One of the main jobs of the Media Officer or Public Relations Officer on an RAF Station is to promote the good work that the personnel based there are doing. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult as they can’t deploy on every Exercise or Operation so they don’t always hear what wonderful things people have been doing (and some personnel are just shy about telling of their amazing exploits too!). It’s also essential for the Media Officer to protect our personnel and the assets on our Station: operational and personal security are always paramount! This can mean that it’s difficult to tell the general public some of the things that our personnel have been doing, simply because it could put them, or their colleagues, in harm’s way.
Therefore, a lot of their work is done based on what is happening on the Station. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to spot a ‘different’ story as, to many who work here, we do pretty much the same thing we do every day (and that’s not a Pinky and the Brain reference for anyone old enough to remember them!). But every once in a while you meet someone whose story just has to be told and one of our Media Officers was lucky enough to meet two of those individuals recently who share a lovely story – Christian Mullan and Claire Pickering.
Both Christian and Claire are 21 years old and SACs (Senior Aircraftman) who work in the Officers’ Mess at RAF Benson. Both have recently been given the top awards by their instructors and heads of department at the School of Catering based at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. Not unusual – we often have two individuals in one location that are given awards! What’s unusual is that Christian and Claire actually met at RAF Halton and are due to get married later this year and together they make one heck of a partnership in the Mess!
Christian is a chef and has been recognised as the Royal Air Force Young ‘Chef’ Student of the Year, whilst Claire has been awarded the Royal Air Force Young ‘Caterer’ Student of the Year – both top honours for individuals who have studied at the RAF Catering School. Christian also beat his fiancée to take the title of Overall Student of the Year, but we’re sure that she won’t hold a grudge!
Whilst chatting during a rare break over a coffee, our Media Officer got to hear what it was like training as an RAF caterer, how they met, and what their plans are for the future. When he left the interview our trainee media guru’s first reaction was “They are so happy! And two of the nicest people you could ever meet!”.
Christian had a short background in civilian catering before he joined the RAF but that wouldn’t have prepared him for the intense, and unusual compared to civilian life, trade training he undertook at the School of Catering at RAF Halton! After completing his basic recruit training at Halton, he remained there to transfer to the School of Catering for training specific to the trade he had signed up to do: chef.
The training is intense as not only do you complete your trade training, you also continue to develop as an airman/woman, which can mean long, hard days! Christian explained, “It was really tough! Not only were we physically pushed but we were mentally pushed. Each day would begin with an intense physical training session followed by a full day in the kitchen where we would continually have to meet demanding deadlines!”
It was worth it though as Christian developed into one of the finest young chefs in the RAF. His bosses have described him as a ‘selfless individual’ with ‘determination and zeal’ who is ‘well known for his respectful demeanour, smartness, deportment and exceptional work ethic’. Not only is he all of this but the work he presents is always of the highest standards – not easy to achieve when you’re being everything else too!
It’s not surprising that Claire found him irresistible, even though they met on trade training during what Christian describes as a ‘particularly difficult’ endurance run. Rather like the Grease ‘Summer Loving’ song with a bit of role reversal, Christian was struck by cramp and Claire stopped to check on him and since then “things have really blossomed”… so much so that they’re getting married later this year at a do catered, of course, by their RAF catering colleagues (no doubt under Christian’s watchful eye – we just hope he can keep out of the kitchen long enough to say ‘I do’!).
They’re not just perfectly matched out of the kitchen though – Claire is just as revered as Christian in the workplace too. Her bosses describe her as having ‘maturity and leadership well beyond her years’ and displaying ‘inner strength and determination’, which saw her sail through her training. Like Christian she is also described as ‘selfless’ and is known both through training and at RAF Benson for her ‘exceptional talent and professionalism’.
The awards they have both received are a reflection of the high standards they attained and still maintain now! A huge well done to them both and we wish them well for the future; both in their careers (which we are sure will be long and bright) and for their life together.