What to do when life demands more

For years (15 to be precise), I have worked my life around the ATC. Approximately 12 months ago I became a separated dad and now find myself in a position financially where I could really do with working longer hours during the week, the situation gets worse with every month I delay. My problem is my dedication to the cause. At present I hold two posts, one as an OC and one as a wing specialist. Staff levels at my unit are dire and it is very very rare that I don’t actually have to attend, which means leaving work, rushing to get my dog out for a walk, quickly showering because my job is pretty minging, and getting down the unit all within two hours. This is by far the biggest burden not knowing if my staff will make it or not. Of late as once again I stare longingly at my bank balance wishing I could just find a way to resolve this without giving anything up I realise I am questioning my dedication to the ATC, to the degree that there creeps in a little resentment of the organisation and my peers who have their posh cars and their happy families, and don’t actually suffer this dilemma. As I said for many years I have put the ATC above all else, ensuring that the unit survives and the cadets are well looked out for. No one can tell me what to do, but I debate trying to resign as soon as possible from squadron duties and concentrate any spare hours on my wing role or whether I just walk away completely or if my WCO would even allow me to give up one without the other. I and my family are so proud of some the achievements I’ve made over the years and I can’t say I’d be a better person for giving it up, but something has to give. Any thoughts would be appreciated, if you’ve been in similar situations or had someone that has been. I don’t want to lose the last remaining thing i have for myself.


My advice?

You’ve given so much to the ATC, you need to step back and do something for you and your family.

The ATC will still be around when you find yourself in a better position.

By spreading yourself thinly, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Either drop one role (I would say OC) and concentrate on your wing role, or NEP for 6 months and see where you are.

Look after yourself - burnout is real, and doesn’t just effect your ATC life.


I absolutely and wholeheartedly commend and applaud your commitment. But, for the sake of your personal and mental health, you need to walk away. Take a break. Go NEP. Become a CI. Or relinquish command (or the Wg role).

If you’re starting to resent it now, this will increase exponentially with time.

Your Wing Commander or Sector Commander has a Duty to support YOU. In that whole “task, team, individual” model, they absolutely and unquestionably need to address your needs - and quickly. Yes, this might jeapordise your unit in the short term - but so will you crashing and burning and taking the unit with you!

Whilst the ATC has helped shaped you and everything you’ve become - and you can rightly be proud of everything in that - it will also has the potential to break you if left unchecked. Burnout, is a real danger and it sounds like you’ve recognized it early. So now to break the cycle.

Don’t feel guilt. Reflect on the impact you’ve had on all those young people through the course of your tenure. It sounds like you’ve done an awesome job on it. You’ve earned yourself a break - and all those young people (now old!) would probably agree.

The ATC will still be here as and when you’re ready to return - if you want to.


As has been said, life must come first.

Take a step back, reduce your roles or take some leave to pick up work hours and then see if you can settle in to a less committed routine.


Have you spoke to any of your staff, do they know your situation? Spoke to your sector commander or higher up? Or is this post your first breaking point looking for guidance on your situation?

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You have given sterling service to the ATC.

Time now to give yourself some of that sterling service.

I can only echo what has been said above on here. But also, perhaps consider that the longer you leave taking action job, money and life wise, not only will this have a negative effect on you personally, but it will also on your Cadet efforts, and at what point would it actually be better that you do have that break from Cadets?

Good luck with it all though and I hope you get it all sorted, I’m currently having thoughts along a similar vane and it’s really not easy.

My staff are aware of my situation, but they consist of someone on a zero hours contract, so when work comes up they take it, and a padre who is rather new. I have complained to WHQ for 2 years saying I need to step down, the new boss who recently took charge has accepted it, but there is no other option for them at this present time.


If it was me…

I’d give the sector officer/wexo a letter/email stating that as of x date I will be standing down as OC of 1234 (Anytown) Sqn and advising that failure to support this situation will result in you starting a session of NEP/Leave due to lack of support.

Sometimes in life you have to be selfish, what you’ve said about your personal life I dont think anyone would judge you putting yourself first.


Understand your feelings and pressures. I’ve done over 20 years in uniform and the ATC has been my life, and I will admit to the detriment to my family, but now work is taking over.

When running a squadron it is hard to give up as you feel you have failed and let the squadron down. People around you, especially the direct CoC, automatically assume you will carry on; they rarely understand life outside the ATC.

It is easy for some to say just give up; but it’s not. If you have a secondary WSO role, be blunt with your OC Wing; it’s either the squadron or Wing role, or you will have not consider your role within the ATC. Difficult I know, but has to be said.

Think about the family and what could happen if you neglect them. Remember, you are only a caretaker of the squadron for a short period of time; in 10 years time (if not still around) you will be a name in the history of the squadron. As will your OC Wing in the Wing’s history.

Chin up; I hope the comments in this thread will be of help.

