Ladies and gentlemen, I am particularly pleased to be able to join you all today for this special combined parade with R.A.F. Halton in recognition of your completion of training over the last two years. For myself, it is frankly somewhat alarming to think that it is over fifty years ago that I was standing where you are as part of my own Flying Graduation, but that is another story.
I am all too aware, having attended the Graduation Ceremony in July 2020, that up until now you have not been able to celebrate this notable achievement in the way you would have wished, owing to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. As such, it is wonderful to see so many of your family and friends here today to share in this moment – albeit long overdue. In fact, I suspect many of them may have been starting to question whether you had actually completed your training!
If I may say so, I was immensely impressed that you were all able to continue with your courses and successfully graduate, given all the complexities. I know that this will not have been easy and at the end of the day is a great testament to the flexibility and determination of both the staff and every one of you. This same dedication, adaptability and willingness continually to push yourselves will be required time after time in your future careers, as I have no doubt you are already experiencing. The same high standards that you demonstrated throughout your training 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 Service in its second century, the Royal Air Force has never been more relevant or in more demand in this modern era around the world. You are protecting our skies and patrolling our seas, monitoring threats to our critical interests in space, not to mention the continued operational focus in Mali, Syria and Iraq. The drawdown in Afghanistan last year culminated in the largest airlift by the Royal Air Force since Berlin in 1948, evacuating over 15,000 people from Kabul, giving new hope to thousands of Afghans who had lost everything. In addition, in the past two months, we have witnessed the return of war to Europe. The conflict in Ukraine is a stark reminder that there is no substitute for credible Defence. We are all shocked by the images of war in our Continent and the effects of air delivered weapons. For air forces, the fighting in Ukraine has clearly demonstrated that despite the technological complexity of modern aerial warfare, having highly motivated and well-trained people remains critical to operational success.
The conflict has also highlighted the importance of alliances. You are joining a Service that from its infancy has been inherently Joint, working alongside the Royal Navy and Army – but working closely with our allies and partners abroad. 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 has already begun.
It is evident, therefore, that owing to the many daily threats and stresses we face at home and abroad, 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.
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. I am sure you will appreciate the level of support they have offered thus far and will continue to offer in the future.
Within months, many of you will already be deployed, protecting United Kingdom interests, reassuring our allies and deterring our adversaries. I can only wish each and everyone of you every possible success and good fortune as you embark on your future service to this nation. We are fortunate indeed to be able to rely on you…