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RAF in the RPA: two Englishmen study stateside

  • Published
  • By Brian McGloin
  • 502nd Airbase Wing Operating Location B/ Public Affairs
With a sense of adventure, two Royal Air Force officers came from the United Kingdom to learn to fly remotely piloted aircraft here.

RAF Flight Lieutenants Dale Sharp and Tim Daunton graduated from the remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals course Aug. 4. Their training will take them to Nellis AFB, Nev., then to Creech AFB Nev., where they will work for the next three years operating RPA.

The long selection and training process began in England when RAF commanders wanted volunteers to come to the U.S. in exchange for U.S. Airmen going there.

"It was about a year and a half ago a signal went around the units in the air force saying they wanted some officers to volunteer for the trial," Lieutenant Sharp said. "We stuck our hands up and put our names forward."

About 100 officers volunteered for the program. 

"The paper sifted down to about 15 based on rank, time served, age and reports," Lieutenant Daunton said. "From there they called everyone forward to a selection center, which is RAF Cromwell, in Lincolnshire, England. We went through a two-day selection process, involving medicals, interviews and aptitude testing."

Through an intense process of computer aptitude tests, hand-eye coordination tests, memory tests and more, the 15 RAF officers became four -- two of whom are a little ahead of Lieutenants Sharp and Daunton and already at Creech AFB.

After they were selected and finished preliminary training in England, they both had a chance to adapt to their new environment here.

"I think we're about a fifth the size of the American Air Force," Lieutenant Daunton said.

In addition to the difference in size of the two air forces, they also noticed differences in the personal side of things.

"Junior guys are a lot more confident right out of training," Lieutenant Daunton said. "In the Royal Air Force, there is more separation between the officers and enlisted, partly from the divide in the social classes in England."

Lieutenant Sharp said if he walks into a room full of military members wearing civilian clothes in England it's easier to tell the officers and senior enlisted from the junior ranks just by looking at them, how they're dressed and how they carry themselves. In the same scenario here, the differences are much less apparent.

"You don't get the junior guys talking to the officers," Lieutenant Daunton said. "Not brand new out of training."

"They talk to the officers when spoken to," Lieutenant Sharp said.

"It's a lot friendlier between the officers and the enlisted guys," Lieutenant Sharp said about the U.S. Air Force. "They're a lot more relaxed."

Lieutenant Daunton said there was more camaraderie among U.S. Airmen, including between the officers and enlisted.

Lieutenants Daunton and Sharp both said they were enjoying their time here in Texas, spending free time doing what many other people here do, like tubing on the Comal River and going to the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio.

"Americans are very friendly people," Lieutenant Sharp said. "In the UK, a lot of people think Americans are unfriendly people, but everyone I met has been very, very friendly. They're happy to chat."

"They keep saying we have accents," Lieutenant Sharp said while laughing. "We haven't got any accents. We're speaking English."

"I think more striking than the differences are the similarities between the two countries, once you take away the accents and the food," Lieutenant Daunton said.

"When you get into the nitty gritty of the training they're giving, it's quite reassuring to know both the Royal Air Force and United States Air Force are training the same things," Lieutenant Daunton said. "It's a good thing for when we go into theater, into our jobs; they know what we're talking about, regardless of whether we're talking to an American or a British guy."

Lieutenant Sharp said one thing he noticed was how similar the United States was to the United Kingdom. He said when he sees U.S. Airmen fresh out of school, they're joking and laughing like their equivalent English airmen.

"A 20-year-old in America is the same as a 20-year-old in the U.K.," he said.

With all of the differences and similarities between the two countries, their air forces and people, one thing both lieutenants said they prefer in Nevada more than Texas or England is the weather. Although the humidity is mild here, it's much less there.

"I'm not missing the UK weather at the moment," Lieutenant Daunton said. "However, give it a few months in Vegas I think I'll be missing the rain."