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Looking for a meaningful career? Consider joining the RAF Reserves

The Royal Air Force offers training, role progression, travel opportunities and friendships that will prove to be priceless.

Father and son Terry and Joe Cowan standing side by side
Father and son, Terry and Joe say their lives have been changed for the better since joining the RAF Reserves.

Terry and Joe Cowan didn’t plan on joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) Reserves. But join they did and since then, it’s been onwards and upwards for the father and son duo.

Many dream of joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) because they want to fly.

But for Terry Cowan, he found he was able to soar in ways he never expected after signing up.

Terry says: “I joined the RAF back in the 90s. I started pilot training, went solo on jets. Unfortunately, at that time, the RAF had too many pilots in the training system so they were looking for fast jet only.

“As much as I would have loved to have flown fast jets, whilst I had certain skills and aptitudes, I didn’t pass high enough in the training system.”

As a result, Terry was forced to assess what he wanted to do. “I ended up becoming an administrative secretarial officer, which covers a whole raft of skills from accounting to property management to human resources,” he says.

“I also spent a long stint in recruiting in Inverness; I was the senior recruiting officer for the RAF for the whole of the Highlands and loved every second of it. What I did was what I enjoyed and I finished my regular service in 2007,” Terry adds.

“Then an opportunity came up in 2015. I joined the RAF Reserves part time whilst I was working for another bigger, MOD-linked organisation.

“Then in 2019 an opening arose to become the Adjutant for 2622 Squadron. This meant I would be dealing with all the aspects of the work I covered before and make use of my experience as the Media and Communications Officer for RAF Lossiemouth which was my last job during my regular service. I had the experience and array of different skills to offer and grabbed the opportunity. I’m still in the job now and enjoying every minute.”

Terry says he didn’t influence his son, Joe, to follow in his footsteps. But Joe somehow found himself on the same path.

Joe Cowan undergoes training with RAF Reserves
Joe Cowan learned basic military skills when he signed up for the RAF Reserves.

After chatting to some of Terry’s experienced colleagues, Joe made up his mind to join the RAF Reserves.

Joe shares: “It was a good thing to do, especially during the pandemic when university was very much not what it was meant to be for me. So the RAF gave me a lot to do, a lot of really good skills and opportunities. I thought it would be great to get the basic military skills and a deployment under my belt.

“I’ve wanted to do military service and the plan is to go full time quite soon, hopefully. I’m in the application process for that.” Joe is planning to go full time with the Royal Marines.

Life in the RAF

Father and son Terry and Joe Cowan pose together in their RAF uniforms
Terry Cowan (pictured with his son Joe): “When a reservist puts the uniform on, they are part of the RAF family.”

Currently working part time with the RAF Reserves as a regiment gunner, Joe trains to provide force protection to enable air operations, sometimes to defend airfields in the UK and abroad.

Joe says: “I have gone out to Cyprus with the 51 Squadron over Christmas for four months. I was away from mid-November til mid-March so I missed birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s. I think it’s probably harder on the family because for us out there, you’re just doing your job. It’s nice to get away, go to a new place and learn new things.”

On the other hand, Terry as an adjutant looks after the general running of the 2622 Squadron, particularly welfare and HR.

Terry explains: “My job involves making sure that each individual is medically fit and trained to the right level, that we’ve got all the clearances from their employers, making sure all other important issues like passports, dental, eye checks, hearing checks – all of those things are up to date so the level of fitness and preparedness of reservists are the same with the regulars.

“There is a big support network which includes not just the families but also their employers. The reservist has that reassurance so that when they come back from their deployment, their job will still be there.

“When a reservist puts the uniform on, they are part of the RAF family. We then have a duty of care to them and their families. That goes on even when they leave the RAF. They’re looked after because all the services available to any regular servicemen, a reservist is also entitled to.”

The best part of serving in the RAF

For both father and son, the relationships they’ve cultivated are the best part of being with the RAF.

Terry says: “For me, it’s working with people to achieve our common aim, which is to keep the aircraft flying. It’s the teamwork and we’re here in differing roles to look after our interests in as much as our family and our friends in the country. That’s the thing I love about it, the camaraderie.”

Joe has also found it easy to get on with people and has made lifelong friends. But he also wouldn’t trade the experiences he’s had so far. Joe shares: “It’s just opportunities that you wouldn’t get otherwise. I managed to get a place on a helicopter rigger course just because it was something that came up and I jumped on it. It’s amazing.”

Joining the RAF Reserves: a life-changing experience

Terry and Joe both say their lives have been changed by the RAF. They credit the organisation for helping them to believe in themselves and what they can do.

Joe says: “It’s definitely made me more assured I want to do full time military service. It’s definitely given me more of a confidence in certain aspects of my life.”

Terry agrees: “It gave me a greater degree of competence in my own skills. It also expanded my leadership skills.”

Terry adds: “Many of the courses we send people on, many of the skills that we train them in are transferable. For example, first aid and first responder courses. We do defence training so RAF reservists can actually go out and give briefings and presentations to people.

“So when RAF reservists go back to their workplace, they can share those skills and in some cases, they can actually get promoted.”

Advice for people thinking of joining the RAF

Terry and Joe urge everyone to pursue a career in the RAF. They point out, there’s a wide range of roles to match different interests and skills. There are also plenty of opportunities to train, progress, travel and develop lasting relationships.

For Terry, it’s also the perfect way to test if you’re cut out for a military career: “If you’re thinking of joining the military, join the Reserves first. Get a feel for military training, for military life. See if it’s for you before you commit to signing up. It’s a very good way of dipping your toe in the water and then you can decide whether you like it or not enough to join.”

Joe attests: “I’d say definitely go for it because you never know what you’re going to get out of it. You might get a lot out of it. You get out of it what you put in. The opportunities are great and it’s definitely stuff you’re not going to be doing in the civilian world. It’s definitely worth it.”

Visit the RAF’s recruitment web page for more on joining the RAF Reserves. You can also email

Read more: Father and daughter join RAF Reserves