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Longbenton Volunteer Honoured for Outstanding Service

2014-06-17 10:52:50
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By Flying Officer David Elliott, Chief of Staff - 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron

A Longbenton volunteer has been honoured at the highest level in recognition of outstanding service in the Royal Air Force. Flight Lieutenant Gary Richardson, Officer Commanding of 2344 (Longbenton) Air Cadet Squadron, has been awarded a Chief of the Air Staff Commendation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2014.

The Chief of the Air Staff is the professional head of the Royal Air Force and the award of his Commendation is presented to individuals who have shown exemplary service.

After returning from University Gary joined Tynemouth Air Cadets as a Civilian Instructor before being commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch). In 2008 Gary took command of 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron, where he used to be a cadet himself, and has overseen an enriching transformation. Gary has led an inspiring transition from an initially lacklustre unit to a thriving and vibrant detachment that has provided, and continues to provide, previously undreamed of opportunities for hundreds of youngsters from the local area. In particular Gary has helped nearly a hundred cadets to gain their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award across all three levels and has made the Squadron a very prominent, active and well thought of part of the local community.

The height to which Gary has taken the Squadron was recognised in the award of the Lees Trophy for the Top Air Cadet Squadron in the UK for 2013. The Lees Trophy requires a series of very thorough and rigorous inspections, and it is a very tough competition contested annually by the nearly one thousand units of the Air Cadet Organisation across the whole of the United Kingdom.

When first told that he had been awarded his commendation Gary found himself to be speechless, something the cadets on the Squadron find very hard to believe. After receiving the news Gary said "it's an absolute privilege to command Longbenton Squadron, and to work with and get to know so many genuine people. It's always fun and our young people have a great sense of humour, but it's also exceptionally challenging at times. Overcoming those challenges, though, makes a difference to people's lives and that makes the role so rewarding.

"The CAS Commendation is something that I share with everyone at the squadron. It recognises everyone's hard work, time, effort, patience and achievements and I say a huge thank you to all and look forward to watching even more achievements be enjoyed."

Praise for Gary has been abundant, with Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty, Commandant Air Cadets, saying, “turning round a failing Squadron to be the best in the Corps in just six years has been an outstanding achievement. I was particularly impressed with the positive impact Gary has had on the lives of the young people under his command which extends well beyond their participation in Air Cadets”.

Officer Commanding Durham and Northumberland Wing Air Cadets, Wing Commander Dave Harris, added, “I am delighted that Gary has been honoured by the Chief of the Air staff. This is a well-deserved award which acknowledges the hard work and inspirational leadership it has taken to move a failing squadron to the winners of the Lees Trophy for the best ATC squadron in the country. The award also reflects on the high morale of both staff and cadets who have all contributed to the success of the Squadron”.

Gary is always looking to the future and planning on how best to keep the Squadron improving. This might seem like a tough challenge but this award means Longbenton Air Cadets are in the best possible position to keep moving forward.”

If you’re interested in Longbenton Squadron, then please visit the squadron or go to www.2344.org.uk for more information.

For more information please visit the Squadron website

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