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My partner is always reminding people in her line of work “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. You need to prioritise yourself and your family’s needs - the ATC will still be there when you feel ready to return, the same can’t be said of us if we don’t look after ourselves.


I’d take @AlexCorbin 's advice - give your Wing HQ X weeks notice and chin off the OC role.

Its not directly applicable to your situation, but I’ll tell you a story that ought to make you sit up and understand where you are driving yourself: there was once a very successful OC who ran a brilliant sqn. He was in his late 40’s and had three teenage kids - his Sqn staff was a two men and a dog type affair but he managed to pull of a Sqn program that was the envy of most of the other Sqn’s in the wing - he really put the hours in.

One Sunday evening he’s sat in his chair in the lounge having spent yet another weekend providing cadets with a brilliant activity that they all walked away grinning from, he’s got a whiskey in his hand and he’s a very contented man with a deep sense of satisfaction for what he’s managed to achieve for his Sqn.

And then he has a heart attack. And he died right there in the living room with his wife and his kids screaming and crying, and he’d still got his uniform on.

His kids hate the ATC, they believe - and I think they are right - that the ATC killed their dad when they really needed him, and they hate that their dad cared more about other people’s kids than he did his own.

16 years on, they still hate that, and it burns them them, and it’s destroyed their memories of their dad and their feelings towards him, who loved them like nothing else, but who didn’t se much of them because he believed fiercely in the ATC helping kids without the advantages that his kids had.

Now I hope you’re not about to have a heart attack, but your kids need you - other people’s children are not as important as yours.

I think - if iirc - that @daws1159 knew him…


I don’t know the story, burn i can very well believe it,

I’ve removed the blokes name, I don’t want his kids googling his name and finding this…

I’m the other side of the country, but I’m sure he’s not unique in what happened.

Real world needs to take priority over other people’s kids, we are all guilty of forgetting that from time to time.

Not an OC nor death but I know a WSO this happened too.

A combination of high pressure work combined with unquestionable passion for the ATC. A busy work life which was balanced by a hectic ATC life and his body said “nope” and suffered a minor heart attack enough to open his eyes to the problems with his lifestyle and lack of selfish approach to his own health.

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It’s not what anyone in the ATC allows you to give up, it is first and foremost about you and what’s best for you and your now estranged family.
It’s difficult balancing growing kids and the ATC when home life is settled and in my experience school holidays primarily became a time for the family from the time our eldest started school, until they hit the ages when being dragged around by mum and dad wasn’t the done thing. In your situation I think the ATC would take the hit, as it would be too easy to give in to requests to do things and jeopardise your family. If at some point in the future you found the time (or inclination) you could rejoin.
I’m pretty sure that @angus’ story has similar instances or resonates with people across the country. I recall one of my mates saying his son (when he was 6) asked him where they were going on holiday that year, as he put the ATC in front of his family. I said to him, that’s your wife getting him to ask the question and he’d better not ignore it. He didn’t ignore it and he stopped doing as much over the following years. Now his kids are grown up he’s doing more than he ever did.

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I have been there, my circumstances were slightly different but being OC and raising a young family whilst starting a new job became too much. I stepped down as OC and took a break from the organisation. It was longer than I had expected (10 years to be exact) but I returned as a Committee member (as my daughter joined), quickly became Chairman and then via a roundabout route became CI and I’m now back in uniform and OC of a Squadron (my forum name sums it up!).

You cannot make a career out of the ATC, many have tried and many have failed. Take a look at your life from 50,000ft and you will see what is important. Family is everything and by standing back you still have those achievements and massive respect the cadets have for everything you have done. In time you can resurface and come back in full of enthusiasm but also with a wealth of experience.

I have gained valuable insight being on every side of the ATC fence. Having now done Civilian Committee, Civilian Instructor and back in uniform I can fully appreciate the valuable work everyone does.

Good luck, put yourself first and the rest will follow all by itself.


I echo all the sentiments here.There comes a time when you have to look at the bigger picture.I left in Aug 2018.I had to .The final straw was the day I attended my Gps and he took my bp.It wasnt brilliant wasnt life threatening either mind.He was stunned by what i was getting up to though.So i decided to ditch the corps.It wasnt an easy step and there were other factors too like admin burden and stuff.However on my next check my bp had dropped considerably .Dont get me wrong I do miss the cadets themselves and have kept an eye on my old command.However ive now a grandson to think about (who knows one day he may become a cadet as his dad was).

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Look after number 1, just like the first aid mantra…“don’t become a casualty yourself”


Accept advice from a very old man. Your family must come first. If you think a period out will suffice, seek a posting to the NEP. If you believe a short break will not solve the problem, resign your commission. However, in either instance, speak to the Wingco first. You you leave graciously, and in good standing, you ought to welcomed back when your circumstances change.

If you recognize the pressure, how does your family feel about it? Your family are proud of you, but how near breaking point are they?