The RAF is recruiting - and offers training to high-flying candidates in a wide range of field

For most of us, heading into a war zone might be a good enough reason to avoid a career; for Laura Hodson, it was an incentive."Going to Afghanistan was one of the main reasons I wanted to be in the RAF in the first place," says the 30-year-old RAF Reserves flight lieutenant and A&E nurse.

Hodson's job involves treating personnel overseas and ensuring their safe return back to the UK. "I really wanted to experience the pressure of working in an aeromedical evacuation role in the field," she says

For those who will be applying to join the RAF's 52,000-strong workforce this year, it's a recession-busting career move. As whole sectors suffer at the hands of the downturn, the RAF has just launched a recruitment campaign encouraging people to join up.

And, while the Government is urging us to re-train, some RAF careers allow you to gain recognised qualifications for free. All officers graduate from the RAF College Cranwell with a Level 5 Diploma from the Institute of Leadership and Management and many airmen and airwomen can earn NVQs from just completing their professional training.

The jobs crisis has made it more crucial than ever to have a back-up skill and being an RAF reserve officer can be a way to keep skills up to date. But you don't have to be a pilot. Approximately 77 per cent of the RAF's workforce is made up of ground personnel. Careers in the RAF range from airmen and women (including medical support, aircraft maintenance, administration and catering), to officers and non-commissioned aircrew.

The RAF encourages staff to continue their professional development throughout their careers, says Group Captain Gordon Bruce, the head of recruiting. "A lot of RAF training earns you civilian qualifications so, if you choose to leave, employers will be able to recognise the skills you can offer."

But there are other reasons to join, he emphasises, including the opportunity to travel the world, and a competitive salary.

Hodson first got involved with the force while studying nursing at university, and was a member of the University Air Squadron. When one of her friends became a pilot, he suggested training as an aeromedical evacuation nurse, so she joined the RAF Reserves on graduating.

Airmen, airwomen and non-commissioned aircrew do nine weeks' military training at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. Officers do 30 weeks' officer training at RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. If you join as a professionally qualified officer (such as a doctor), your initial course of around three months at RAF Cranwell will include military training as well as fitness elements.

Hodson's own preparation consisted of basic recruit training and a Junior Management Leadership Course (JMLC). She has also independently completed a postgraduate diploma in tropical nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which, she says, came in very handy during her deployment to Afghanistan in 2007.

Despite her willingness to go, Hodson says her time in Afghanistan was harder than she imagined. "We had to do a massive airlift operation from Kandahar," she explains. "We had 18 patients in total, two of whom were in a critical condition. They were all suffering from gunshot and shrapnel wounds. We needed to get them on to a C17 and get them back to the UK."

She says it was a far cry from her life in the NHS; it was hot, noisy and sometimes they had to work with limited equipment. "But it was an all-round brilliant experience," she says.

The RAF is not for everyone, though. "It can be a very stressful job," she says. "Sometimes you can be working really long hours with no sleep but there isn't anything like the feeling of knowing you're saving lives and helping the troops to do their job."

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
people
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Trainee Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Trainee Sales Executive is re...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Cambridgeshire - £23,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Front-End Develo...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?