Transition from the Royal Air Force to Civilian life by Lisa Brydon

Date: Tuesday June 6, 2017 at 9:08am

One of the ladies I work with is ex RAF. we have spoken a lot about our transition and how we both found it. It was interesting to hear her experience, especially as the Army always think the RAF get looked after better. So I asked her if she would mind writing a blog for me on how why she left the RAF after 19 years and how she found the transition. It was interesting to see that we both felt let down by CTW/CTP and there is no real support for service leavers from them. We both went through the same emotions and worries. We both moved to a new city when we left the forces and had to start again with no real support. I thought I was the only one that went through this struggle but apparently not. Below is Debbie’s account of her experience.

It’s been 4 years since I officially left the RAF but 5 years since I was told I was being made redundant.  I remember that day well, I thought I had got away with it I knew I was in the mix for redundancy and rumours went around that if you hadn’t been told by 09:00 then you had missed out.

I didn’t want to be made redundant I had been in the careers office for the past 3 years and was due to go back into trade and was excited about it. 09:00 came and went and I thought yes, it’s not me I was safe I was laughing and joking in the office I was so happy It wasn’t me. Then at 09:45 a Sqn Leader walked in and asked for me, I didn’t know who he was so didn’t even think about it. 

He took me in to an office and presented an envelope and said, “I guess you know what this is?” and that’s when I realised I wasn’t safe and I wasn’t wanted. He told me if I had any questions to ring Cranwell and then left.  I didn’t know how to feel at that point shocked, disappointed, angry, but most of all I felt let down by my boss and the RAF. 

My boss was on a course at Cranwell and she was panicking about what happens next, the way I was told was bad, and I felt so let down that I wasn’t told by someone I knew at least if I had it may have softened the blow a bit.  I was told I could have anything I wanted but at the back of my mind I felt it was a lie, I could have sat back and done nothing and just mucked about but that wasn’t me I still gave everything to my job so I knew I had done the best I could have given in the circumstances.

Over the next 12 months I went about work, I got permission to stay at the careers office for the last 12 months so I ended up doing 4 years there, I did my CIPD Level 5 in Human Resources, but didn’t really know what I was going to do or doing at that time. I was worried about finding a job, somewhere to live and not having the security of being in the forces around me. 

The thought of being homeless passed my mind a few times, also knowing that civilians don’t understand those who have been in forces worried me. Would I fit in? would I make friends? I went through a range of emotions but managed to contain them as I was still in my safe world, I knew others that were going through the same but no one really talked about it. I did my 3 day CTP course and kept wondering why do we do that course? I felt like 3 days wasted no real support from them and that the person who presented the course wasn’t really interested in what people were going though.

I manged to secure a couple of interviews one was with an Educational company and the other with a company who seemed to be taking over the world. I was nervous as it was the first interviews I had had in over 18 years, what do I wear? What do I say? What if I don’t present myself in the correct manner? What if they don’t understand what I am saying? I had nothing to worry about as the interview was happening I sat there thinking I don’t want this job, the 3 women who interviewed me didn’t really give me a good feeling or make me feel welcome.

The other interview was a totally different experience it was a company who were taking over the Army recruit, so I knew the topic well, I knew my experience within the forces and the careers office would hold me in good stead don’t get me wrong I was still nervous. The interview went well and I felt comfortable and felt that the two-people interviewing me had a real interest in me and what I had been doing in the past 18-19 years. I got the job and I felt a world of worry lift of my shoulders.

Now to find somewhere to live and sort out moving as I was moving over 200 miles to a new location where I didn’t really know anyone except my brother who was in the Army in the area, and there was the little matter of asking to be realised a month earlier from the RAF so I could start the job when the company wanted me too, it was granted I mean they couldn’t really say No as they are the ones who didn’t want me.

I left the careers office on February 3 2013, and moved in to a small coach house 200 miles away. Thankfully my brother was onhand to help me settle in, I’m sure him and his wife were sick of the sight of me. I followed them everywhere to start with I didn’t know anyone else. I started my first civilian job on March 11 2013 and that first day I was so nervous. 

Everyone else in my team had started the week before so they had bonded how would they feel with a new person in the mix? I remember walking in the room and I was introduced to everyone, instantly I felt I didn’t belong and wanted to leave it didn’t help when the girl I got sat next to turned away from me and made sure I was left out of conversations. No one asked who I was, where I had come from, what had I been doing before going there? No one was interested and I was made to feel unwelcome, I was shocked that this was the way civilians treated people who had served their country.


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