Sgt Bobby Menarry joined the RAF in 2010, serving as a Parachute Training Instructor (PTI). Fast forward a decade and Bobby is now a member of the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team, proud supporters of the RAF Benevolent Fund.
In this guest blog, Bobby explains how his experiences with the Falcons and the RAF more widely have helped him through this period of uncertainty.
I joined the RAF 10 years ago as a PTI at both RAF Halton and RAF Honington. During this time, I deployed to 902 Expeditionary Air Wing in Mussanah, Oman for a four-month tour. I was selected for parachute duties in March 2016, where I delivered static line parachuting to various agencies.
I'm now a first year Falcon, recently completing both Ex Freefall Endeavour and Falcon Stack in preparation for the 2020 season. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a lot of uncertainty for the Falcons and we don't know when we might be able to display again. However, I know I can look back on what I've learnt in the RAF to get me through these challenging times and keep myself mentally fit.
You could argue there are very few similarities between falling at 120mph, deploying a parachute, and then creating an 8 person vertical canopy stack with smoke bellowing from your ankles, compared to sitting at home, isolated, wondering when this will all blow over and normal life will resume. But if you scratch ever so slightly below the surface, you'll start to see more similarities than you might expect.
To begin with, we RAF Falcons all feel fear. The fear we have before exiting an aircraft isn't all that different to the fear we experience wondering whether we – or a loved one – will catch COVID-19. We have simply learnt to manage that fear by shifting our focus to the task at hand.
Once we exit the aircraft, we rely on extensive training to ensure we conduct ourselves correctly in freefall and under canopy, maintaining disciplined skill throughout. As a nation, we have been given clear instructions. The discipline that keeps us in the correct position in the sky is the same discipline it takes to stay at home, practicing social distancing, and protecting others.
We also rely on trust: the faith that each RAF Falcon knows what to do, exactly when they need to do it, to keep us all safe. This is another resource we can use in times like this, putting our faith in our key workers and trusting that they will help us get to the end safely – just like we do in the Falcons.