On Wednesday 6th July, 4 cadets from 2195 (Long Eaton) Squadron ATC arrived at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, to prepare the setup process of The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).
After a 2-hour bus journey, we arrived at the old bomb dump at RAF Fairford. In the following hours, we were put through a briefing of the camp, told the rules and what we would be doing for the week. We were then introduced to our flight – these were the people who we were going to be setting up the airshow with for the time we were there, the 4 of us were in the same flight so we weren’t split up, and we quickly made friends with the Loughborough CCF cadets. After this, we were told which 18-man tent we would be sleeping in. They came with beds which we had to put up, and space to put our bags. We also quickly made friends with the people we would be in the tent with.
Thursday had an early start of 5:30, and breakfast at 6:30 which was full English. At 7:30, the entire flight got onto a minibus and we made our way onto the airfield. Our task for the day was to set up the viewing village, which was right next to the runway and required extra money to get a seat in. From the time that the task started, until 5:30, we put out 1,200 chairs for the public, and a further 30 tables. Lunch was in the Belden Diner located 1 mile north of the airfield, where we had a great choice of different foods such as different pies, pasta and vegetables. Tea was also eaten in the Diner. We got back to the camp, showered, changed clothes and went to the briefing which was next to the cone that our flight had been situated with. After this, we had free time which we spent talking with each other and getting to know each other better, then it was time for bed at 10:30.
On Friday, we were tasked with the job of putting out tables and chairs for a party that would be happening on the Sunday night. We got into groups, and helped each other to lift the tables and the chairs into the party section of the main hangar. They were heavy, but Hurricane flight got the job done. We had the rest of the day free, which we used to polish shoes and iron our uniforms, and then the rest of it was spent talking and sleeping because of all the sleep we missed in the morning.
Saturday we were on the crowdline. We were protecting a section to the East of the airfield that had the brand new F-35’S and the Red Arrows behind a fence that the public were not allowed to cross. We split the flight into 2 groups, and each would have an hour each guarding the crowdline, and a 1 hour break to walk around the airshow. During the crowdline duty, we engaged with many visitors of the show, answered their questions and also told them about the ATC (obviously telling them that 2195 was the best). Duties finished at 5:30, and we went to dinner.
On Sunday, we finally had a change of uniform, and we also had a job that meant interacting with the pubic a lot, not good if you’re shy! We were handing out surveys to ask if the public enjoyed their visit to the Air Tattoo, if they would come back again and also if they had any further comments so that RIAT may be able to improve in 2017. We had a 2 hour break, which we used to eat, and also further interact with the public, we also met family members and friends who were coming to the Air Tattoo without the cadets, and on top of that, we met pilots from various countries such as Belgium, France, Canada and Japan!
Monday was a free day, with quite a late start as well, so it was probably the best day we had in terms of sleep! We spent the day doing normal, things – sitting in the tent, listening to music, showering, going to the toilet, charging phones etc, all the normal things to do on a camp. At the end of the day, we had a great disco, the entire camp was in a moshpit, and we were all generally having a great time (we even got a staff sergeant to dance!). This lasted until around 10, when the camp voted for one more song, Bohemian Rhapsody. Then the night was over. With lost voices from singing too loudly, we all went to bed, still laughing about the jokes we had at the disco, we also used the disco to celebrate all of the hard work we did, with a massive clap, cheer and a hooray! We also spent a lot of the day packing our things as it was our last day.
On Tuesday, we packed the last of our things, said goodbye to everyone in our flight, shook their hands, and set off. We put our things in the bus, and we were gone, saying a last goodbye to Fairford. We stopped off at a KFC on the way back, so we weren’t very hungry when we got back.
Overall, from my point of view, the camp was amazing. There were some people who didn’t enjoy it as much as me, but I’ve been going to Fairford for a small while, and I thought it would be good to see what goes on behind the scenes with the cadets and the rest of the volunteers. We made some great friends, and although the work was hard, we had a great laugh in the process of doing things, and also enjoyed the airshow. I would definitely go back, and I dare say that some of the other people in the flight as well as me would go back next year too.
“It was overly a good week despite the busy schedule. I loved the fact that we met people across the organisation and got to interact with people whom we did not know at all. If you have the chance to go on it next year or the year after, don’t hesitate it is worth the experience.” Cadet Corporal Catherine McHale.
Written by Cadet L Sherrard
2195 (Long Eaton) Squadron ATC