eml5
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Hi,

I am hoping to gain some advice on the different lifestyles as I am still undecided on which role to apply for.

I am 26 and finished university but unsure on whether to apply for WSOp (Linguist) or an Officer type role as I like to learn languages however I would also like a managerial role.
I've been told that their lifestyles are very different and would like to know more about the differences, please? E.g. day to day, promotions etc. Is an officer a lot more office-based and a WSOp is on the aircraft most days? Does an officer get deployed a lot? And, is it possible to begin as WSOp then later apply as an officer?

I've also seen that there are a lot of sports clubs and activities that I'd really like to join and wondered when they usually take place?

Thanks, advice would be much appreciated!
Last edited by eml5; 7 months ago
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dannyoboy007
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To clarify: WSO is an officer role (Weapons Systems Officer), and it's also aircrew so it's not really WSO vs Aircrew. You still need to pass the CBATs and aircrew medical to become a WSO. A WSO will sometimes fly on the aircraft, but they are primarily managing WSOps (non-commisioned, but still aircrew - these guys are more hands on), so may spend less time on the aircraft compared to a WSOps, but a WSO will be doing more managerial roles.

I think you may be alluding to WSOp (Linguist), as I don't believe WSO Linguist exists, which in that case is a non-commissioned role.
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eml5
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(Original post by dannyoboy007)
To clarify: WSO is an officer role (Weapons Systems Officer), and it's also aircrew so it's not really WSO vs Aircrew. You still need to pass the CBATs and aircrew medical to become a WSO. A WSO will sometimes fly on the aircraft, but they are primarily managing WSOps (non-commisioned, but still aircrew - these guys are more hands on), so may spend less time on the aircraft compared to a WSOps, but a WSO will be doing more managerial roles.

I think you may be alluding to WSOp (Linguist), as I don't believe WSO Linguist exists, which in that case is a non-commissioned role.
Hi, thanks for explaining that dannyoboy007. Yes, I meant WSOp (Linguist), I will edit that now!

So as a WSOp (Linguist), can you later become an officer, does this usually happen?
Thanks!
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dannyoboy007
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This is all just my understanding from my research, and I'm a candidate myself so perhaps a currently serving/ex member would be better to inform you, but from reading a lot of the posts on Reddit there is an internal commissioning scheme. I think you have to get a certain number of highly rated appraisals from your boss every year, and it's limited numbers/competitive selection. You can always apply as a direct entrant though I believe.

So you could go from WSOp to WSO (and I would assume being a linguist wouldn't stop this), but as it's a different role I don't think you'd be doing the linguist part anymore. WSO isn't broken down as WSOp is (linguist/ME/rotary etc.). A lot of the WSOs at the moment are operating sensors/anti-sub equipment on the P8-As for instance.
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by eml5)
Hi,

I am hoping to gain some advice on the different lifestyles as I am still undecided on which role to apply for.

I am 26 and finished university but unsure on whether to apply for WSOp (Linguist) or an Officer type role as I like to learn languages however I would also like a managerial role.
I've been told that their lifestyles are very different and would like to know more about the differences, please? E.g. day to day, promotions etc. Is an officer a lot more office-based and a WSOp is on the aircraft most days? Does an officer get deployed a lot? And, is it possible to begin as WSOp then later apply as an officer?

I've also seen that there are a lot of sports clubs and activities that I'd really like to join and wondered when they usually take place?

Thanks, advice would be much appreciated!
The lifestyle comparison os Sergeants Mess versus Officers Mess - the lifestyle in a Sergeants Mess tends to be driven by people over 40, an Officer Mess more likely people under 30. You will lead as an Officer, not as a WSOp.

Don't get suckered by the internal commission story - it can take years and sometimes never happen. Besides the call for management of WSOp linguists is probably about 3 specialist officers - say they are commissioned in their mid-30s when they've absolutely mastered the job, done all the training posts etc, then they serve for another 20 years. That tells you there's a commissioning opening approximately every 7 years. If you are joining aged 26+ then realistically you've got no chance of making the bracket.

Sports opportunities don't depend on rank or role really. Like anything in life, you organise it around training sessions, matches etc, except you are playing for the company team so your boss is likely to be much more sympathetic. You can also go away for weeks on work time for sports/adventure training etc.
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Ikaruss
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OP , you’ve had a great response from a former aircrew officer above. I’d like to add to that from a former WSOp (actually AEOp) perspective, as I have some views! (3PD rolling her eyes 👀 !!!)

Bit busy at the moment, but will corral my thoughts and try and get them down tonight.

Ciao
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by Ikaruss)
OP , you’ve had a great response from a former aircrew officer above. I’d like to add to that from a former WSOp (actually AEOp) perspective, as I have some views! (3PD rolling her eyes 👀 !!!)

Bit busy at the moment, but will corral my thoughts and try and get them down tonight.

Ciao
Surely an AEOp's perspective is anything over the top of an open butty box?

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Ikaruss
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
Surely an AEOp's perspective is anything over the top of an open butty box?

