What's it like being OC?

I’m asking as being OC seems like its a great job to be, as you can give all the cadets oppertunities and that, but what do you do on a day to day basis? Is it just 24/7 paperwork and admin, or is there some more interesting bits to it?

As some OC’s on parade nights seem like they have so much paperwork that there’s no time to get out the office on a parade night


If you’ve got a good staff team (which includes SNCO) who can take the lead on delivering the opportunities and full cadet experience, allowing you to run the physical unit and do all the relevant and appropriate checks, it can be great.

If you don’t have the staff team to help you out, it’s more than possible for it feel like an impossible task that takes far too long.

There shouldn’t be anything on a day-to-day basis, all staff are volunteers - cadets isn’t our job. It should only be the two parade nights a week, however for a lot it ends up being much more, or the unit simply wouldn’t function. And that’s before you get the monthly civilian meetings, monthly OC meetings at Wing level, etc etc…


Have you ever tried juggling chainsaws while tap dancing on quicksand?

It’s like that just not a straightforward.

Every CO does it differently and has a different style, staff team, cadet team & demographics to manage.

They way I’ve always summarised it is that as the Staff are there for the cadets, the CO is there for the staff - they are the catalyst & ring master.

It is a rewarding & unique role but you don’t have to be stuck in the office, it’s just finding the right points to be present & when not to be.


Isnt this a common problem? As I thought most sqn were lacking in staff numbers in some way


I will also add… You might think you are…but, you are NEVER alone in the role.

There is a wealth of experience out there who will help you. Just ask, both in here and into the wider RAFAC world.

I love it but in terms of what it’s like being an OC it will depend on your Squadron, your staff, the parents and everything else.

The hardest thing if there is a experienced staff team is putting your stamp on it and making it your Squadron.

Top 3 things I would recommend when you take over:

  • Move the office around, doesn’t have to be major but enough that it’s a visual difference when you walk in.

  • Set out a strategy or a vision for what you want to see the squadron as

  • With your staff (and even your cadets) set aims for the year, and review them at the end of the year.

As for paperwork and being in the office, having a full staff team does help but the majority of us don’t have that. There isn’t a million tons to do and some of it can be self populating. Prioritise things that need doing and make sure you read the policy yourself as sometimes there’s additional paperwork just for the fact it’s the way it’s always been done.

Best piece of advice ever given to me as I became an OC is never spend more than half an evening in the office - whether your teaching or observing. As we all say we are volunteers and we should be enjoying it as well.


It is incredibly stressful, trying to balance the needs and wants of 30+ cadets and however many staff you have, knowing staff could leave with a moment’s notice and especially thinking about the history of your particular squadron.

Personally, I don’t want to be the one in charge when we close, so all my efforts go in to making sure that isn’t the case. That’s a multitude of things from having a good training officer (and therefore good training programme), having a good, qualified staff team (to offer good activities), having enough money to make things viable, all whilst balancing trying to meet the unrealistic expectations of people like the commandant or regional commandant or wing commander or sector commander, delete as appropriate.


Sounds like I should avoid at all costs, as if I was in the situation you describe I’d probaly be lying awake at night thinking I’ve made some slight mistake and the whole squdron will be shut down and ruined it for the cadets. :sweat_smile:

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This happens. More than it should…

Maybe not the shutdown bit, but certainly worrying I’ve missed something that will effect the cadets.

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If you have the option don’t let it put you off, but just remember when doing the role of what you have volunteered for.

If you have the option of being training officer before being CO then do it (in comparison I found the Trng Off role both more tiring but more hands on).

The aim as CO is not just to have the Sqn keep going under yourself but have the foundations to still be going in 12 years time. We are only custodians of our Sqns & when we move on we hope to leave good foundations for future cadets & staff (I’ve floated the idea to one of my 15 year old cpls if they would be interested as a CO when the are 25 - it’s produced an interesting change in mindset)

Since handing over my section commander role my stress levels have reduced massively. I had the paperwork ready to resign my commission but have now rediscovered my love for cadets as a section officer. My mental health has also improved drastically.
Section commander is roughly the CCF equivalent to an ATC OC but slightly less stressful probably as we have a contingent commander to oversee the tri-service sections. I honestly don’t know how you ATC lot manage.
When you’ve got a strong staff team and supportive CoC it can be enjoyable and rewarding despite the stresses, but if you don’t it can be a killer.


