A ROYAL Air Force Reserve squadron based at RAF Cottesmore have been given the freedom of the district of Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.
For the first time in more than 80 years the Royal Air Force Reserve squadron marched through the town of Hucknall in Nottinghamshire on Saturday with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying.
No 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force were formed at RAF Hucknall Airfield in 1928 as a Special Reserve Squadron.
The Squadron, now based at RAF Cottesmore, became part of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1936.
They were invited to parade through the town by Ashfield District Council in honour of their service.
Senior Aircraftsman Mark Bottomley, 41, joined the squadron two years ago.
He said: “I joined as I felt I needed to give something back.
“I’ll go on operations whenever they send me – I didn’t join the Armed Forces when I was younger so the RAF Reserves offered me a second chance.
“In my day job I am a fireman with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service; the discipline, training and rank structure is very similar – we just use different kit.”
SAC Bottomley has three children aged two, eight and 11. He added: “The older one understands and is a bit worried, but the other two think my second job is great.”
In recent years the squadron has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two members, Senior Aircraftsman Gary Thompson and Senior Aircraftman Chris Dunsmore, died while serving in the Middle East.
Corporal Gareth Fisher, 26, has been with the squadron for nine years and is a full time reservist instructor.
He has deployed on operations three times, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said: “I came home from a six month tour in Afghanistan last year – I was a vehicle commander on what was a tough tour with 27 Sqn RAF Regiment.
“Our longest patrol was 16 days on the ground, living in patrol bases.
“You get the banter for being a reservist, but our skills and drills are as good as the regulars and you hold your own – out there you are just one of the lads. As a reserve you do expect to do the dangerous side of the job – it’s what I joined for, to be on the frontline.”