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Ready to deploy

06 September 2023

Warrant officer air cargo at RAF Brize Norton is a varied and challenging role, from managing dangerous goods to assisting in earthquake relief operations. Sim Rezazadeh-Wilson talks though her role and how her initiatives earned her a nomination at the recent Everywoman Transport & Logistics Awards.

RAF BRIZE Norton is a huge facility, base of the air transport fleet, and home to almost 6,000 service personnel. Sim Rezazadeh-Wilson is Warrant Officer Air Cargo, Air Movs Sqn, at the base - a role which plays a key role in supporting overseas operations.

Sim is also one of the lead instructors at Royal Air Force Brize Norton for Diversity and Inclusion, delivering training to personnel to ensure that everyone is aware of the value that diversity adds to the workforce. This led to Sim’s nomination in the Industry Champion category at the Everywoman Transport & Logistics Awards 2023.

Sim explains: “I was absolutely shocked to receive the nomination for the Everywoman Awards. There’s only three female warrant officers, which is the highest non-commissioned rank. I am the youngest and achieved it the quickest, which I am very proud of. I like to push the boundaries. 

“When I joined there was few women in my trade, certainly none with kids, and I had horrendous treatment when I started. I always said that I didn’t want to see youngsters going through what I went though. Now, my squadron leader is female, our wing commander is female and the base commander is female.”

Sim has noted increasing support being given to women to keep them in the force. For example, there is more understanding and support around the onset of menopause, which in the past would often prompt women to leave the occupation. Now extra leave has been introduced to help women out.

Other quick wins pushed for by Sim include relaxing the requirement for women to tie their hair back in tight buns. 

Sim explains: “I did some research showing women were suffering headaches and hair loss from this. So now we have a new policy where women can have their hair in plaits and ponytails. It may sound trivial but it’s a massive win for women in the Air Force. “Similarly, I’ve introduced a policy for our formal number 5 uniform, so women can wear trousers instead of a skirt if they prefer. It’s about making everybody feel included, which is very important.”

Sim plays a part in the RAF Gender Network, which organises events to highlight women’s experiences [as well as issues affecting men and non-binary people].

Streamline processes

Supporting day-to-day operations is challenging enough in itself, with the team at Brize Norton taking logistics responsibility for emergency relief, scheduled passenger flights to the Falklands, supporting deployments abroad, and more.

Sim explains: “We have 280 people in the air movement squadron, and we manage all passengers, freight, mail, explosives, everything, from UK to operations worldwide. The fleet includes Voyagers and C-17s. The Hercules have recently been retired, I was sad to see them go.

“It’s about making sure we stick to policies and streamline our processes where we can.”

Examples of recent deployments Sim has been involved include helping to airlift British nationals from South Sudan following unrest, and transporting emergency relief to Turkey following February’s catastrophic earthquake.

“Making a difference is great, and I was proud to work on these missions,” continues Sim.

Strict adherence to policy is critical given the nature of the operations, with emphasis on training and compliance. Sim is an authorised explosives representative and the rules around transporting such dangerous goods can be complex, and a challenge to manage. 

Sim explains: “At the same time, we can’t delay, we have to get aircraft out on time, because of the impacts this can have around the world. I’ve been in the Air Force for 21 years and air cargo has changed so much, When I first joined we didn’t have regulations around dangerous goods, we didn’t have lithium batteries then. You’ve got to be thorough, take time to do the exceptions, build pallets correctly, do your segregation correctly, and be able to jettison if needed.”

At a time of retention challenges for the RAF, the force has recognised the need to word hard to keep levels of competence high. As Sim shows, as well as being the right thing to do, inclusion plays an important practical role.

The 2023 Safety in Logistics digital conference will be broadcast live online on November 15 and will be available on demand for a year after. Sim Rezazadeh-Wilson, Warrant Officer Air Cargo, RAF Brize Norton will present on how the RAF has built and maintains a successful safety culture in a challenging, fast-paced environment, with key takeaways applicable across the supply chain.