Paul McNeil

I joined the airforce in 2003, luckily for me weapons technicians were “red flagged” and desperately needed more people in the trade. This meant as long as I passed the aptitude test and medical I’d be accepted. My younger brother was already enlisted as an MT Driver, as was my dad although he had a different path being a Padre.

I went to the aptitude test with one bit of advice from my dad, he said “When you start each section, mark B or C up from the bottom. If you get to one you marked up you can cross it out and put the correct answer in”. This, I like to think, must’ve gotten me through as I passed. The Sgt. invigilating the test pulled me to one side afterwards and said he hadn’t seen anyone do this before and he had been in post for nearly 3 years.

I got my results and a start date to be at Halton, 15 July 2003, I was excited and papping it at the same time, I was 24 when I joined. Basic training was a blast, I received awards for both best recruit in GDT and best shot on flight. I should have received an award at the passing out parade too but this was given to an older woman who barely scrapped through. There was a few weeks of staying in Halton before going to trade training so litter picking and odd jobs flight had me bored to tears for a while before heading to Cosford for trade training.

Trade training was so interesting, although death by power point was a phrase bounced around a lot! At the time my girlfriend had moved down to Cosford and worked in the NAFFI which was great to get a beer away from the younger lot.

The last Christmas I was at Cosford was 2004 and I was skint so stayed with my girlfriend rather than going home to see my family. It was after new year and we were sat in my girlfriends block living room (sports block) eating a takeaway when a Army Air Core officer chapped the door and asked to speak with me privately. My girlfriend left the room and the duty officer informed my of my dads death. At only 45 years old he had had a massive heart attack. I wasn’t allowed to travel that night but the next morning I traveled home to my family, I can’t even remember the journey home. 3 months later I was ready to return to work.

Being off work coming to terms with a tragedy left me a bit behind my training but I was given extra tuition for maths and within a week I was to sit my final exam. I was called into the Flt Lft’s office for my results as I did the test by myself. My boss informed me that the pass mark was 60% and I had scored 59%. My heart sunk, I really had tried to catch up what I’d missed. My boss said due to what had happened I was given the 1% and had passed! Well I was over the moon, the stress just lifted and I felt amazing. There was still more training to do but I’d finished this part. I was re-flighted and joined a completely new course for line training. I found out my first posting a month before anyone on my course, I was posted to RAF Leuchars where my mum was so I could help her out if needed. The rest of the training went swimmingly and in May 2005 I arrived in Leuchars.

My first post was at the Missile Servicing Section and as the name suggests that’s what we did. Skyflash & Sidewinder missiles maintenance, storage and delivery supporting QRA.

I then moved to the bomb dump or ESA and loved it there, I soon became the go to guy and even as a SAC I escorted the Explosive Safety Inspection Team (ESIT) around site answering and questions and resolving issues. This was usually done by a Sergeant. In the ESA we stored and prepared all kinds of explosives, from 9mm rounds to C4 and everything in between. This included the rocket packs and explosive cartridges for the MB mk10. We also stored and supplied to the Safety Equipment Fitters the flares for the pilot to use in an emergency. We used to get to fire off the out of date ones which was great.

My last 5 years was spent in the Armoury which I loved. I was given the chance of acting Corporal (for nearly 2 and a half years) and got paid for it too! As Leuchars was closing to become an army base I turned down promotion and posting to RAF Lossiemouth. In July 2015 I left the Air Force and I’m now working for Raytheon in Glenrothes as an Engineering Technician and I’ve just started their Graduate Apprenticeship Program so in 4 years I’ll be a qualified Engineer. The RAF gave my the jolt to get qualifications and a career, even if it’s a little later in life.

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