Which Role as Staff?

Hi, I’m currently a CWO ageing out in January and am undecided as to which route to go, commission or SNCO. Had conflicting advice so any suggestions?

Go for neither. Be a CI.


Become a CI and see what it looks like from the staff side before deciding which staff role you feel is best. I will imagine you will have had squadron and wing staff saying how wonderful you are and what a marvellous officer (SNCO normally doesn’t even come into it) you would make as they butter you up like a turkey for the oven. The last thing they are interested in is, oddly, your welfare, considering welfare of cadets is one of the main tenets of being staff.

When I aged out as CWO 31 years ago I had mates who commissioned and lived to regret the decision as even then the rush to get them into sqn commands was there, not as much as now, but it still existed.

Don’t think, like many cadets, that being a CI is like being a third-class citizen. If HQAC had any gumption they’d be flattening the playing field for all staff, but lack vision and spine.


When I aged out as a CWO at 22, the only options available were Commission or Warrant Officer. I chose Commission for a few reasons but one was that I didn’t want to be sat in a Sgt mess as a WO at 22 and have regulars giving me the evils.

It all depends on what you want to achieve. If your end game is to run a unit and you are interested in the management side, then go for a Commission. If you prefer the discipline and like to teach cadets the skills you have achieved over your time as a cadet then go down the NCO route.

The CI route give you the flexibility to do most things and is a good starting block until you decide what you would like to do. Remember as a uniformed member of staff you are expected to do 12 hours a month minimum whereas a CI has no commitment rule so you can do as much or as little as you like.

Horses for courses I suppose.


Don’t be pushed either way, take time to decide your next step.

I know of a 24 yr old Flt Lt, wrong place, wrong time. Uniform will put you in place to take over if things go wrong, where as CI allows you to develop at YOUR pace.

A completely different an unorthodox approach from me im afraid.

Sack it off entirely. Leave for 12-24 months. Get some experience and live a little. Go and get another hobby or interest.

If the ATC is all that and a bag of chips, you’ll return - bringing with you new experiences and stories of the life outside. It’ll also reset your clock and make you much less likely to burn out early like so many I’ve seen fall by the wayside.

There is a good chance you’ll return to the fold in due course even if you do find another hobby.

Despite the lines trotted out by staff - especially wing staff - you don’t owe the ATC anything. And the “i want to give something back” line isn’t a one time limited offer. You can do it whenever. WSOs have a vested interest in keeping you to fix their “now” problems with little thought to the future. You’ll be “pressurised” into moving for “your development” - when its just as likely that its a short term fix for a staffing crisis elsewhere. You’ll rapidly get disenfranchised with politics - especially in a blue suit - and being made to travel to prop up a failing unit which is struggling. Then you’ll quit and never return because of your negative experiences.

Go and live a little instead. It’ll make you more valuable in the future and reduce the likelihood of developing the insular mindset of people who often live the ATC end-to-end. It’ll also build your levels of resilience and assertiveness. Too many CWOs go straight into uniform as a preordained, pseudo-institutionalised route - full of “yes sir” attitude because thats all they know- without the appreciation that volunteering to do something is subtley different to being voluntold to do something. Life experience will give you more skills to deal with this - and give you the confidence that there are other things you can do if it all gets too much. Rather than staying on through guilt, loyalty or, worse, because you dont know any different.

Often the CWO-staff route is seen as a must and the only option for people. We need to offer another route.

Trust in the fact that, if somebody is good enough to be a CWO, then they’ve probably had some pretty good experiences along the way. Have faith that they’ll probably return. By not offering leaving as an alternative we do ourselves no favours - merely feed the habit of an addict.

And when you do come back, do so as a CI. Do 24 months then go into uniform. You’ll be a better NCO/Officer for it and won’t find yourself saying the words “they’re only a CI”.


Thing is I’m pretty certain I want to go into uniform I understand the drawbacks. Im just not sure whether to go SNCO or comission (something I’m leaning towards but not sure how it’ll be seen to go straight for).

If you go SNCO, you can also go up for commission. But if you go commission, you cannot go down to SNCO - only CI.

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I’m leaning more towards comission. I’m just not sure as to going straight for comission. Whether I’d be judged for it.

I went CWO - Officer. My ambition was command, and I got it. It was the drive that has kept me going through some of the bad times.

If commission is what you want, then go for it. However… Make sure it is YOUR decision and no one elses. Your circumstances WILL change over the years, just bare that in mind. You’ll want a career, relationship, maybe a family… they come first!

