THE RAF has two sorts of specialist: those like pilots, air traffic controllers and aerospace battle managers, where you get fully-trained after you join; and those like doctors, lawyers, chaplains and media professionals, where you’re expected to be able to demonstrate your civilian competence and qualifications before we accept you.
Once you’re in, it’s very much a ‘two way street’: you give us your media expertise for a minimum of 27 days per year, and, in return, we give you the opportunity to develop your skillset and career in ways that are genuinely useful.
That might be developing a showreel or portfolio which stands out from the crowd; it might be gaining a nationally-recognised leadership qualification; it might be the opportunity to take part in an adventure sport you’ve always wanted to try; or it might be the personal satisfaction of giving something back to the community.
What we ask from you is a minimum of 27 days per year (most reservists do about 35 days), most of which will be at weekends, although there is an annual mandatory week-long training camp.
It’s paid duty, and you’ll be in demand so there’s the possibility of a lot more work than that if you want it, especially if you can offer blocks of time.
Your service is pensionable and (assuming you meet your commitments) you’ll be eligible to be paid a tax-free bounty at the end of each financial year (year one is currently £440 and this rises to £1,742 at year five).
For the freelance or self-employed, RAF Media Reserves tasks can be useful additional income.
For those in employment and concerned about how their RAF commitment might affect shift work or scheduling, you should know that the training roster is published well in advance, so you can plan around annual mandatory training and decide which training weekends you can attend to complete your basic military training.
Normally, each squadron has one training weekend per month.
Many UK companies have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and are supportive of the Reserve Forces and Reservists. Some (including the Civil Service and NHS) may allow their reservists 15 days Special Leave to allow them to complete their reserves training.
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Here are the experiences of three media professionals who joined the RAF Media Reserves with no prior career military background:
… as a photographer
Cathy Sharples’ day job is as a freelance photographer, based in Cardiff.
“I became interested in finding out more about the RAF Reserves in early 2014, after reading that they were recruiting photographers. I soon realised that the military lifestyle also appealed to my love of fitness and travel, as well as the photographic opportunities it presented. So I joined up in October 2014.
“I’ve had some fantastic experiences since then, travelling around the UK and Europe, and making some great friends.
“As part of RAF Media Reserves, I’ve had the opportunity to carry out a large variety of photographic taskings.
“Many of these jobs are in the UK so fit in well with the day job, but we do get opportunities overseas: in May 2015 I was mobilised to Estonia for two weeks to provide media support for a NATO Baltic Air Policing operation. Another highlight last year was the chance to practice my air-to-air photography from the back ramp of a Merlin helicopter.
“Many more interesting tasks have come along this year, including a visit to Norway for a week to photograph a cross-country skiing exercise (and yes, I had to be on skis too to get the shots…)
“The RAF also provide world-class training. I recently completed a three week videography course at the Defence School of Photography, where I was taught by a former personal photographer to the Prime Minister!
“I’m looking forward to being able to do video tasks as well as stills from now on – both for the RAF and in my freelance ‘day job’.
“Being freelance, I find it easy to balance my civilian life with my RAF commitments, and I enjoy the variety that this offers me.
… as a videographer
Tim J Morris is a video journalist, or as he puts it:
“…a self-shooting TV reporter specialising in news and factual entertainment.
“I’ve worked in the media for over a quarter of a century now and I’ve had some great jobs along the way. I’ve reported breaking national news, travelled extensively, driven some of the fastest supercars in the world and interviewed more celebrities than I can remember, so I like to think that I have a fairly good take on the media game.
“As I write this, I’m sitting on an RAF Voyager at 38,000 feet watching the waters of the South Atlantic pass beneath us.
“We’re on our way back from a shoot in the Falkland Islands where we’ve seen wild penguins, white sands and picturesque shipwrecks. Now we’re on our way to the sun-kissed island of Ascension, home to giant turtles and land crabs. Yes, this is one of those cool assignments and I’m being paid to do it.
“Today, I’m not working for the BBC or ITV though; I’m on duty with RAF Media Reserves, a specialist team made up of industry experts from all over the UK.
“So, as you’d expect, the amazing locations simply set the context for a far more important story, how the Royal Air Force secures our skies every minute, of every day.
