It’s 7:30 in the evening and you’re standing, one of a flight of 60, small, sweating and nervously smiling adolescents. A fledgling group shrouded in the air of eagerness and anticipation, standing together as one bundle brimming with potential- the new cadets of 1101 squadron.
That, my friends, was an insight into my presentation evening on Yes, at first the almost disproportionate feeling of parental judgement weighing down over our heads was rather nerve wracking and the pounding drum of palpitations my chest fell victim to was undeniable, but nevertheless, it was clear and unanimous among us: we were ready for this.
The 6-8 week run up to this 30 minute ceremony made sure that routine had evolved into an automatic reaction, a well-ironed attire turned into a necessity, towards the end of our induction our schedule had comprised of drill session, after drill session, after drill session, a touch of RAF history on the side perhaps, then followed by another drill session. The constant counts to a right salute had become my anthem. Quite frankly, the sporting of a crinkled wedgwood uniform, unpolished shoes or an unshaved, peach-fuzz sweater had turned into a crime you didn’t want to be caught with. And yes, it does seem like a bit much at first but, ultimately, you learn to appreciate it. It’s a form of self-respect and awareness I’d never imagined I would ever come close to attaining and I have cadets to thank for it.
Even now, months on, I know it’s simply the beginning. Nijmegen, camps, qualifications and adventure training- they’re all in sight, all waiting for us on the horizon. Each session brings a rich diversity of opportunity, offered by the stern but determined eyes of our Commanding Officer (Flt Lt Day) and the staff; there’s spurs of light hearted laughter and a perpetual atmosphere of progression about the air. Ever since I’ve joined 1101, I’ve realized my own potential to achieve and build something significant for myself outside of academia and I’m not ashamed to say I’m enjoying each moment of it. I’m proud to be a part of a body of 60 individuals strong, all exerting their effort to achieve and accomplish; it’s nothing short of inspirational. I don’t think it will be a decision I will ever regret. So, we’re back to the presentation evening: smiles, sweat and a silent unity. As they call your name, correctly might I add, you take a deep breath. You turn, you march and firmly shake the hand of Sqn Ldr Utting. You look him in the eye and he looks into yours, with respect and with acceptance. With your head held high, you finally take your place in the air training corps.
That was my experience on Presentation evening. That was my entry into the 1101 squadron.