Ambassadors Enjoy A Fantastic Visit To Royal Air Force Akrotiri, Cyprus
Charity Auction Dinner Night – 20 to 22 April 2016
For the 4th year running the charity sent 3 ambassadors to support the annual Royal Air Force Akrotiri Charity Dinner Night in Cyprus. This year it was Olympian Jamie Baulch, and former professional rugby players Henry Paul (HP) and Junior Paramore who were flying the flag for Rugby For Heroes along with Lieutenant Colonel Spike Quant MBE, the Charities appointed Military Liaison who helped organise the event.
The aim of the visit was twofold. The first aim was for the ambassadors to engage with the local military community and gain an insight in to the size, scale and effort of support required to keep an RAF operational airbase active. The second and equally important aim was to raise the profile of the charity and highlight the work it is doing to support our service boys and girls as they transition from their military careers back to civilian-street by raising funds in the auction dinner night.
After a lot of preparation work, many emails and clearing of work schedules the ambassadors flew to Cyprus late on Wednesday evening 22nd April 16. After a swift journey from the airport they were warmly welcomed by Flight Sergeant Kev Skinner who organised the Cyprus end of the event. The boys met up with some of the military families and friends at Silvana’s, a popular kebab restaurant, where they enjoyed their first taste of the local food. After a couple of cold Keo beers and bottles of kokinelli wine the ambassadors were processed through the base security system before they knocked it on the head in anticipation of an early rise a very busy visit programme.
Any thoughts the ambassadors had that they were in for a relaxing few days were quickly quashed with reveille at 0630hrs! After a fight for the bathroom and a swift breakfast in the Officers’ Mess it was off to the Airfield Operations Centre for a contextual oversight brief of the role RAF Akrotiri plays in the UK’s defence effort. From there the first visit was at the Dog Section where the boys met the handlers and the working dogs that provide camp security and search for explosives or illegal drugs etc. The team really enjoyed this visit and appreciated the demonstrations by the dog handlers who put their dogs through their paces going over an assault course and bringing an intruder wearing a protective suit under control. Jamie Baulch came face to face with a rather disturbing dog called ‘Barry’, that was completely nuts and certainly not family pet material. Fortunately for everyone Barry was not released from his pen!
Team photo outside the dog section – less Barry!
After a quick go on the Dismounted Trainer (grown up X-box), where the guys got to fire the SA80 assault rifle and practice their marksmanship principles (HP was by far the worst shot!), the morning’s visits were rounded off with a look around the search and rescue Bell 412 Griffin helicopters operated by 84 Squadron. It was here that Jamie show cased his big screen qualities when he re-enacted the final scene from the film Predator! After a quick lunch sat on the families’ beach the boys got to sit in the cockpit of the much loved C-130 Hercules transport aircraft before having a go on the airfield fire fighting vehicles.
Team photo stood in front of the mighty C-130 Hercules transport aircraft
A pleasant evening was spent in the company Kev Skinner and his hard working committee (who had organised the event), at the local Chris Kebab restaurant. Much to Junior’s delight it was a huge 5 course meat fest, which just about filled a gap! Much to HP’s delight there was a good supply of Keo beer.
Meeting the fireman
HP has all the gear but no idea!!
First up was a live interview on the local British Forces Broadcasting Service radio, where the guys took part in a fun Q&A style interview before being put through their paces with some tricky pub quiz questions.
The boys being interviewed by ‘Humph’ on the local forces radio station
However the pressure really came on when the team moved off to visit the local primary school which just happened to be having their school sports day. The first activity for the ambassadors was to run the first leg of the school 75m relay race. After some serious stretching off by our Olympian 400m relay gold medallist the starting gun fired and the race was on. There are no prizes for guessing who came first but HP had to buy the beers that evening for bringing up the rear!! The rest of morning was spent with the children.
The ambassadors took part in their school assembly and then visited every classroom in the school to speak with the children, sign pictures, hats and tee shirts for them.
Just when the ambassadors thought the visits couldn’t get any better it did, with an unexpected tour around the ‘Top Secret’ on base American organisation. After a demonstration of a pressurised flying suit, which was very similar to the spacesuits worn by astronauts, and the opportunity to eat some purified space food, the ambassadors were bundled off into a ‘chase car’ and driven down the runway at high speed to watch up-close the landing recovery of a U-2 spy plane!
The afternoon was completed with the guys doing what they do best, playing rugby and coaching. The youth section at the on-base Flamingo’s Rugby Club turned out in force to meet the ambassadors and run about the field with them.
Jamie and HP present trophy
A view of the U2 plane from the car
the boys get a demo on the spacesuit
Junior and HP deliver some coaching and top tips at the Flamingo Rugby Club
The final duty the ambassadors had to perform was to play an active part in the auction dinner night. With Flight Sergeant Kev Skinner acting as MC for the evening the guys did tremendously well under the pressure of the spotlight. The Q&A session was well researched and lots of embarrassing moments were exposed from the dim and distant past of our ambassadors sporting careers. However being true sporting legends the boys took it on the chin and gave as good as they got. Everyone had a cracking night and the auction of sporting memorabilia was a great success, raising close to €9000.
Jamie & HP help auction off the Pele shirt
In all the Rugby For Heroes visit to RAFD Akrotiri was a triumph. The ambassadors had a great time and achieved their aims of integrating with the local military community and raising funds, which will be used to fund future transition rugby courses and other charity projects. Big thanks must go out to the organisers of the event; Flight Sergeant Kev Skinner and our own Charity Military Liaison Officer Lieutenant Colonel Spike Quant MBE who made it all happen. Of course it couldn’t happen without our ambassadors who gave up their valuable time, so massive thanks must go out to them as well. There is already talk about a return visit next year so watch this space!!
Farewell to RAF Akrotiri from our ambassadors & Spike