Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great privilege to be with you today on your Graduation day. I know that this is a very special moment for you all and for your loved ones who, most regrettably, cannot be with us in person but, by the grace of modern technology, will be watching with immense pride from home.
I can just remember, very nearly fifty years ago next year, being on parade for my own Flying Graduation, here at RAF Cranwell, in 1971.
Believe it or not in those days I was part of the very first graduate entry course at the time. My father was the inspecting officer and it was a very proud moment after all the effort that had gone into eventually gaining my wings.
So, this is a day of celebration to mark very real achievement and if I may say so you all deserve the warmest possible congratulations, particularly those who I have just presented prizes at a suitable distance.
I must say, I am immensely impressed that you have all managed to continue with your training and reach this stage, given the complexities that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought to every aspect of life. I know that this will not have been easy and is a testament to the flexibility and determination, not only of the staff, but of every one of you.
This same dedication, adaptability and willingness continually to push yourselves will be required time after time in your future careers. The same high standards that you have shown today will form the basis of safe and effective operations in the future, no matter what your role in the Royal Air Force.
As you join the RAF in its one hundredth and second year, the Service continues to be engaged around the world. Most recently the current pandemic has seen over one thousand RAF personnel involved in the response in support of the government and the NHS The Salisbury poisonings had the RAF Regiment at the centre of the clean-up operation.
The Quick Reaction Alert capability continues to deter long range Russian aircraft probing our airspace. The new Poseidon aircraft returns the RAF to the anti-submarine role in home waters, in the Atlantic and high up into the Barents Sea. The RAF remains deeply embedded with the Royal Navy in the delivery of the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers and the Lightning II force, while continuing to offer crucial support to our friends in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Mali, RAF Chinooks are the critical lifeblood to our French partners in the sub-Saharan battle against Boko Haram.
The RAF has never been more relevant or in more demand in this modern era. The tempo, I suspect, is unrelenting, and much will be asked of you in the years ahead, particularly as the Service begins to shift its weight increasingly towards space, cyber, data and information warfare, and as revised approaches to training, together with a carbon neutral strategy, will reset the RAF for its second century. To lead our airmen and women through such uncertainty will no doubt require much from you all, but I am sure you will each rise to the challenge.
As the nature of operations continues to evolve, you are joining a Service that from its infancy has been inherently Joint - working alongside the Royal Navy and the Army - on whom you are mutually critically dependent - but also working with our allies. In this regard, it is especially heartening to see representation from Germany, Kenya, Malta and Ukraine here today.
These close working relationships will be vital to secure our peace and freedom, both now and in the future. Our Armed Forces have always been at their best when working together, and that vital part of your career in the profession of arms is also about to begin.
Of course, your ability to show that level of commitment to the security of this country will be underpinned by your families. The strains of Service life do not fall on you alone and you will no doubt have to call on the patience and support of your loved ones throughout your careers. As you return home following this Graduation and see the proud faces of your families and friends, I am sure you will appreciate the level of support they have offered thus far, and will continue to offer in the future.
I need hardly say that I can well imagine just how much effort and commitment you must have put not only into this very smart and impressive parade, but also above all into your time at Cranwell and I pray that it will stand you in good stead as you now continue into your professional training and transition to front line operations.
I can only wish each of you every possible success and good fortune as you embark on your future service to this nation. We are very lucky to have you.