Squadron leader commanding 5001 Squadron at RAF Wittering discusses her journey
A squadron leader is continuing to lead electrical and mechanical technicians who play a key role within the Royal Air Force.
Sqn ldr Alicia Mason , the officer commanding 5001 Squadron, is the first woman to be appointed to the role.
After 16 years in the RAF, she has no doubts about her choices or her enthusiasm to see more women join up.
She said: “There are so many exciting opportunities that you can get your teeth into and be proud to say you’ve been part of something extraordinary.”
With a bachelor’s degree in engineering and postings with RAF Typhoons and the Red Arrows under her belt, she is well qualified for the job commanding 5001 Squadron.
Sqn ldr Mason said: “We’re deployed all over the world.
“Any time a flying squadron goes anywhere, any kind of deployment that needs an engineering element – you can bet that 5001 Squadron will be involved getting the place set up and ready.”
Recently the 5001 Squadron’s took part in Operation Azotize, also known as the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission.
At air bases in Estonia and Lithuania, the technicians built aircraft shelters, provided air conditioning, maintained power supplies and provided temperature controlled storage facilities.
Sqn ldr Mason’s interest in the RAF began with the Air Cadets.
She said: “There was flying and gliding for free, lots of sport and other great stuff going on and we had the amazing opportunity to spend camps at busy RAF stations.
“Engineering sounded really cool, our instructors explained what the jobs were about and where they were going in the world. I wanted a piece of that.”
Travel has certainly been a feature of Alicia’s career.
She has served in Kandahar, Afghanistan and Al Udeid, Qatar as well as travelling extensively with the Red Arrows during her tour as the junior engineering officer.
She said: “A lot of the time I was doing hands on maintenance, servicing Red One’s aircraft before and after displays.
“It was a such a practical tour, which is why it was so valuable, you’re really in amongst it.”
The journey to 5001 Squadron took an unexpected, but welcome turn.
Flt Lt Mason was originally intended to be second in command at 5001 but received her promotion to sqn ldr just as the top spot became vacant.
Alicia said: “I got a really good vibe about the place as soon as I arrived.
“It’s a different sort of RAF engineering at 5001 Squadron than I’m used to, but what we do makes a real difference to operations. You’ve got to have all the right elements on the ground if you want to keep aircraft in the air.”