RAF Reservist Justian Lewis, from St Austell, has been learning off-road driving skills on the testing sand dunes of Braunton Burrows in North Devon.
During the week, 45-year-old Justian is busy with his building and bricklaying business. But on at least one weekend a month he reports to 505 (Wessex) Squadron at RAF St Mawgan, as Leading Aircraftsman Lewis.
Justian is no stranger to the military uniform having been a Regular in the Royal Engineers in the mid-1990s.
“The children are grown up – or growing up – and my wife has her horse riding. I was aware that the Squadron was being set up and, having more time of my own and being self-employed, I fancied joining the RAF Reserve.
“I’ve stayed healthy. The fitness didn’t bother me and going back to basic training didn’t faze me either. And it’s only 25 minutes from my house to St Mawgan. I find I really enjoy it.”
Justian, who gained an HGV licence while in the Regular Army, 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 Senior Aircraftswoman Lexine Jones, from Plymouth.
Ian, 34, is a postman in Exeter with no military experience while Lexine, a 30-year-old physiotherapist, transferred from 4626 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. 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.