#2 – September 2018 “Leaving the RAF” | SASIG
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What needs to be the topic of my first blog? Something about me perhaps? 


I’m an old age pensioner now, I’ve been working in the computer/cyber security world for more than 40 years, one of the original old-timers. I was designing computer security training for the military as far back as 1981. I wrote books on the topic in the mid-80s before even the Internet had been invented but the principles remain the same today. I’m not a techie, my background is in behavioural psychology, I served for nearly 20 years in the Royal Air Force in a variety of counter espionage and counter terrorism roles. I’m a communicator and facilitator by nature – my late father used to say that “the greatest kings in history are those who built alliances, not those who fought wars”.


(Is this a famous saying by someone? The google doesn’t tell me, my dad had great one-liners like this, I really am beginning to believe he did say them first, many of them will appear at regular intervals in these blogs. Another one – “you can tell a gentleman by the way he wears his shoes and the way he treats his dog”, this has never let me down.)


I had originally wanted to be a fast jet pilot. I’d grown up watching “Reach for the Sky”, that iconic black-and-white 1956 biopic of the famed British World War II flyer, Sir Douglas Bader. I could see myself with the MG sports car, my white silk scarf blowing in the wind and my own Thelma Edwards sitting alongside. Alas, it was not to be. After only a few fraught months at RAF College Cranwell my instructor called me in and said “Smith, in the Air Force we like to keep the number of take-offs and the number of landings roughly equal!” I must have looked hurt; he went on “Have you heard the expression ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?’ Well, currently we consider you a threat to NATO”. The dream was over. I could now go down the rabbit hole of the tale of my last, terrifying solo flight in a Jet Provost that precipitated this abrupt conversation, perhaps we’ll do this another time, but in hindsight it was a very fair shout on their part. At least I lived. But already I transgress…


“Have you heard the expression ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?’ Well, currently we consider you a threat to NATO”


For fifteen years I then served happily as an officer in the RAF’s security and policing branch. Along the way, I fell into the infant world of computer and network security and made it my home. 


In the early 90s I left the RAF to become a civilian, not a trivial task. For nearly two decades I had saluted and been saluted, done what I was told and expected others to do the same. I had painted grass green and kerbstones white, filled out in duplicate or triplicate and worked to every form imaginable to mankind. My trousers had been pressed to within an inch of their lives, my shirts the same. Procedures ruled my working life, there were Manuals and Air Publications for everything. It all worked well, everyone knew their place and their role and what to do and how, the structure surrounding service personnel then and now is immense and predictable and entirely comforting. The pay arrived on time every month and the pension built up nicely. Little to worry about, and to be honest quite often little to do. But I do acknowledge that the RAF taught me what I know and gave me a trade, computer security, that has served me well for a lifetime. There are few employers nowadays that do that so well. I have many fond memories – but again, for another time.


Smith had arrived on civvie street. The corporate world would never be the same again.

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Thank you for reading my blogs. I’m getting quite old now, and hopefully I’m a little wiser than I once was. I have enjoyed a fascinating career full of fascinating people, and made many great friendships. I’ve made huge errors in my lifetime, and enjoyed great success too – it’s been the ultimate game of snakes and ladders - up and down, round and round. It is my privilege to share some of my stories with you, and describe some of the lessons I’ve learned in the hope that it may both save you from falling into the same holes, and help you in your careers and lives. Good luck and good fortune.

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