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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



04 April 2019

It has been far from a slow start to 2019 for staff and part-time reservists at 502 (Ulster) Squadron.  The Headquarters staff saw through several training, welfare and education related audits with success and continued to deliver support to recruitment, phase 1 training and to PTVRs deploying on detached duty or exercises.

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force’s mission is to provide trained personnel to work in support of RAF operations in the UK and worldwide and 502 Squadron continues to play its full part in meeting the task.  As Operation Shader draws down after the collapse of ISIS’s so-called Caliphate, the Squadron takes pride in the fact that reservists from Northern Ireland played a part in that effort at bases in the middle east, Cyprus, Crete and the UK.  Two of them, working in the fields of Supply and Air Intelligence received commendations and on their return were accompanied soon after by letters from commanders on the ground in tribute to their effectiveness. 

One of 502 Squadron’s Personnel Support reservists serving alongside an RAF ISTAR squadron received the Air Component Commanders Award for Air safety for an innovation she introduced establishing a register to capture Air Safety qualifications.  The template has since been rolled out to the rest of the Force in the Joint Operating Area.  Like many others, her experience was a positive one because of the way reserves are integrated into continuing deployments; “I can honestly say that from day one I felt like part of the team, I was never made to feel like the token reserve, and I have made friends for life.  It has been an invaluable experience for me and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  I would recommend it to everyone,” she said on return.

“One of 502 Squadrons Volunteer Reservists has been working alongside the RAF’s 51 Squadron in Crete”

Members of the Squadron’s RAF Police Flight continue carrying out Air Transport Security taskings both at Aldergrove and around the world.  The tasks range from guarding aircraft down route on military bases and at civilian airports, to searching and processing baggage of troops outbound from Northern Ireland to foreign exercises.  The latter is a task now undertaken solely by 502 Squadron RAF Police personnel, negating the need to bring in regular personnel from UK bases and is a testament to the professionalism and diligence shown by the team on 502. 

Even further afield, one of the Squadron’s part-time suppliers, has been working in the Falklands facilitating the repair of the MT fleet.  Among the pluses has been the fact he has been enjoying summer weather, while everyone at home shivered! 
Medical personnel take the opportunity to participate in joint and single-service exercises to keep their skills sharp and develop knowledge related to areas such as aero-med evacuation. November 2018 saw the Advancing Healthcare Awards dinner and conference in which the annual successes of the Allied Health Professionals and Healthcare Scientists of Northern Ireland were celebrated. This was a particularly exciting year as it involved the inaugural military Reservist category with tri-service parent units approached to nominate their qualifying personnel. 

No. 502 (Ulster) Squadron nominated Flt Lt Jamie Wilson (Medical Support Officer- Physiotherapist) following his continuous work with the Defence Stammering Network.  Jamie's efforts began by summiting every peak in each county in Northern Ireland in 24 hours, to raise money to fund the speech therapy for 11 junior service personnel.  Jamie sits on the committee of the Defence Stammering network and is the only Reservist ever to do so.  He has organised the foundation of a charitable fund to pay for or subsidise the private speech therapy for the children of service personnel. 

As a result of these efforts to deal with a little-known issue in the military, Jamie was deemed to be the deserving winner of the first AHP Reservist category 2018.

During the March Training Weekend, Honorary Air Commodore (HAC) Jane Middleton made her farewell visit to No 502 (Ulster) Squadron.  HAC Middleton had held this appointment since 502 was reformed at Aldergove in 2013.  During her tenure, she has been a pillar of strength to all serving Officer Commanding’s and Executives.  She has always endeavoured to focus attention on and advocate for No. 502 (Ulster) Sqn.  She now hands over the HAC mantle to Mr Alistair Finlay, who holds the position of Director of Operations, Faculty of Medicine, Health & Life Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast.
During her final visit to the Squadron, HAC Middleton conducted a hand-over / take-over with HAC Finlay.  Squadron Flight Commanders conducted update briefs and HAC Middleton said farewell to junior members of the Sqn.

To leave HAC Middleton with a reminder of her time with 502, the Squadron prepared a photo album containing key images of the events at which she was present.  HAC Middleton was also presented a Black Thorn stick with her name emblazoned across it.  A very fine Irish leaving gift, which will be the envy of other HAC’s!  After a Force Development visit to HMS Caroline and a farewell dinner at a local Belfast restaurant, HAC Middleton departed to take up her position as the new HAC to 606 Squadron, RAF Benson – we wish her well in her new appointment.

We wish her every success and hope she won’t be a stranger to 502 Sqn!