RAF Reservist Lexine Jones from Plymouth has been learning off-road driving skills on the testing sand dunes of Braunton Burrows in North Devon.
During the week, 30-year-old Lexine works for the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust as a physiotherapist in a school for children and young adults with complex disabilities and learning needs.
But on at least one weekend a month she reports to 505 (Wessex) Squadron at RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay, as Senior Aircraftswoman Jones.
Lexine is no stranger to the RAF uniform having transferred earlier this year from 4626 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
“I trained with 4626 as a medic and served with them for two years,” she said. “It was a bit of a trek, though!
“So, when we took part in a big exercise at St Mawgan and I heard that 505 Squadron was being set up there, I made some inquiries and organised a transfer.”
It’s still a 100-mile round trip to North Cornwall from her home in the centre of Plymouth but, like other Reservists, the cost of her travel is covered by the RAF.
And she doesn’t mind a little more driving when she gets there, as she explained: “Out of the trades on offer, it was clear that it was drivers who were most likely to be deployed or used in some way by the RAF here in the UK or on exercise.”
While Lexine does not expect to use her off-road skills in her work as a physiotherapist, she is grateful for the support provided by her employer. “They’re very good in that they give me two weeks’ paid leave – a lot of employers don’t do that.”
Lexine was joined at the wheel of a rugged RAF Land Rover at Braunton Burrows by Aircraftsman John Manfield from Budleigh Salterton, Aircraftsman Ian Davie, from Exeter, and Leading Aircraftsman Justian Lewis, from St Austell.
Ian, 34, is a postman in Exeter with no military experience while Justian, a 45-year-old self-employed bricklayer, was in the Regular Army 20 years ago. John, 34, is an information services manager in children’s social care and his father was a bandsman in the Life Guards, later serving in the Army Reserve.
The training is a first step to gaining a wide range of qualifications which could also benefit them in their civilian employment.
RAF driver training includes camouflage and concealment but also loading and restraints, route planning, self-recovery and basic maintenance. They will eventually be qualified to drive articulated trucks, buses, battlefield ambulances, cranes or airfield vehicles such as fuel trucks, ice sweepers and aircraft tugs.
505 Squadron provides other support for RAF units by supplying intelligence analysts, HR specialists and supplies and logistics personnel – and chefs, who are much in demand.
The Squadron is looking to recruit more self-motivated men or women aged 18-54. They must reach and maintain a certain standard of fitness, according to age and gender. Reservists living up to 100 miles away can claim mileage expenses for attending training at RAF St Mawgan.
All Reservists receive instruction in using a rifle and force protection, in first aid and also chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence.
505 Squadron restores the RAF Reserves’ presence in the South West after a ten-year absence following the disbandment of 2625 (County of Cornwall) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment. It operated from RAF St Mawgan from 1982 to 2006.