Recognition for Employers of Norfolk Reservists

On the evening of Thursday 7th April 2011, RAF Marham hosted a special dinner for the employers of Reservists in Norfolk.

The function was funded and organised by the East Anglia Reserve Forces and Cadets Association in partnership with the regions SaBRE (Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers) Team and provided a rare opportunity to thank many of the supportive employers of the 350 Reservists who live and work in the County.

The Officers’ Mess provided a fitting venue for the event and apart from showcasing the operational contributions of the Station’s own Reservists, from 7010 Photographic Interpretation Squadron and 2620 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, employers had the opportunity to meet Reservists from Norfolk’s Territorial Army units; 3 Royal Anglian and 254 Medical Regiment.

The evening commenced with a welcome address from The High Sheriff of Norfolk, Mr Charles Barrett and was followed by a presentation from 2620 Squadron’s Sergeant Niall Hayton-Williams who talked about the transferable skills gained from both his service and civilian careers and how important the support from his civilian employer had been in helping him realise his ambitions. Niall works for Lotus Cars UK at their Hethel site, a former RAF station just outside Norwich and his employer, Mr Peter Wainwright, was also present at the dinner. Mr Wainwright commented: “It was interesting to see such a diverse range of local companies that currently employ Reservists, and the uniformity of support these companies provide to them. Obviously, I was especially interested in Niall’s presentation, and thought it was a credit to Lotus, the RAF, and himself. Many of the qualities and attributes that were mentioned in the presentations underline exactly why I employed Niall in his current position, and I firmly believe the initiation of these skills came from his RAF experience.” A second presentation was delivered by Sergeant Pete James, an anaesthetist with the NHS and with 254 Medical Regiment. Pete talked about the similarities of working in an NHS hospital in the UK and the hospital at Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan, providing a vivid account of the contribution made by Reservist medical professionals on operations every day.

Following a superb dinner with music provided by the RAF Honington Volunteer Band, guests and hosts alike were treated to a further presentation on the Reserve Forces, but this time from the perspective of the employer. Mr Bob Page, Head of Support Services from the Port of Felixstowe employs some 30 Reservists in the region and highlighted how the transferable skills developed through military training benefit every aspect of his business, even down to lower than average sickness rates. The final speaker of the evening was Air Commodore Russell La Forte, Commandant General of the RAF Regiment and while he praised the outstanding performance of the Army as the largest Reservist component of the UK contribution to operations in Afghanistan, he was quick to acknowledge the remarkable contribution of Reservists from all the Services, not least the 20 Squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force that collectively deliver more than a dozen specialist roles ranging from Movements to Intelligence. Responsible for 9 of the Squadrons within the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the Commandant General concluded by emphasising the vital role of those Reservists in maintaining a robust Force Protection capability on operations, all of which was only possible thanks to the ongoing support from civilian employers.

At the end of the evening, the High Sheriff and Commandant General presented certificates of appreciation from the Ministry of defence to Norfolk employers for their unswerving support to the regions Reservists. The certificates, signed by both the Secretary of State and Chief of the Defence Staff were presented to the following organisations: Archant Ltd, Aviva Plc, Breckland Council, BT Openreach, College of West Anglia, Emergency Service Systems Sgcaccd, Ford and Slater Ltd, Hughes Electrical, James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Lotus Cars UK, Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service, Norvic Ambulance Service Ltd, Serco Local Government, University of East Anglia, Waitrose, Walkers of King’s Lynn, Crowes Complete Print, Reepham High School, Norwich City Council, Warehouse Express, Ormiston Venture Academy, Edwards and Blake Ltd, Norfolk Employer Support and the Port of Felixstowe.