Cadet to Staff – Squadron Leader Paul James

Our first profile of a Regional Staff Officer and his journey into his current post is Squadron Leader Paul James, Special Projects Officer & Deputy Aviation Officer. Read his story here ….

In 1984 I was a very enthusiastic Air Cadet at 2342 Sqn which at the time was RAF Innsworth. It was a very large Sqn of over 150 cadets, we had three large huts on the station and one of them had an indoor 303 rifle range. It was a very active place with lots of great activities going on. We would parade in Gloucester City Centre for Remembrance Day. I remember supporting the Wings Appeal at the big cinema in Gloucester where we would collect at the start of the film and then stay to watch the film. We would go to Wooton-Under- Edge for DofE expeditions, which was fantastic and very happy times.

On 11th April 1989, my next encounter in blue uniform started! My basic training was at RAF Swinderby and took 6 weeks including a fieldcraft exercise. My second training posting was to RAF North Luffenham in Sep 1992 and then onto RAF St Athan to do my trade training as a Mechanical Transport Driver.

On completion of trade training in Sep 1989 my first proper posting was to RAF Lossiemouth. During my time there I was a Sqn driver on 12 & 208 Sqns Buccaneers. I had the pleasure of driving former Commandant Air Cadets Jon Ford who was station commander at the time! At the age of 19 I went to the first Gulf War with the Buccaneers and even stopped a member of the royal family when I was on the gate guard by mistake as I was looking at the passenger rather than the driver as expected!

In Sep 1994 I left the RAF.  When I had joined there were 100,000 staff and as part of Options for Change the RAF was reduced to 45,000 staff it was a very different RAF compared to when I started.

In July 2006, I took my youngest son to an open night at the local ATC Sqn which was 47F Grantham Sqn where we live, and the staff there talked us both into joining! After a few weeks I soon realised how much I had missed being in the RAF family so went onto my SNCO selection board in Sep 2008 and soon became Adult Sgt Paul James.

I really enjoyed being on the Sqn being given the role of shooting Officer as we had an air rifle range on the Sqn. In July 2012 I was one of the first groups to go through the new OASC selection process for VRT Officers, I found this to be a great experience and made some great friends during the process.

I very soon became OC 47F Sqn which was a great honour, being the only Founder Sqn in Trent Wing! I was invited to take part in the ATC75 parade and event in London which involved being in the diamond of number 1 flight for the parade! How could you top that I hear you say, I later went on to win the RAFBF ATC Sqn of the year with 47F which was probably my proudest moment in the RAFAC.

In 2016 I joined the Regional Staff Team as the regional activity centre co-ordinator, I have really enjoyed my time as an RSO which led to being awarded a Defence Letter of Appreciation which only 12 are issued each year and then being selected for the Special Projects Officer role which has included some great projects including the Regional RAF100 Camp.

More recently I have had the pleasure of being a judge on both C&E has got talent and C&E the Voice which showed how much talent we have in our region. During lockdown I was selected to assist the Regional Aviation Officer in the role of Deputy Aviation Officer, this is a role I really enjoy, and I look forward to the time when we can get cadets flying again.