“I’m a Senior Aircraftman (SAC) and like all reservists I balance my civilian work with time spent in uniform. My grandfather flew Lancasters during the Second World War and part of me has always wanted to join the RAF, so when I discovered that you could join as a journalist, or a videographer I had to sign up.
“Two years later, I’ve been to Cyprus, Northern Ireland, the Falklands and Ascension as a media expert with the service – some of my output here, here and here. Trips to South Africa, Germany and the US are already on the horizon, so if you love to travel, this is the job for you- but there’s also a lot you can contribute much closer to home.
“In my book, the RAF Media Reserves is one of the most exciting media opportunities available, no matter where you are in your media / PR career. That’s not Media Operations hard-sell either, it’s my personal experience and I’d like to share it with you because I wish I’d known about it earlier in my own career.
“If you’re a talented filmmaker, a journalist, a camera operator, or a creative VT editor, becoming a reservist with the RAF has the potential to supercharge your career.
“Your CV will expand rapidly and your showreel will be crammed with material that’ll leave your competitors standing.
“On top of that, you’ll receive world class leadership training, so if you’re after promotion, or have your heart set on running the newsdesk you’ll certainly have the managerial edge.
“Even though I’ve spent my whole working life in the media I’ve learnt far more than I could have imagined.
“I’ve sharpened my PR skills dramatically, made new contacts and become far more efficient. I’ve really enjoyed learning the military side too, swapping one form of shooting for another on the range.
“My fitness levels have also increased massively and I now enjoy running eight miles twice a week, just for fun: I never saw that one coming!
“Media Reserves service both the RAF and the wider defence community. One day, you could be simulating a TV news crew as you media train the RAF Regiment, the next you could be producing output for national media from the front line.
“Social Media and online packages are also a major part of what we do. Any good story is always about people and, in this case, it’s about our people, the extraordinary teams who protect us day and night, often in the most extreme environments.
“I feel privileged to have met so many of them now and I can’t think of a more deserving story to tell.”
… as a writer
Reece Cowlishaw started his RAF Reserves life as a RAF Regiment Gunner, trained in infantry tactics and technique with frontline combat skills and qualified in a wide range of weaponry – so he brought something rather different to the Media Reserves.
“In the outside world, I have studied post-graduate journalism at the University of Lincoln, reading War Journalism with International Human Rights.
“I have worked as a press and communications officer for a political party, as a broadcast journalist for local and regional radio, and have ventured into the other side, working as a public relations and communications officer for UK Central, a national government venture into global investment and regeneration of the West Midlands.
“Now, though, I’m working for local government as a digital communications officer, looking specifically at internal communications.
“The skills I’ve acquired over various employments and studies are what made me a successful candidate for the Media Reserves, and I haven’t looked back.
“The chance to pair my two loves and passions has been a remarkable and invaluable experience.
“I’ve worked remotely in barren landscapes, in the heat, in the cold, on high mountains in Norway, and on Ascension Island in the equatorial water of the South Atlantic.
“As a journalist, everything I do with the Royal Air Force, and working with our counterparts in the Royal Navy and the Army, is greatly smiled-upon by the civilian world. Friends, family, colleagues and employers are all intrigued, supportive and proud of what I do.
“One of my fondest tasks was working at very short notice at the behest of HQ Air Command on Operation Honours & Awards. This was taking the lead on media minding RAF personnel who were being decorated by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace for the remarkable acts of duty, valour and bravery they had conducted whilst in service.
“My job in media minding these personnel was to help and guide them whilst being interviewed by the press and media of the UK, including the BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and more.
“I also drafted their press releases which were released to the media outlets and used across our own media channels, on the RAF website and social media. It was a truly rewarding day and such a privilege to be a part of, so much so that it didn’t feel as though I was working, but part of something extraordinary.
“For anyone thinking about a career with the Media Reserves, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so, as you’ll never do or be part of something so special in your working careers.”
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We’re looking for talented media professional across the UK, but we’re particularly keen to hear from those on either side of the border for whom Glasgow is within sensible travelling time, to join 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron’s dedicated Media Flight.
If you’d like to discover more and have an informal, no-commitment chat, please phone Corporal Al Mitchell on 0131 310 3134 or email: Corporal Al Mitchell, Edinburgh RAF Careers Office.
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RAF Media Reserves contact details…
Contact: Corporal Al Mitchell