Interview with Squadron Leader (RAF) David Buckingham
What made you become an air cadet? Was there something particular that attracted you?
I’d always been interested in the military and particularly the RAF from a young age, but I remember that the wide variety of opportunities and experiences on offer were particularly attractive to me as a new joiner.
What was the most exciting activity/event you ever got to take part in when you were a cadet?
Ex SNOW EAGLE was an incredible experience. It involved learning to ski in Austria and Germany with RAF instructors. They took us from beginners with no experience and really pushed us beyond our comfort zone and down some really challenging routes! It was attended by cadets from all across the UK and we all formed some close friendships over the course of that week.
You are now a Squadron Leader in the RAF, do you think that being an air cadet helped you in your chosen career?
It certainly helped earlier in my career by making the introduction to military life during training a little more manageable. With hindsight though I realise that the most valuable aspect of being a cadet is actually the standards and values it imbues in you from an early age. At Crowborough Sqn in particular the adult staff were excellent at mentoring us, helping us to think positively about what we could achieve and pushed us to be the very best that we could be. This is a really strong foundation for all walks of life, not just the RAF.
What were your favourite and least favourite things when you were a cadet?
Favourite would have to be any achievement as part of team; whether in sport, shooting or just a Wing training weekend. It was a great bunch of people at that time and the comradeship we experienced ran deeper than anything we had at school. Least favourite? I remember some of the classification lessons as being quite hard work to sit through! I think the way the syllabus is designed and delivered is a lot better now.
Can you give one piece of advice to a twelve or thirteen year old who is considering joining the squadron now?
I think my main advice would be to sign up for as many of the weekend/school holiday activities as you can. You’ll get the most out of it that way. Volunteer for everything, even if you’re not sure you’ll be any good at it. I can’t remember a time when the Cadets have been so well-resourced, organised at the national level and supported by the Service. You might never get these opportunities again, so make the most of them and see where they take you!