The 820th Base Defense Group at Moody Air Force Base welcomed Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Chris Bradshaw as part of a larger exchange program between the RAF and U.S. Air Force that encompasses positions from the Pentagon down.
Hailing from the Force Protection Force of the RAF Regiment, with nearly 14 years of service, Bradshaw currently holds the position of director of operations at the 824th BDS.
“The relationship that the Royal Air Force has had with the base defense group is longstanding because we are likely to operate together,” Bradshaw said via a statement from the USAF. “Every year there is a tri-service exercise between the U.K., the French and the Americans. The position here is to help develop that exercising program to make sure relationships are maintained and that we can be interoperable as we move forward into next-generation warfare.”
The position is filled on a volunteer basis. Applicants volunteered about a year and a half early and the RAF chose from that list. After being chosen, Bradshaw still had to complete a number of tasks to secure his position in the 820th BDG.
“I’ve moved over my family as well,” Bradshaw said. “So to bring my wife, who is an active-duty Royal Air Force officer and my son – that was a bit more tricky, (but) fortunately, the (Royal) Air Force managed to give her a three-year career break. We had to jump through that hoop initially to make sure we could continue on the process.
“Then, it was all the visa applications, making sure that I came out here and got to meet who I was going to work for. Then, it was just bouncing back and forth to sort out schooling and education for my son. There was a lot, but it’s been worth it.”
The Force Protection Force’s role is to mitigate vulnerabilities and ensure end-to-end protection of air and space power, at home or deployed. Bradshaw previously worked in Train Advise Assist Command – Air, in the air-to-ground role as a joint terminal attack controller.
“(A few years ago), that’s what I did for (about) four and a half years,” Bradshaw said. “Having that experience and then working for the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing, I understand what they’re talking about because I speak the language, too.
“I became the director of operations for the 824th BDS because they wanted to plug-and-play some experience of mine. I’ll sit in that position for 18 months. Then, the plan is to move up to the group where I’ll conduct work directly for the colonel in an area of his choosing.”
Bradshaw isn’t the only one bringing unique opportunities to the table. The BDG offers multiple capabilities such as air assault, airborne, ranger and jungle courses that Bradshaw will be able to participate in and learn from.
“That will be good for me operating as an entity on the ground, protecting and defending our RAF assets and infrastructure,” Bradshaw said. “To have that link would be quite beneficial. I’m not going to get the opportunity again and I need to prove the concept for future exchange personnel that it’s open; the door is there. You need to step in and jump out.”
The tactical skills Bradshaw has and will have learned are not the only things he’s taking away from his time with the BDG. Bradshaw says his favorite experience from the program has been seeing people from diverse backgrounds and he’s looking forward to meeting more as he moves to new positions.
“The U.S. is so huge compared to the U.K. that even at the squadron level, you’ve got people from so many different backgrounds, so many different life hurdles and obstacles they’ve had to overcome, that the breadth of individual is vast,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve been extremely well integrated, well looked-after. Everyone is extremely friendly. I still get treated equally, which is as expected.
“It’s been a big change for us having to come across to make this leap, but it’s been made easier by that fact that people have been so welcoming.”