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I am not a particularly good sailor. So a spell attached to the Royal Navy - splendid though the service is - did not appeal. I have already done time in the army and I remain on the reserve list, so an attachment with the troops seemed a little like a busman's holiday. But the Royal Air Force is different. Which is why I am now part of an elite Parliamentary team learning how the RAF works and getting to understand its machines, its training and its people.
Every Parliamentary session a handful of MPs are selected to join one arm of the nation's defence forces. The idea is to equip us to better understand their problems. It also puts people like me in the driving seat of some formidable kit!
Eat your heart out Baron Von Richtoven
I have been up in helicopters, done some basic survival training, met the top brass and seen at first hand the courageous work the RAF is doing in Afghanistan. After an RAF Nimrod crashed with the loss of all on board - including a brave young airman from Bridgwater (see NIMROD - AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN) it was my solemn but proud duty to lay a wreath at the special memorial for all the dead in Afghanistan on Remembrance Sunday 2006.
Since then I have returned to Afghanistan with the RAF and am always deeply impressed by the dedication of the pilots and aircrew.So when nine of them asked for a trip round Westminster in February 2008 I was delighted to give them the rooftop treatment:
And they're keen to fly me back to Afghanistan soon!
©2003,2004 Ian Liddell-Grainger. All rights reserved. www.somersetwest.org.uk