The citation for the 2022 award given by Senior Warden Simon Underwood.

Worshipful Company of Arbitrators 2022 Blondie Swales award for Number 622 Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron.


Squadron Leader O’Brien had an exceptional eighteen years in the regular Royal Air Force. Trained as a pilot, they spent the majority of their regular service on the Hercules C130 aircraft, operating it globally on the most dangerous operational missions that could be expected of the aircraft and crew.


However, it is for their reservist role that they have been nominated for this award. O’Brien joined a small number of ex regular Royal Air Force reservist pilots supporting the C130 Force. Their exceptional leadership qualities were soon recognised and they were asked by the officer commanding to scope setting up a new Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron. It was their drive, enthusiasm and dedication that led to the reformation of Number 622 Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron on 1 October 2012. These same attributes led to them becoming the officer commanding in March 2013. Understanding the value and support that reservists could provide to the RAF, O’Brien set about successfully increasing both the number of roles and then the numbers of reservists on the Squadron, leading to the current squadron size of over 90 military personnel (an increase of over 400%).


O’Brien’s work led to 622 Squadron being recognised as a leading reservist squadron providing a high tempo of operational output in direct support to the RAF and the MOD. Following their numerous briefings to the RAF Senior Leadership team, their squadron model was used as the template and subsequently run out across the rest of the RAF with the creation of the RAF Base Support Groups. Recognition for their work was rewarded with them receiving an MBE in 2019.


Throughout their tenure as the officer commanding, they had also been used as the strategic lead for reservist aircrew and aircraft supporting roles ‘term and conditions of service’. This led to them thing the focal point for hundreds of furloughed commercial pilots who were looking to join the RAF during the COVID pandemic. Their planning then led on the introduction of a new lateral entry recruiting process that directly led to the seamless transition of civilian pilots into the RAF Reserves.


O’Brien’s leadership of 622 Squadron has been exemplary and they are highly regarded by all that have worked with and for them.  This includes previous Squadron members from the Second World War. Their personal efforts have directly led remaining members to meet on numerous occasions, including at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln and the RAF Bomber Command Commemorations in London. These events led to building of relationships and the cementing of the Squadron ethos and pride in its individual Squadron history.  In addition to this, they were the driving force behind the Squadron getting the funding and replacement of its Squadron slate crest located in the floor of St Clement Danes Church in London. They were also instrumental in creating of the affiliation between the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators and 622 Squadron in 2018 and kindly hosted the inaugural visit at RAF Brize Norton. Prior to handing over the Squadron to its current officer commanding, O’Brien commissioned a new piece of Squadron silver, on which the annual winner of the Blondie Swales award will have a named plaque placed on its base so that their name can be seen in perpetuity.





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