Building relations with our RAF neighbours

23 April 2010

A pioneering exercise in good neighbourliness between a team from the Findhorn Foundation and senior officers of RAF Kinloss has revealed some common ground – and opportunities to explore closer contacts in the future.

Members of the Foundation were treated to an in-depth briefing by station commander Group Captain Robbie Noel on 16 April as well as a tour of our neighbouring Air Base – nicknamed the ‘Home of the Mighty Hunter’ in a reference to the legendary Nimrod search and reconnaissance aircraft that has enjoyed more than 40 years of faithful service.

Findhorn Foundation focaliser Ana Rhodes-Castro with Group Captain Robbie Noel
Ana with Group Cpt Noel

“We are trying to remove some of the myths and rumours about us,” Gp Capt Noel said, emphasising that the continued good reputation of the RAF was essential to maintain staff morale and public support. “We have to convince people we add value for the future and our reputation has to be based on doing something meaningful to help improve the security environment, and doing it safely.

“Regrettably we do not live in a peaceful world, but we are not warmongers.” On the contrary, he believed that one of the Foundation’s objectives of world peace was shared by the RAF although the terminology and strategies of the two organisations differed. “Our goal is providing for a safe and secure environment, which is the same, I believe, as striving for world peace.

Good neighbours… the Foundation team during our tour of RAF Kinloss
Group pic

It might seem to some as an unachievable aim, but I’m a firm advocate of shooting for the stars with a realistic prospect of landing on the moon.”

As an island nation depending heavily on trade, the UK had to be ready to protect its interests around the world as well as countering submarine activity, narcotics trafficking and “the very real threat from terrorism,” he said. While warriors were trained to “deliver controlled violence” he stressed that was always the last resort, with the threats of the 21st century proving infinitely more complex than in the past, and the role of the armed forces changing to include peacekeeping and also nation building.

RAFvisit042010-5The Kinloss station first opened in 1939 and apart from playing a role during World War 2 and the subsequent Cold War, it has supported campaigns in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, and is increasingly called to work alongside groups from the United Nations, World Health Organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Red Cross and NGOs and humanitarian aid agencies.

It was felt that the Foundation might provide useful lessons in how to maximise the effectiveness of interactions with non-military organisations and in coming days and weeks the two neighbours will explore the possibilities of closer links, including purely social events.

Peter Caddy

Perhaps significantly community co-founder Peter Caddy was a former RAF officer and the site of the current Findhorn ecovillage features a discontinued aircraft runway as the main street.

The noise and pollution of military aircraft landing and taking off from Kinloss has sometimes been intrusive and an irritation, especially in the middle of the night, although the current Nimrod MR2 has now been withdrawn from active service, curtailing the effectiveness of search and rescue capabilities until the new Nimrod MRA4 becomes operational. The new aircraft are due to arrive at RAF Kinloss in July for training purposes, but will not be in operational service until 2012.

Foundation PR Carin Bolles at the controls of a Nimrod MR2
Carin in Nimrod

After spending time with our uniformed neighbours, many community members now recognise the value of their commitment to maintaining security on land, sea and in the air. A bonus with the new generation Nimrod aircraft – which are said to exemplify the RAF’s credo of ‘agile, adaptable and capable’ – are reduced noise levels, much enhanced fuel efficiency and the potential to stay airborne longer, reducing the frequency of takeoffs and landings during operations.

Foundation focaliser Ana Rhodes-Castro said: “We left with a deeper understanding and respect for the work that the RAF does on behalf of all UK citizens.

“The question the Findhorn Foundation asks itself on a regular basis is ‘How can we as an organisation continue to meaningfully contribute to the current world challenges?’ I felt that this is one of the questions that the RAF is asking itself as well and I’m sure there are more areas where we are both working towards the same common purpose.”

Geoff Dalglish

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