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A New Era Starts for Master Aircrew

Chief of Air Force (CAF) Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Graham Lintott, Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOAF) Keith Gell and Commanding Officer of Operational Support Wing (COOSW) Wing Commander (WGCDR) Cummings attended a formal Dining-In for 35 Warrant Officers and Master Aircrew (MACR) at Base Auckland’s W/O and SNCO Mess on 29 June.

Warrant Officer Pierre Hilliard

It was the end of an era on 1 July when the Master Aircrew and Warrant Officer ranks were recombined.

Senior personnel managers decided that in today’s joint environment it is time to remove the delineation at the top of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) rank structure, which has caused confusion with other Services in New Zealand and with our coalition partners overseas.

The RNZAF rank structure is still very much based on the Royal Air Force (RAF), which in 1946 brought in separate branches for ground crew and aircrew. Prior to 1946, there was no differentiation between aircrew and ground crew Warrant Officers. The ground crew structure was similar to what we are currently familiar with, however the aircrew ranks went from Aircrew 1 through to Aircrew 4 plus Master Aircrew at the top. Incidentally, between 1950 and 1964 Technical Warrant Officers were designated ‘Master Technicians’ in the RAF. The separate structure for NCO Aircrew proved to be confusing and unpopular and was dropped in 1950, but the Master Aircrew title for Aircrew W/Os was retained and is still used in the RAF today.

A formal Dining-In was held at RNZAF Base Auckland W/O and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) Mess to mark the occasion of the recombination of the senior SNCO ranks in the RNZAF. The function was attended by CAF AVM Lintott, COOSW WGCDR Cummings and 35 Warrant Officers and Master Aircrew. One would have to say there combination of ranks was either not popular and/or greeted with general apathy as 35/130 Warrant Officer and Master Aircrew is a poor turnout regardless of the current operational tempo.

During the evening, presentations were made by the CAF to MACRs Pete Hilliard and John Voice for completing 20 years service as MACR -an outstanding and committed effort not to mention the extra overseas allowances during that time.

An excellent dinner was served at the Whenuapai Combined Mess and old Friendships and contacts reaffirmed by all those who attended. During the formal part of the dinner, MACR John Voice spoke on the history of the MACR rank (thanks for the facts and figures JV) and WOAF Keith Gell spoke of how we must always look to the future, focussing on leadership and the mentoring functions of both the Master Aircrew and Warrant Officer ranks. The Chairman of the Mess Committee (CMC) of the Auckland W/O and SNCOs Mess, MACR Dave Lark finished off the formal speeches by reciting Concise Oxford Dictionary definitions of W/O and Master and reiterated that we need to look forward to the future of the recombined air and ground W/O ranks and embrace the proposition as it is not going to change in the near future.

My personal slant on the issue is that there are differences in the roles of aircrew and many ground W/Os, especially with aircrew that are serving on flying squadrons, as they are first and foremost, ‘hands-on operators’ and then senior instructors. However, aircrew W/Os have the same supervisory and mentoring functions to their junior tradesmen as all Warrant Officers and are expected to fulfil the same RNZAF disciplinary and welfare duties. Indeed, more and more aircrew W/Os are/will be posted into general New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) W/O posts and this aspect of our careers needs to be embraced with the same professional approach as our aircrew jobs.

The decision has been made to recombine the ranks, let’s get on with the tasks at hand.