Given how much work it seems to be it sounds like it should be a full time job. I’d hope if I wanted to be OC they wouldn’t let me if they’d thought I wasn’t good enough, rather than setting me up to knock me down.

having had a taste “of the top” at two units it isn’t something I am rushing back to - fortunately a house move came with a change in unit which has competent leadership so have slotted in as generic staff - although often asked if i would consider a neighbouring unit to which I politely decline!


I enjoyed the stints I did and did get a buzz when things happened it was because I made them happen - but that can still be achieved as a Sqn officer just one a lower scale with less pressure.

the big stress comes with big wins - (or vice versa depending how you approach it!)


Common, but not universal.

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This definitely doesn’t happen. It’s a case of bums on seats.

There are far too many instances of freshly commissioned officers becoming OCs after only being there a couple of months and suffering burn out and then leaving.

Don’t take on an OC position unless you are sure you can handle it and give up the time it demands - and, crucially, understand that you can say no.

Interesting phrase. I can say no to whoever, whenever I like. I’m a volunteer.


Yes, that’s what I meant. I started with one thought and finished another.

Meant that “you can (and indeed, sometimes should) say no”.

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A big issue, and the one where most new-in-role fall down and hit burn out, is prioritising and subsequently curbing enthusiasm. This doesn’t only apply to OC, but you’ve potentially got fewer checks and balances while sat at the top of your little local tree.

It’s very tempting to want to do all of the things, get wrapped up in organising them and dealing with the requirements and burden as it comes (learning as you go), which then causes something(s) mandatory to get dropped which piles the pressure on when that thing gets checked or chased.

Another is appropriate delegation - or delegation at all - especially with new projects, processes, or events.

This is true regardless of staff team size and capability.

You have to make sure you understand the mandatory requirements of the role - policies and procedures - in detail first because it makes everything easier down the line and if you’re efficient at that it takes pressure off of other things. If that means pushing projects and events down the way then fair enough as you may need to go through the same process with your other staff for their roles to make their and your lives easier.

That said, right from the start I’ve never said “no” to a CFAV wanting to run something that they have the experience and expertise to run as long as they were also conducting the admin for it so (beyond discussion, understanding, ticking boxes, and potentially turning up) my role was minimised. That may be caveated with a balance check of capability or programme congestion at times, but overall it’s an easy win for the programme, the cadets, and me as OC.

But “saying no” as above can also apply to your team on the squadron and isn’t just limited to WSO/WSC/WCO as most will focus on with that suggestion. But you need to be able to justify it and/or provide a compromise.

It’s tough to balance desire and ability, but it needs to be managed to be successful.

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It can be the best job and it can be the worst job. A lot will depend on the Squadron, accommodation, resources, staffing and support from Wing level.

If you can, take your time and learn what it is to be an Adj and a Training Officer, that way, if you decide to make the move to OC you have experience under your belt. As an OC everyone looks to you for answers, the more experience you have, the better your time as OC will be.

That said, it is definitely a case of bums on seats, so if there is a Sqn with no OC, then stand-by, tag, you’re it! If you find yourself in that situation, ask for help, you may get lucky and have a really good WSO who will mentor you along, buddy up with neighbouring Sqns OCs, I’ve helped many a new OC find their feet over the years and if they can’t help or don’t know, then someone on here will.

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This so often - I would say one of the biggest reasons we loose new officers so quickly.

Ideally you’ll get to be training officer and adjutant before becoming OC because it helps to gain that understanding from their angle and can help you be more empathetic.

It’s hardly ever the case that gets to happen.

Looking at the comments on here I think the Corps seriously needs to look at how it supports OCs because as Officer it should be a natural progression to be it at some point - and something people should want to do.

It naturally comes with some stressors but it shouldn’t be keeping people up at night, not taking away the joy of cadets, nor stopping you specialising and moving into wing positions if that’s what you want.

It should be an exciting time, your little bit of history in the Squadron to see it achieving, support it through the rough (and there will be whether that’s staff leaving, low numbers of cadets, or low funds) but overall being able to stand there and go I helped this Squadron.

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