Commissioning intelligence to go far in your career

Chris, a Squadron Leader, is an Intelligence Officer in the RAF. His career has taken him all over the world whilst also providing him with the support to complete various educational qualifications and compete in a range of sports.

I enlisted in the early nineties into an intelligence trade, having previously served as an Army reservist. I commissioned as an Intelligence Officer in 2008.

Throughout my career I have been embedded within UK and Allied military and civilian intelligence departments. I struggle to think of another career in which I would be representing the UK on policy matters with coalition partners and contributing to intelligence and engagement operations across the globe. I have worked on every continent bar South America, and have competed on three thanks to my participation in RAF-organised sports.

Early on in my career I took up rowing, which has seen me represent the RAF in the UK, numerous European countries and further afield. Whilst competing regularly, getting involved with the organisation of rowing — from coaching to captaincy, safety to competition — has facilitated introductions across the rank range and specialisations. Adventurous training, be it skiing, hiking, canoeing or cycling, has taken me to Europe, the Mediterranean and the USA.

In addition to these experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to gain various accreditations for the majority of my professional achievements. These are transferrable and recognised outside of the Armed Forces.

I decided to broaden my educational qualifications with an undergraduate degree, which the RAF part-funded. I completed my degree in a foreign language in 2005 and decided to further my knowledge with a postgraduate degree focussed on international relations in 2012, to which the RAF also contributed funding.

The opportunities afforded to me throughout my career — both in the various roles I have undertaken and the qualifications I have achieved — have broadened my outlook and provided an experiential base for application of judgement. When I was boarded for commission, I was able to clearly state my motivation to seek new challenges and corroborate this statement with relevant examples. I believe my undergraduate study, and the fact that this was self-initiated, made a large contribution to my successful selection.

In my current role I am also able to communicate the benefits of training, both on and outside of the job, and align these benefits with operational objectives. I can talk from experience, which adds weight to my recommendations. When I reflect on my service to date, I do wonder if I ought to have done or should be doing more, but whatever my state of mind, the RAF has been able to and continues to offer and assist with a challenge for development.

During 2011–2015 almost 30% of Officer commissions across the three Services were from Other Ranks. In the RAF this figure is 25.3%.

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