The Station Commander at RAF Boulmer has described his tour at the base as the highlight of his career as he prepares to move on.
Group Captain Paul Atkinson was speaking at the annual reception for members of the local community held in the Officers’ Mess on Thursday.
He is set to hand over the reins to his successor, Group Captain Mark Coleman.
He said: “I am very proud of my people and of the job that they do. I move on in eight weeks’ time with huge regret having had a fantastic two years. My tour as Station Commander of RAF Boulmer has been the highlight of my career and this is, in no small part, due to the welcome that my wife Siân and I have received from members of the local community, who continue to support the station, our personnel and their families.
“It would be really difficult for us to do the job that we do here without such great support and we really value the engagement with the local community.
“One of the features of the Royal Air Force in the last 20 years is servicemen and women are increasingly buying or renting houses locally. The pattern of moving every two years appears to be changing.
“So for us to feel as welcome as we do here and to be able to give something back is important to us. Thank you for your friendship.”
The event gave RAF Boulmer personnel the opportunity to meet representatives of the many organisations with which the station is associated.
During the evening, Group Captain Atkinson gave a presentation on the variety of work conducted by personnel over the last year, from the Station’s vital role in UK Air Defence, conducted 24/7 at the Control and Reporting Centre, to its important responsibility for providing Air Battle Management training, not only for the RAF but for allied nations as well as the Royal Navy and Army.
He said A Flight 202 Search and Rescue Squadron continued to operate around the clock in all winds and weathers and RAF Boulmer personnel were serving in Afghanistan, the Middle East and in the Falklands Islands.
He added the Station was very proud of its links with the local community, working with local schools, charities and veterans and youth organisations.
The reception was rounded off by a Sunset Ceremony on the lawn during which The Band of 5 Royal Regiment of Fusiliers played a selection of music.
A ceremonial guard of honour provided a general salute for the Lowering of the Ensign and the evening concluded with the National Anthem.
Group Captain Coleman, who will take over at RAF Boulmer in July, is currently Director of National Air Defence and Space Operations at Headquarters Air Command.