Progression into uniform

Afternoon all, I’ve come back to the ATC after a good few years (I left after 6 years as a cadet back in 95) and while I realise I should spend time as a CI first there are thoughts of going into uniform in the future - and it was something that was mentioned both at the induction evening and during the AVIP.

My question - has anyone made the move from CI into uniform, either as an NCO or officer, and then regretted their decision ?

I would say almost all of us, at some point!

That said, I chose to be an officer for a reason - because I felt that I could do my best for the cadets in that role. Because of that, I’ve had some amazing highs in that role, and it is those highs that keep me in uniform (and the organisation) for now!

Choose the role that best suits you - there is nothing worse that struggling to do a role well, when all you really want to do is another role.


There are a number of staff wearing multiple hats currently so there are bound to be a number of roles available - plus others which be “nice to have” on the squadron.

Where’s the best place to look in order to gen up for the progression, or is it just a case of talking to others across the wing ?

Certainly take the time to get used to being involved, update knowledge, learn about the organisation, and try a bit of as much as possible to help you guide where you want to go - specialist areas, roles and responsibilities, and whether you want a barcode or chevrons.

On that note, while in the real world there’s very little that you can’t do, whichever way you go, you need to look at it from the perspective of what you really want to do…

If you want to be involved with drill (and DDU in general) then you should be looking at NCO.
If you want to be the planner, organiser, and (ultimately) an OC then you should be looking at Officer.

When you go on to a camp or larger external activity - especially with staff who don’t know you - then there is often a default expectation that the NCOs will the ones most “in amongst it” alongside the cadets.

Other than that, shooting, FT, AT, FA, Leadership, aviation training, radios… anything you could want to pursue as a specialist training area bears next to no relevance to the decision. On either uniformed path, you should look to gain at least a rough understanding of areas other than your own - certainly upon reaching WO or Flt Lt (OC Unit) you become an ultimate authority so it’s in your favour to know about as much as possible and have a network of SMEs to refer to should you require. That’s years away yet, though.

As for this part… you can always revert to CI.

1 Like

I don’t think I know anyone who has regretted the move per se, but I know plenty who find that being in uniform has downsides as well as upsides, and that the reality of being in uniform has far less flexibility, far more expectation, far less understanding, and far less support than the sales pitch promised.

The pressure will come from both inside and outside - once the uniform is hanging up in your cupboard, you will feel it’s your duty to attend every dogs bum event on the other side of the wing that none of your cadets want to go to, and you will face real pressure to attend from your hard pressed colleagues, as well as your WHQ.

Seriously, every single uniformed member of staff I have known over the best part of 30 years as a cadet, CI, and SI, has faced real pressure - phone calls, emails, and chats about their commitment and motivation - to attend stuff that clashed with children’s and spouses birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and booked holidays.

If you decide to take the commissioned route, I can guarantee that you will be asked to take command of a unit within 18 months, and it doesn’t matter if you’re just started a new job 90 miles away, or you’ve just had a baby, or you’re a single parent with 3 kids under 10, you will be asked to take that command, and you will face huge pressure to do so. You will, sadly, also be directly lied to about the support you’ll be given when you say ‘look, I’d love to take it, but X and Y are happening in my home life, and I just don’t have the time to commit’.

That said, as a uniformed member of staff you can have a disproportionate, positive effect on the cadet experience - you simply have an influence and leverage which CI’s, broadly, don’t get to exercise - the problems, which I’ve outlined above, are not problems with uniform, they are problems which come along with uniform.


Make sure you’re going into uniform for the right reasons for you. Talk to others in your wing that are in uniform - both recent and not-so-recent.

I also left cadets, missed it, came back as a CI for a year, but what I missed was teaching drill, wearing the uniform (among other things also). I went into uniform simply because it was a natural progression: I can teach and engage with cadets in a way that suits the time and motivation I can give the cadets.

Uniformed staff do tend to need to volunteer more of their time - see terms of reference of the various roles - but ultimately you are volunteering. One of the more dangerous mindsets to get into as uniformed staff, compared to CIs, is that now you’re in uniform, you need to say yes to more and more activities and events. Or rather, it’s harder to say no.

Saying all that, CIs are awesome and if you’re more motivated/able to contribute to a specific field - fieldcraft/radio/first aid/teaching training syllabus, then nothing wrong with not having to iron and polish your uniform every week.


Not being biased but I’d strongly suggest going the SNCO route first to get your feet under the table and start to understand uniformed life in the RAFAC.

You can progress into an officer role if you wish. I find that soon as you have a commission there is a desire to push that person into an executive role on a unit without the full understanding of the way of life.


I really dislike that route.

Using SNCO as a stop gap up to officer harks back to the days of someone failing a regional board and turning up with sgt stripes the next night. Really devalued the role of SNCO as it was seen as a backup.

Spend more time as a CI and then decide which route to go down. You have many years ahead of you in uniform so you really don’t have to rush it.


What magical world are you living in where you don’t have CI’s and SNCO’s in Executive roles?

I think what he is trying to say, somebody commissioned would be the CO or WExOs first port of call.


I know of officers who get there commission then 2 weeks later they are running a Sqn. I know some will do a great job but it is still a bit throwing them ind the deepend with no real support. From my experience there never seems to be the urge to do that with the SNCO population

1 Like

I think you’ve been a bit sheltered then. We have several units with SNCOs running them because of a lack of officers.

Also there is nothing formally stopping you from being an officer and then going NCO now. There used to be when we had real commissions but it was removed. Can’t remember where the reference was though but my old OC looked into going back to being a WO when he got bored/had enough of being OC.

1 Like