A Cadet Force Adult Volunteer (CFAV) has been acknowledged with a special award for over half a century of uniformed service with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets.
Squadron Leader Tom Gray, whose volunteering career dates back to October 1971, was presented with the sixth clasp for his Cadet Forces Medal in 2023, in recognition of fifty-two years of unwavering commitment to the Cadet movement in Scotland.
At present, Squadron Leader Gray serves as a Wing Aviation Officer for South East Scotland Wing Royal Air Force Air Cadets, looking after any and all matters relating to flying and gliding. Earlier in his career, Gray spent twelve years as a volunteer gliding instructor, taking full advantage of the gliding proficiency qualifications he achieved as a Cadet in the 1960s.
A Cadet Force Adult Volunteer becomes eligible for their Cadet Forces Medal on completion of twelve years of service, with additional clasps awarded for every six years afterwards. For a volunteer to receive six clasps is a rare and noteworthy occurrence, and so Cadets and colleagues alike were keen to celebrate Gray’s exceptional achievement and applaud his tireless dedication.
‘Receiving the sixth clasp was something I never expected to achieve,’ remarked Gray in an interview with Lowland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association, who partnered up with the RAF Air Cadets to produce a video celebrating the CFAV’s success. ‘I’ve been motivated to continue serving for a number of reasons, such as my enthusiasm for aviation and my appreciation for the many positive experiences I’ve had with the RAF Air Cadets. I could not have continued for so long without the support of my family – in particular my wife who has supported me throughout the fifty years and more.’
The sixth clasp was presented to Squadron Leader Gray by the RAF Air Cadets’ Regional Commandant for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Group Captain Sohail Khan, who was himself a Cadet in Gray’s squadron in the 1980s. Among Khan’s fondest memories of Gray as an instructor is his arranging a trip for the Cadets to the Farnborough Air Show.
‘Tom was a constant and supportive presence for me as a Cadet,’ recalled Group Captain Khan. ‘Every Wednesday and Friday night and most weekends he would be there to co-ordinate and run activities. He was instrumental in making my Cadet career the best it could be.
‘The impact that Tom and adult volunteers like him had on me as a Cadet is immeasurable. The range of disciplines and sense of duty that they instilled in me became the bedrock for my later career in the RAF. Presenting Tom with his sixth clasp as one of his former Cadets meant a great deal to me; it feels as though things have come full circle.’
Flight Sergeants Abbie Moonie and Jack Edwards, two Cadets from 1756 Broxburn Squadron RAF Air Cadets, also reflected on Gray’s impressive tenure as a CFAV, which began over thirty years before either of them were born.
‘I’m incredibly grateful to Squadron Leader Gray for his long commitment as a volunteer,’ reflected Flight Sergeant Edwards. ‘Seeing volunteers and staff members serve for as long as he has and support Cadets so consistently really makes you feel like you’re part of a family.’
‘My first impression of Squadron Leader Gray was that he’s a very dedicated, serious person who’s passionate about the RAF Air Cadets. I’d like to think that if I come back as an adult I would be just as passionate as he is.’
‘Adult volunteers are the reason that our organisation is able to run so smoothly,’ said Flight Sergeant Moonie. ‘They support us, help us to gain new skills and provide us with experiences that we just wouldn’t get anywhere else.
‘Squadron Leader Gray’s story is inspiring to me because he’s been able to provide countless experiences to so many Cadets over a long period of time. It’s hard to imagine committing to anything for over fifty years, and he has changed a lot of lives through the confidence and growth he has inspired in the young people he has worked with.
‘I would like to become an adult volunteer with the RAF Air Cadets in the future because I want to use the skills and knowledge I’ve gained as a Cadet and pass it on to future generations, just like Squadron Leader Gray.’