From lambs to learning to fly

Life looked good for Lisa McKenzie when she was accepted for pilot training with the RAF. Yet sadly no sooner had she started her initial officer training than circumstances beyond her control put a stop to her achieving her dream job.

So instead she had to get a job in civvy street. But determined not to miss out, Lisa decided to become a RAF Reservist and joined 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron with the ultimate goal of becoming a Flight Ops Officer.

“At the time, it was really difficult, but I realise now that combining a challenging civilian job with an RAF Reserves role gives me the best of both worlds,” explains Lisa.

Lisa completed her basic military training at RAF Halton, and is now a year into ‘Phase II’ training as a Flight Operations Assistant, a role which supports mission and flight planning.

“Once I’ve completed that, I take a two-week residential course at RAF Shawbury,” says Lisa. “Assuming I’m successful, I then go into Phase III continuation training followed by a two week ‘Trade Ability Test’ or ‘TAT’ at an operational station.”

In her civilian life, Lisa is a strategy manager for energy management company Veolia. “My job is working out how to recycle waste water into energy as part of the ‘circular economy’,” she says, “and the role makes good use of the undergraduate and master’s degrees in civil and architectural engineering that I gained from Leeds University.”

As if her civilian job and reservist commitment didn’t keep her busy enough, Lisa and her husband have also started farming, with plans to move from rented fields to their own land for the 280 sheep they have bred from an initial flock of just 30.

Asked what had made her think about re-joining the RAF as a Reservist, Lisa replies, “I’d enjoyed my time in the RAF and always thought it was something I’d look into in future. On the Veolia graduate scheme, I moved around every six months, but as soon as I was settled I started looking at all the Scottish RAF Reservist options. Edinburgh based 603 Squadron was geographically easier, but Glasgow based 602 Squadron’s specialism in Flight Operations was a better match for my interests.”

The RAF training has also been useful in her civilian role. “It’s helped me with my prioritisation skills and sense of urgency,” says Lisa. “In general, I think diversity in life can only be a good thing for someone’s perspective on life, so training in something so vastly different to my day job and returning to a learning environment has helped me become better at dealing with pressure in my civilian work.”

Being a Reservist can make demands on family life, but Lisa’s husband understands that while her Reservist activity consumes a lot of time, it also delivers benefits that make for a more rounded and satisfying life. “I really enjoy the development and strategy side of things,” she says, “so while eventually I’d like to work on the leadership aspect of my RAF role, right now I want to focus on the ‘doing’ and learn everything I can about my Flight Operations trade.”

Find out if you could enjoy life as an RAF Reservist at