had already emptied my room, all I had to do was hand my room key back to the Candidates’ Mess reception and post my car pass and visitor pass into the box by the barrier on the way out.