Hopefully I’ll see you in the ACC officers mess for a drink sometime.


Bang on point to leave and go get life experience.
Or even to join the Forces.

Strange point - other than tradition, where does it say that?

Especially with the move to the new commission, why can’t you go officer to NCO now?

Probably one of those unwritten rules back in the days of VR Commissions.

And as it’s a civilian commission, I reckon the rules will be written to allow it :wink:

No. If that’s what you want, go for it. Plenty of people go from cadet to commission; as long as it’s your choice and that’s what you want then go for it.


I agree. I timed out at 22 as a CWO in 2003. The plan was for me to go straight for a commission but I decided against at the last minute and instead took some time out. 9 years straight through as a cadet, I did everything I could and it was fantastic, but had little experience of life outside of the ATC. I went to uni but I was coming home every friday for parade nights plus whatever was happening on a weekend so I missed out a lot on uni life too.
I ended up taking more time out than planned (about 12 years) before I found my way back, albeit to a different squadron in a different wing in a different region (lots of living in the years away!). After a couple of years as a CI, got commissioned in May but by that time, it was definitely my decision.
I’m not suggesting going away for quite so long as I did but a bit of blue water was definitely beneficial. Looking back, I was a lot more naive and less savvy as 22 year old than I thought I was.

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As a CWO they should already have a fairly good idea of what it looks like from the staff side. If their squadron has done its job properly.

They wrote it - you can do now.
ACP20 PI301 para 2: “Potential SNCO adult members of staff may be recommended for appointment
following ATC cadet service, CI service or upon leaving commissioned service.” (my bold)

Perhaps in the old days but now CWOs are not able to be in the rank long enough really to have done the staff thing properly, they may feel they have as it’s all they know and due to staff shortages may be dumped into staff jobs and so staff think they are up to the job and that’s where a lot of the problems start, they become overly confident, and get put into roles they aren’t really ready for, mentally and or emotionally. Normally as their egos are pumped up by Wing Staff/Sqn Cdrs where the Sqn Cdrs are looking to jack it in and getting someone in place to take over.
It happens all too often and the Wunderkind don’t last the distance.

I was a CWO for just over 3 years and for 2½ years or so I was to all intents staff and ironically there was nothing that could induce me to go into uniform straight after. I’m not sure I’d have got married or still be married if I’d gone into uniform straightaway.

Go as a CI and consider what you want to do.
You will be under immense pressure to go into uniform “as you are already wearing one so what’s the difference”, to quote some big wigs I may or may not know.
I went as a CI for 6 years before going into uniform, getting really pooped on and finally sacking it off and joining the SCC!
I now have a life outside of cadets :smiley:

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What you need to be told is that this organisation is an unforgiving mistress.

While you’re doing everything she wants she is fun and cuddles, but become less attentive and she will turn on you quicker than you can blink.

To avoid this to some extent do not do the staff uniform bit, yet. Do the CI bit (if you wish to stay in the ACO) and see how it goes after 2-3 years and of Wing or Sqn staff keep banging on about going into uniform, stand your ground. We have CIs (ex cadets) who have basically told Wing Staff to do one when they have been pressurised about going into uniform and I get all sorts of grief as I’m not forcing them down the uniform route. But I’m too long in the tooth to be flustered by Wing and any other idiots telling me what I should be doing.

At 20, you have a lot of time to do things, act in haste repent at leisure, you could be in uniform for 45 years as adult staff. Not sure how many regulars could do that long. As a cadet, the organisation has lapped you up like ambrosia and probably told you how wonderful you are, but be prepared for a complete change of tack. You be leaving the sheltered harbour of being a cadet into the veritable maelstrom of being young adult staff.

We have a cadet who aged out this summer. He made the decision to come back as a CI, rather than any uniform route, as he’s in the process of pursuing his career and didn’t want the pressures a uniform brings. He also intended taking 3 months out over the summer to give himself a break and also so that when he came back it would be more likely he would seen as a staff member rather than a staff cadet. For various reasons, his paperwork was held up and he was only able to come back on squadron last month. However, the intention has worked. The training flight he worked with have moved on and established themselves without him to lean on (a good thing!) and we now have a new bunch of recruits started. He feels better able to find his place and role as a staff member, now. But he hasn’t discounted a uniform route, he just feels that for him, its not the road to take just yet. He also feels the CI route gives him space to, as he says, “have a life outside the ATC for a while”!