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Wings at RNAS Culdrose

Published: 04 Apr 2024
As newly-qualified Royal Navy aircrew were handed their ‘wings’ – the badges that symbolise the start of their frontline careers – they were watched by three very proud fathers.
The pleased parents were themselves naval aviators and had each earned their own wings with the Fleet Air Arm.
The informal presentation was held at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose for a total of 11 new aircrew, who have completed their training to join the frontline squadrons of Merlin Helicopter Force.
Lieutenant Jack Millen was congratulated by his father Lieutenant Commander Stu Millen, an instructor at RNAS Culdrose’s Merlin Training Facility.
His father was handed his wings 34 years ago and said: “I am extremely proud of Jack and I am proud of them all. It’s been a long time in the training system. Everyone knows this training is tough and we all recognise that achievement today.”
Lieutenant Millen added: “I grew up hearing about the navy all the time. I do have a memory of being about three years old and climbing into a helicopter at a Culdrose air day.”
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Jake Odgen was joined by his father Brad Ogden, who got his wings 30 years ago as an observer. Mr Ogden said: “We always encouraged him to go to Sea Cadets. I remember when he went to a navy gliding camp at Yeovilton for a week, when he was about 17, that was when he decided to be a pilot.”
Petty Officer Danny Cheesman was also joined by his father Chief Petty Officer Kieron Cheesman, who is also an aircrewman and works at RNAS Culdrose’s Merlin Warfare Operational Support Team.
Chief Petty Officer Cheesman congratulated his son on his career choice, adding: “Being an aircrewman is an absolutely fantastic job.”
In total, there were four pilots, two anti-submarine warfare observers, two airborne surveillance and control observers and three aircrewmen who received their wings. Ten of the new aircrew joined the Royal Navy as trainees while one transferred from the Army Air Corps.
The event was simply to mark the end of their course with 824 Naval Air Squadron and a full wings parade will be held later in the year.
The squadron’s commanding officer Commander Chris Jones tore off each of the aircrews’ fabric trainee badges – flinging them to the floor. He then handed over their winged badges for presentation by the commanding officer of RNAS Culdrose, Captain Stuart Irwin.
Addressing the room, Captain Irwin said: “This has been a long and difficult course. It’s built around having the time to get to a very high standard. That doesn’t just happen by magic. To the families, I say: ‘Thank you. They will have needed your help to get this far, and they will need your again in the future’.”
Turning to the newly-qualified aircrew, he urged them to remember their professionalism at all times and work together as a team, adding: “Wear your wings with pride.”
The aircrew completed the final stage of their training in the north Atlantic last month, in night and day deck landings at sea, by taking part in the NATO exercise Steadfast Defender.
Pictures: Royal Navy/LPhot Baz Swainsbury
& (of deployment) Lt Emma Reynolds


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