Meet the RAF Coningsby JET set!
We caught up with Jon Egging Trust (JET) volunteers Cpl Oliver Hawkins, from the Typhoon Mission Data Team, and Weapons Instructor, Sgt Carla Fishburn, to learn more about their work supporting local young people.
What made you want to volunteer for JET?
OH: I wanted to do something that would give me a sense of reward outside work; volunteering for JET gives a very different level of reward.
CF: We’d just disbanded the PTA group at my eldest son’s school and I wanted to keep working with local young people because it’s so rewarding – it’s definitely filled that gap for me.
What’s the most rewarding part of the role?
OH: When students begin to openly talk about what they’ve learned and then off their own backs they might thank you for what you’ve done – especially coming from students who often aren’t very comfortable speaking – it makes you realise the impact that you’ve had. To know they’re going to go home and talk about the experiences they’ve had is really special.
CF: Seeing the transformation in the students who by the end of the year are willing to stand up at their graduations in front of a big audience and speak about what they’ve been able to achieve, and knowing you’ve played even the smallest part in their journey is massively rewarding.
Describe what you do on a typical JET session
OH: Each session is usually themed around the section you’re visiting – whether that’s Air Traffic Control, the fire section, BBMF, or visiting the Typhoon sim. The students will be given a task linked to communication or leadership and I’ll either be supporting the JET team or other RAF volunteers to run the session, or leading the whole session myself.
CF: Each session is different, but for me it’s more about being that continuous face for the students. They begin to recognise you as someone they can turn to and talk to, and being there for the students is what it’s all about.
What have you found most challenging?
OH: When you first meet a new cohort of students, it can be challenging if you’re not used to working with young people who are struggling with communication; you might not get what you’d perceive as a ‘typical’ response until you’ve built up that relationship and trust which grows with each session.
CF: It can be a difficult sometimes because we don’t know the students’ backgrounds or what personal challenges they’ve faced so in the early sessions it can be harder to interact when they’re very quiet and we don’t know. The JET team really good at bridging that gap though and by the end of the year we all feel like one big team.
How has it helped your professional development?
OH: It’s helped me in so many ways… it’s helped with my management ability and ability to plan and use skills I wouldn’t necessarily use in my day-to-day role, whether that’s sorting finance for equipment, coordinating people from different sections, or working on session content to make sure it reflects the themes of JET’s syllabus.
CF: I think it was a contributing factor in my recent promotion, but much more than that it has helped me with understanding others. A big issue on base is that we sometimes have a ‘just get on with it’ attitude. Whereas working with these students when you don’t know what they’re going through, it’s made me reflect on how I deal with colleagues too because actually we don’t know what anyone is going through.
Why would you recommend getting involved to serving personnel?
OH: It gives you that sense of reward that you might not get with your day job and it challenges you to think about how you can use you personal journey to influence young people in a positive way. Also, I think people within the RAF can get quite comfortable in their own surroundings and don’t necessarily see what goes on in other sections; JET really opens your eyes to the wider contribution of the station.
CF: It’s heart-warming to see the difference JET makes to these students. Not just for their own personal growth but also the fact that they are the next generation, and hopefully one day they could be here supporting a new cohort of students of their own.
If you’re interested in learning more about supporting JET students at RAF Coningsby, please email Jess Nugent: email@example.com