Squadron Leader Ben Mark

Squadron Leader Ben Mark

Qualified Flying Instructor at RAF Linton-on-Ouse and Project Officer for the Jon Egging Trust I joined the RAF in August 2000, on the same Initial Officer Training course as Jon Egging, and his and my paths crossed on several occasions throughout our RAF careers. He was a wonderful man and a good friend; talented, kind and hugely popular with all who met and worked with him. Since his death in 2011 and the foundation of the Jon Egging Trust, I have taken a keen interest in the progress of the charity’s work, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to help out by becoming the Project Officer for the North Yorkshire region. My role in 2015 consisted of building on the good work of my predecessor, Sqn Ldr Dave Montenegro, who had launched the Trust in the area by setting up a Level 1 Blue Skies Programme for a group of Young People from York High School. Those students made excellent progress, and were ready to start Level 2 early in the year, along with a new group from the same school who would begin Level 1. I was ably assisted by my colleague, Flt Lt Sasha Nash, along with a dedicated team of volunteers from Linton-on-Ouse and our surrounding units, as well as key partners from York High School and the Trust’s own staff. A word that I keep encountering when discussing the Trust’s work is ‘inspiration’. We exposed our groups of young people to inspiring characters, such as pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and indeed one of the charity’s patrons, Professor Brian Cox. We took them to inspiring and exciting places, such as the busy flying training school at Linton-on-Ouse, the search and rescue unit at Leconfield, a fast jet squadron at Leeming and the fascinating radar station at Fylingdales. We also put them in challenging, inspiring and exciting scenarios, whilst all the while building their confidence and developing their teamwork, leadership and communication skills, on their way to a valuable BTEC-accredited qualification. Each of our young people had different challenges, and different activities proved more difficult for some than others. For a few, the problem was a fear of heights, to be conquered on the high ropes course or climbing wall, while for others it was nervousness about speaking to a large group of strangers on the final presentation day. Watching the students overcoming these challenges was a constant source of satisfaction throughout the programme. When the young participants make the connection between achieving things that they thought to be beyond them, and the realisation that all successful people have, at some stage, had to overcome their own challenges and setbacks, they develop a mindset of daring to aspire to achieve goals that that they probably never would have dreamed of before. The Jon Egging Trust has been a hugely rewarding project. It provides Linton-on-Ouse with an excellent opportunity to engage with its local community, it has provided challenges and development opportunities for my staff, and, above all, it has given the young people who take part in the Blue Skies and Inspirational Outreach programmes a huge boost in self-esteem, life skills and ambition. I am very much looking forward to working with the Trust again in the future.