Patently 3P, you never experienced the gastronomic output from a Nimrod galley ! The only airborne butty boxes I had were generally in the back of a noisy Oversized Albert (see what I did there ? )

Anyway, to the OPs query. Officer v Linguist. I'm making an assumption that you're talking about WSO? I don't know for sure, but I very much doubt that 51Sqn take direct entrant WSOs. The role is very specialised and as 3PD says, it's effectively dead man's shoes (or ladies of course). There aren't too many WSOs on 51 Sqn and those there are, will have had significant experience as Linguists (SIGINT) or ELINT operators. The WSOs are the supervisors on the crew, directing the SIGINT or ELINT collection as required by the tasking or dynamically as the situation dictates.

As a WSOp Linguist you would have to pass the DE SNCO course to graduate as Non Commissioned Aircrew Sgt, this would be followed by your specialist language training at Chicksands, Beds for an intensive 18 month language course and then onto your OCU at RAF Waddington, Lincs before joining 51 Sqn there.

I don' t know much about the day to day life of 51 Sqn in general or Linguists in particular, as the role is very much need to know, and I didn't so I don't. I have got s rough idea of what they do though. Unlike other WSOp roles, as a linguist you'd be on 51 Sqn for maybe your whole career, although there may be opportunities to go to a ground tour in an exotic location like Cheltenham, or to instruct. But essentially, languages and the Rivet Joint would be your life.

I wouldn't disagree with what 3PD says about mess life, but in my experience, your stay in the mess would be fairly short lived. Most of my WSOp mates got out and into private accommodation as soon as they could. Either renting with pals or buying their own house. There are now many routes to a mortgage for first time buyers and with your salary and stable career prospects, you should be a good risk. So actually the lifestyle differences between you as non commissioned aircrew (NCA) and junior officers is not that great. Although there was a bit of a cultural gulf when I joined in 1979, the modern NCA mate may well be FB buddies with his officer colleagues, and drink with them down the pub, heck they may even be married across the rank divide !. Obviously there is a salary differential but it's likely that won't be too apparent until an officer reaches Sqn Ldr. As a Master Aircrew WSOp on the PA pay spine, I was frequently the highest paid member of a 13 person crew, which distressed the Capt a bit, although he didn't complain when I bought him a beer !

In terms of managerial responsibility, as a Sgt WSOp it would be virtually nil compared to your groundcrew Sgt equivalent. But Junior Officers are also usually only trusted with tying their own shoelaces (if supervised). The responsibility comes when you've got your feet under the table and start climbing up the ladder. As a Sqn Ldr WSO you would start to earn your pay with Sqn Exec positions or ground tour Staff Officer posts. If you achieved Master Aircrew rank as a WSOp you would likely have supervisory responsibilities for some members of your crew or you may become the Leader of the Linguist cohort. You would also be liable for deployment as a Staff Officer level 3 (SO3) to a HQ in theatre. But (big but) I reiterate that 51 Sqn is a unique Sqn with a niche role in the RAF. There is little personnel movement and you would be in competition for limited promotion slots. I don't know what the prom stats are for the Sqn, but not the best I imagine. Promotion to FS or MACR is all on merit, and basically you have to walk on water to get anywhere near a board these days.

However, you would definitely have some in demand direct language skills under your belt, so life beyond the RAF should be quite rosy. I presume there is a well trodden path to GCHQ and perhaps other agencies in the triumvirate, and the Foreign Office. But I'm sure many private companies with an international footprint would bite your arm off for your skills. I doubt you'd have trouble finding work post RAF.

Does that answer your Q?

All best

Ikky

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Last edited by Ikaruss; 7 months ago
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eml5
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(Original post by dannyoboy007)
This is all just my understanding from my research, and I'm a candidate myself so perhaps a currently serving/ex member would be better to inform you, but from reading a lot of the posts on Reddit there is an internal commissioning scheme. I think you have to get a certain number of highly rated appraisals from your boss every year, and it's limited numbers/competitive selection. You can always apply as a direct entrant though I believThe.

So you could go from WSOp to WSO (and I would assume being a linguist wouldn't stop this), but as it's a different role I don't think you'd be doing the linguist part anymore. WSO isn't broken down as WSOp is (linguist/ME/rotary etc.). A lot of the WSOs at the moment are operating sensors/anti-sub equipment on the P8-As for instance.
Thanks! Didn't think of Reddit, had a look and there's lots of useful info on there!
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eml5
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(Original post by threeportdrift)
The lifestyle comparison os Sergeants Mess versus Officers Mess - the lifestyle in a Sergeants Mess tends to be driven by people over 40, an Officer Mess more likely people under 30. You will lead as an Officer, not as a WSOp.

Don't get suckered by the internal commission story - it can take years and sometimes never happen. Besides the call for management of WSOp linguists is probably about 3 specialist officers - say they are commissioned in their mid-30s when they've absolutely mastered the job, done all the training posts etc, then they serve for another 20 years. That tells you there's a commissioning opening approximately every 7 years. If you are joining aged 26+ then realistically you've got no chance of making the bracket.

