Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch)
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The Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch), often abbreviated to RAFVR(T) is a voluntary element of the British Royal Air Force specifically appointed in a training role within the RAFVR. Members of the RAFVR(T) have no call-up liability and often operate part time on Air Experience Flights, Volunteer Gliding Squadrons, or more commonly in the local structure of the Air Cadet Organisation - either the RAF Sections of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), or the Air Training Corps (ATC).
Recruitment and selection
Many RAFVR(T) officers have previous military experience, commissioned, or other ranks service, and many have professional and educational qualifications, but unlike the requirements for joining the regular armed forces, applicants for RAFVR(T) positions are not required to have formal educational or other qualifications. It is also not uncommon to find RAFVR(T) staff hold commissions in the RAuxAF, RAFRO, or other services also. All the Pilots who man the Air Experience Flights (AEF) are former regular service aircrew (RAF, Army or RN), some even at Air rank serving as supernumary Flying Officers RAFVR(T); adding much to the wealth and professional experience of the RAFVR(T)
Unlike the formal OASC process for regular service, selection is based upon relevant experience and the arm of the Air Cadet Organisation in which the candidate initially wants to serve. Those intending to serve with an Air Training Corps Squadron undertake an initial filter interview at an ATC Wing HQ. This interview is usually chaired by the OC Wing who holds the rank of Wing Commander RAFVR(T). Others present at the filter interview may include the Wing Executive Officer who is a former regular officer holding the rank of Squadron Leader RAFR and one or more Wing Staff Officers in the rank of Squadron Leader/Flight Lieutenant RAFVR(T). All officers conducting the filter interview must have attended and passed the RAF's Short Interview Technique Course. Candidates who successfully pass this filter interview are then called forward to the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Cranwell to undertake a shorter revised version of the OASC boarding process.
The OASC assessment lasts for 2 days and consists of the following assessments.
- Group Discussion: Candidates will be assessed on their participation in a group discussion covering a number of contemporary issues.
- Group Planning Exercise: Candidates will be assessed on their contribution to a classroom based group planning exercise requiring them to solve a theoretical scenario-based problem.
- Hangar Familiarisation: Candidates will be given an unassessed introduction to the OASC hangar where they will be completing a series of physical leadership tasks.
- Leaderless Exercise: Candidates will be assessed on their contribution to a practical exercise as a group in the OASC hangar without a nominated leader.
- Command Situation Exercise: Each candidate will be given the opportunity to lead the other members of their syndicate in tackling a practical exercise in the OASC hangar. Candidates will be assessed as both leaders and team members.
- Individual Planning Exercise: Candidates will be assessed in a classroom based individual planning exercise requiring them to solve a theoretical scenario-based problem as individuals.
- Interview: Candidates will be interviewed individually by a board of senior officers, including a senior member of the ACO. This will determine their motivation, suitability and understanding of the ACO and its parent service.
Candidates who pass the OASC boarding process are appointed as Officer Cadets in the RAFVR(T). Candidates joining a Combined Cadet Force unit are recommended by the relevant headmaster and Section Commander to Headquarters Air Cadets before being interviewed by the Regional TEST Squadron Leader serving in the RAFR. Since October 2007, all candidates that pass their relative selection process are appointed as Officer Cadets until successful completion of the Officers' Initial Course (OIC) at RAF Cranwell.
As an Officer Cadet RAFVR(T), they wear a completely white rank slide with gilt VRT insignia in the centre. This is accompanied by standard officers' headdress (complete with white band whilst at ATF). Following completion of their OIC, a newly appointed Pilot Officer RAFVR(T) will then receive their rank slide. Since RAFVR(T) officers will generally be responsible for running either a CCF(RAF) section or an Air Training Corps squadron/detached flight, successful applicants are required to demonstrate qualities of commitment, motivation, extensive knowledge of the RAF and military/civil aviation, all underpinned by a willingness and aptitude to work with young people in an instructional environment. Many have educational or youth work experience and qualifications in specialist areas of outward bound youth work.
Other members of the RAFVR(T) serve as flying instructors on the Volunteer Gliding Squadrons or as pilots on Air Experience Flights - the latter are always former military pilots who have left the regular service and are commissioned into the RAFVR(T) on appointment to the AEF.
RAFVR(T) members wear the same uniform worn by regular Royal Air Force or active reserve Royal Auxiliary Air Force commissioned Officers, with the exception that gilt "VRT" insignia is worn on the lapels of formal dress uniforms and on top of the rank braid on the epaulettes and tabs of working dress uniforms. Thus the RAFVR (T) follows the traditional dress regulation of the senior air force formation, the RAuxAF, by the placing of its gilt collar lapel "VRT" badges in the position occupied by the "A" badges that are still worn by RAuxAF Officers when in No.1 dress uniform. RAFVR(T) Officers are required to still wear gilt VRT badges on top of rank braid when wearing No.2 dress uniform (or other working dress) at all times. However, when there is a FOD (Foreign object damage) risk the entire rank badge may be removed. By contrast, RAuxAF Officers now do not wear their "A" badges on working dress uniform at any time, in response to the expanded use of the active reserves on routine operations and support duties within the regular service.
All RAFVR(T) officers are required to attend and pass the Officers' Initial Course (OIC) held at the Adult Training Facility (ATF), a lodger unit at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, usually within the first 12 months of their appointment. This week-long course covers the basic roles and responsibilities of an RAFVR(T) Officer and very few fail. Those successfully completing the course are awarded their commissioning parchment and are confirmed as a commissioned officer (although under the current system, all VR(T) Officers are commissioned from the day that they pass their board, and the commissioning scroll is dated to that day) and are treated similarly to regular Officers. Another 1-week course at the ATF, the Squadron Commanders' Course, is required for those seeking to command a squadron. RAFVR(T) officers involved in CCF or ATC Units may undertake extra training before becoming appointed as an Officer Commanding of their unit, although this training is not compulsory for officers associated with the CCF. Some also take specialist training for certain activities: physical training (PT) or shooting for example.
They are supported at ATC unit level by fellow RAFVR(T) officers, as well as uniformed ATC Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers and a cadre of Civilian Instructors. Although not in the chain of command, the wings are supported by a Wing Executive Officer of Sqn Ldr Rank in the RAFR. At CCF(RAF) contingents, RAFVR(T) officers are able to call upon the support of the regular RAF Squadron Leader tasked with looking after their area, and also upon the services of the regular RAF 'TEST' sergeants mapped to their specific school. Volunteer Gliding Squadron (VGS) and Air Experience Flight (AEF) officers are supported directly by HQ Air Cadet Staff, and the unit's parent RAF station.
Although the Air Cadet Organisation has officers with ranks above that of Wing Commander, these ranks are held by members of the RAFR or Regular RAF. The RAFVR(T) currently consists only of commissioned officers. All RAFVR(T) Officers hold a maximum substantive rank of Flying Officer, all other RAFVR(T) ranks above that of Flying Officer are acting (either paid or unpaid) ranks.