• Name
  • Job Title and Employer
    Cyber Communications Specialist
  • Employer
  • Levels
    Level 3 (Advanced) Apprenticeship
  • Occupations
    Computing, technology and digital
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Hello, I Am Tom

My profession at the Royal Air Force is Cyber Communications Specialist. The trade provides vital Cyber/CIS support to the whole Force. I am currently in my first posting at RAF High Wycombe.

Tell us more about your experience

What encouraged you to join the RAF?

A perceived lack of opportunity in the ICT industry around the South Wales area. I saw the RAF as a good place to get qualifications and experience in the industry.

Do you come from a military background or have inspirational family members who spoke about previous military service?

No military background in my family.

What fears and anxieties did you have about joining the RAF?

I had fears and anxiety over the fitness test and still do - even though I train regularly and have support from the PTIs.

What is your current role in the RAF?

My current role in the RAF is a shift worker within Mission Support in Operational Support Wing, CyOps Flight, where we provide mission-critical support to UK Air Defence and the Space Operations Command Centre, and OGDs.

Talk through an average day in the RAF

An average day starts at 0700hrs with a shift handover consisting of PMM checks, fault and task updates. The day is spent reacting to system failures and faults and routine servicing tasks. Shift handover takes place at 1700hrs.

What responsibilities do you have? How do you think this compares to if you had an equivalent civilian job?

Responsibilities vary between ICT systems. Some systems are owned/managed remotely, and our responsibilities end at first line or initiating contract support. I am responsible for safe working practices and complying with engineering standards. As I have no civilian industry experience, it’s difficult to say, but my perception is that civilian equivalent jobs have more in-depth repair responsibilities.

What’s the best part about your current job/role?

The flexibility and ability to go on courses to help us develop and increase my skills and knowledge.

How did you find the transition from civilian to military lifestyle?

I found the transition quite difficult at the beginning, but it was soon easy to manage. Everyone was in the same position and we supported each other during difficult periods. It was a step-change in lifestyle and made me grow up a lot.

What further educational opportunities have you had that relate to your role?

I have been able to complete three CCNA courses and other specialist courses relating to specific ICT systems. I have also applied to do a university degree.

What developmental opportunities have you had that are not trade-specific? (e.g. Leadership and Managerial, Instructor Qualifications)

I have been able to go on a Defence Workplace Trainer course to enable me to mentor new joiners. It has also developed my managerial and instructor skills. My CoC also encourage me to develop my leadership attributes by allocating significant tasks where I can manage resources within boundaries. I have also signed up to go on a junior leadership course.

What civilian qualifications have you earned, if any?

I have achieved an NVQ Level 3 as a unified communication technician.

What do you enjoy most about your job/the RAF?

I enjoy the opportunities that arise with my job; for example, being able to represent the RAF at the Royal Welsh Show in an engagement capacity. I enjoy the ability to take part in sports and FD and the fact I get plenty of opportunity for educational self-development.

What are some of the most memorable experiences from your time within the RAF?

Some of the most memorable experiences, other than the BRTC and phase 2, are the ambassador/engagement events where I have represented the RAF.

How much do you keep in contact with friends/colleagues from previous postings?

I have tried to keep in contact with friends, but most of the time it’s only one or two that you stay close with.

What is your next goal in the RAF?

Development of my managerial and leadership skills for me to be competitive for promotion to JNCO. I also want to expand my educational qualifications by completing a university degree. I would like to be assigned to MOD Main Building to develop experience in the tri-service domain. I would also like to gain more experience by deploying in direct support of operations.

What is the work-life balance like in the RAF?

As a shift worker, it can be challenging, but you get four days off which can help, though the shift cycle frequently disrupts weekends. The social aspect is not what I imagined; however, we have a strong team ethos within the workplace.

What accommodation/messing facilities do you/have you used?

I currently live in G4Z accommodation SLA, which is the lowest standard of accommodation in the RAF. Some of the constant faults experienced are no hot water, lack of heating and low water pressure, poor cooking facilities, and outdated furniture.

How helpful is the RAF Benefits Package (e.g. Medical, Dental, Disturbance/Relocation Allowances, Continuity of Education Allowance etc.) to you/your family?

The benefits package the RAF provides is good; however, it can be difficult to access these services when the dental centre is closed and moved to RAF Halton, and medical facilities are very busy.

What kind of community facilities do you have on your station that you use?

We have access to Costa and an all-ranks bar and e-sports room.

What sports or AT have you taken part in?

I have taken part in the Eagle Scheme FD (water sports). I am the Events Coordinator for the station golf club and represent the station in golf league matches.

What opportunities have you had to travel overseas with the RAF?

I have yet to travel overseas but have an OOA at the end of next year.

What parts of the recruitment process do you remember the most? Why?

I remember most of my basic and a majority of my phase 2. In particular, I remember my phase 2 as most of it was done remotely in the 4-man rooms at Cosford due to COVID. The trade training we received at Cosford was brief but informative and gave me broad insight into the plethora of roles the trade has to offer.

If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself about the recruitment process?

Prepare more for the test and answer the easy questions first to save time. Also, prepare better for the fitness test which would have alleviated some of the stress I had.

What elements of initial training do you remember the most? Why?

The elements of the initial training I remember the most are the first couple of weeks where I was trained to prepare for inspections and kit standards. I also remember the military aspect of the BRTC (basic recruit training course) doing the weapons handling and CBRN. I felt a lot of pressure to pass tests which added to stress levels.

If you could go back to dispel one myth/preconception about initial training, what would it be?

One of the myths I thought would be true is that there would be constant shouting and screaming, but it wasn’t.

Briefly describe what you learnt in your Specialist Trade Training.

What I learnt in specialist training was a basic overview of ICT which includes Cisco networking, servers, admin work, satellite comms and basic fault-finding techniques.

How well did your training prepare you for your first posting?

To some degree, it did prepare me as we were taught the basic building blocks of the ICT profession which gave a good grounding for my first assignment.

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