Sports opportunities don't depend on rank or role really. Like anything in life, you organise it around training sessions, matches etc, except you are playing for the company team so your boss is likely to be much more sympathetic. You can also go away for weeks on work time for sports/adventure training etc.
Hi,
Thanks that was really useful, it's a shame about commission but thanks for being honest with me! I have decided to apply for a different officer role.

This might be a silly question, but do all bases have the same sport/adventure training options or do each place differ?
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threeportdrift
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(Original post by eml5)
Hi,
Thanks that was really useful, it's a shame about commission but thanks for being honest with me! I have decided to apply for a different officer role.

This might be a silly question, but do all bases have the same sport/adventure training options or do each place differ?
It's still the real world and works the same way as the real world! If someone organises it, it's available to do, but it's much harder to organise white water rafting if you are at Marham than at Valley. Some places have better gyms than others, some have swimming pools some don't, some have wilderness on the doorstep, or the sea and some don't etc.
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eml5
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(Original post by Ikaruss)
Patently 3P, you never experienced the gastronomic output from a Nimrod galley ! The only airborne butty boxes I had were generally in the back of a noisy Oversized Albert (see what I did there ? )

Anyway, to the OPs query. Officer v Linguist. I'm making an assumption that you're talking about WSO? I don't know for sure, but I very much doubt that 51Sqn take direct entrant WSOs. The role is very specialised and as 3PD says, it's effectively dead man's shoes (or ladies of course). There aren't too many WSOs on 51 Sqn and those there are, will have had significant experience as Linguists (SIGINT) or ELINT operators. The WSOs are the supervisors on the crew, directing the SIGINT or ELINT collection as required by the tasking or dynamically as the situation dictates.

As a WSOp Linguist you would have to pass the DE SNCO course to graduate as Non Commissioned Aircrew Sgt, this would be followed by your specialist language training at Chicksands, Beds for an intensive 18 month language course and then onto your OCU at RAF Waddington, Lincs before joining 51 Sqn there.

I don' t know much about the day to day life of 51 Sqn in general or Linguists in particular, as the role is very much need to know, and I didn't so I don't. I have got s rough idea of what they do though. Unlike other WSOp roles, as a linguist you'd be on 51 Sqn for maybe your whole career, although there may be opportunities to go to a ground tour in an exotic location like Cheltenham, or to instruct. But essentially, languages and the Rivet Joint would be your life.

I wouldn't disagree with what 3PD says about mess life, but in my experience, your stay in the mess would be fairly short lived. Most of my WSOp mates got out and into private accommodation as soon as they could. Either renting with pals or buying their own house. There are now many routes to a mortgage for first time buyers and with your salary and stable career prospects, you should be a good risk. So actually the lifestyle differences between you as non commissioned aircrew (NCA) and junior officers is not that great. Although there was a bit of a cultural gulf when I joined in 1979, the modern NCA mate may well be FB buddies with his officer colleagues, and drink with them down the pub, heck they may even be married across the rank divide !. Obviously there is a salary differential but it's likely that won't be too apparent until an officer reaches Sqn Ldr. As a Master Aircrew WSOp on the PA pay spine, I was frequently the highest paid member of a 13 person crew, which distressed the Capt a bit, although he didn't complain when I bought him a beer !

In terms of managerial responsibility, as a Sgt WSOp it would be virtually nil compared to your groundcrew Sgt equivalent. But Junior Officers are also usually only trusted with tying their own shoelaces (if supervised). The responsibility comes when you've got your feet under the table and start climbing up the ladder. As a Sqn Ldr WSO you would start to earn your pay with Sqn Exec positions or ground tour Staff Officer posts. If you achieved Master Aircrew rank as a WSOp you would likely have supervisory responsibilities for some members of your crew or you may become the Leader of the Linguist cohort. You would also be liable for deployment as a Staff Officer level 3 (SO3) to a HQ in theatre. But (big but) I reiterate that 51 Sqn is a unique Sqn with a niche role in the RAF. There is little personnel movement and you would be in competition for limited promotion slots. I don't know what the prom stats are for the Sqn, but not the best I imagine. Promotion to FS or MACR is all on merit, and basically you have to walk on water to get anywhere near a board these days.

However, you would definitely have some in demand direct language skills under your belt, so life beyond the RAF should be quite rosy. I presume there is a well trodden path to GCHQ and perhaps other agencies in the triumvirate, and the Foreign Office. But I'm sure many private companies with an international footprint would bite your arm off for your skills. I doubt you'd have trouble finding work post RAF.

Does that answer your Q?

All best

Ikky



Yes, definitely answers my questions, thanks for the detailed response I appreciate it!

I have decided to not apply for WSOp Linguist, as the more I thought about it I decided that I didn't want to 'live' on the aircraft. I did take a look at Intelligence Analyst Linguist, however, I have decided to apply for an officer role.

Thanks again!
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