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Home > News and views > Embracing a new era 

Embracing a new era 

Lincolnshire branch holds its first virtual event with talk on Centenary of RAF College Cranwell by Air Commodore Suraya Marshall

Nimbly adjusting to Covid-era Britain, the ESU’s Lincolnshire branch turned its popular annual lunch at the International Bomber Command Centre into a ‘zoomerience’ with over 50 virtual guests logging in to hear guest speaker Air Commodore Suraya Marshall ADC MA LLB RAF, Commandant of Royal Air Force College Cranwell, talking about ‘The Royal Air Force College – 100 Years of Service’. The talk included a whistle-stop account of its history while stories of individual contribution of Cranwellians to WW2 were a humble reminder of its continued importance. Locals in the audience could recognise much in the original choice of site for the RAF’s officer training college because students would find it ‘cheaper, healthier and more wholesome.’

The talk gave a privileged insight into how Cranwell is being remodelled to deliver state-of-the-art training programmes for future challenges, from robotics and cyber warfare to data information and space, and to allow more flexible programmes tailored to individual needs and efficiency. The first woman to hold the post, the Commandant was charged with training ‘the next generation officers for a next generation air force’ and, after 30 months in development, the brand-new course is designed to equip officers with the skills they will need in future operating environments, using the latest learning technologies and methodologies.

Mirroring why many members continue to support the ESU, and despite the bright lights of new technologies, Air Cdre Marshall depicted a very human-orientated RAF which believes people remain absolutely fundamental to its success: ‘Our ethos and core values have not changed – respect, integrity, service and excellence are as relevant today in developing command, leadership and resilience skills,’ she said. She also spoke about how the college continues to evolve the training given there today and how it listens carefully to the concerns of new generations and responds to the benefits and challenges these offer.

On the day, the interactive nature of the medium proved its worth, with the Q&A period illuminating differences between Cranwell, Sandhurst and Dartmouth courses; issues moulding the youth of today; public opening of the college post-COVID; and retaining the college’s heritage.

ESU Lincolnshire Chairman Michael Graydon thanked Air Cdre Marshall for her insightful talk and highlighted the ESU’s own ambition to prepare the next generation for future challenges, specifically in the oracy field, explaining how the reality of COVID created significant, if hopefully short-term, challenges for interaction with schools. He thanked the IBCC for hosting the event and drew attention to the need to support the fledgling centre and thanked The Cranwellian Association for technical support and was delighted that several Old Cranwellians could join the event.

Enthusiastic responses from attendees congratulating the speaker and also for the concept in general encouraged the branch to plan more virtual talks and it is currently looking at running a series of early evening opportunities to hear from a variety of speakers in this intimate and interactive environment. The branch is looking to ensure that, given the current circumstances, it retains the interest of and contact with local members and supportive community as a priority.

Thanks to our tech sponsors, you can listen to the talk here.

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