Meet the team
Maria Lyle, Director
I joined the RAF Families Federation in late 2018 after a varied career – including serving in the RAF, working in leadership roles in local and central government, and most recently as a Director for a large IT Operations specialist.
I am passionate about voicing the concerns of Serving Personnel and families to policy makers and senior leaders, and trying to ensure that the Federation team represents you all. Whether you are single, in a relationship, have children – or have other caring responsibilities – the Federation is here for you and wants to understand your experiences and challenges. Please get in touch and raise issues with us via the ‘log an issue’ route on the website. It really does make a difference.
Ruth McClelland, Office Manager
As Office Manager I am often the first point of contact and am responsible for all aspects of the office including health & safety, travel requirements and resources.
Having been married to a ‘Heavy’ for over 30 years I followed my husband around and have encountered the ups and downs of changes in my career path. Working any job around family life with flexibility to accommodate the RAF requirements of my husband. I worked in a bank (cleaning lol) and various shops, pubs and offices. I spent nearly 15 years in prisons, working in various departments and have successfully pulled all this experience together and utilise these skills in this position.
Caroline Woodward, Communications Manager
I have been at the Families Federation now for nearly five years having worked previously in various comms and marketing roles in the third sector from organisations such as the Young Farmers’ Clubs through to more recently sight loss organisations – RNIB and Guide Dogs.
I absolutely love promoting the work of the Families Federation through our many channels. (Nick even says that if I’m not out on the road talking to people for at least one day a week, I can be a pain to work with!). This includes sharing what news and services are out there in the wider armed forces community which personnel and families can tap into (there are hundreds!). I still feel lucky to be the editor of Envoy – our free quarterly magazine and by having my feelers out and gathering content, there is still so much to listen to and learn about life in the RAF!
Nick Crouch, Communications Assistant
I started my career as an apprentice draughtsman and my working life has been in a variety of industries and roles from working on gas pipelines to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) for the RAF. Latterly, for almost 20 years, I earnt my living in the publishing and marketing sectors, which stood me in good stead for my current position.
My daily jobs here include graphic design, gathering and posting news onto our website (I have to admit I’m a bit OCD on GoogleAnalytics) along with our social media channels and weekly eBulletin.
Tor Johnson, Dispersed Families Project Manager
I was recruited to the RAF Families Federation to manage the Dispersed Families project, starting in June 2017. Having left the RAF in 2006 I spent ten years working in education management, enjoying living in our own home whilst my serving husband commuted to various postings.
These former careers gave me a broad range of skills and experiences – from managing change programmes to interior design! But it is my personal understanding of life as a dispersed RAF family that has been most beneficial since joining the Families Federation. Although we are spending our current tour back in quarters I am still passionate about championing the needs of those families who are not living in quarters, or who have been allocated accommodation away from their station.
Richard Coleman, Evidence Manager
I was fortunate enough to join the team in April 2019 as the Evidence and Issues Manager. After 22 years’ service with the British Army and a short 18 month experiment with teaching within Further Education, I was looking for a role that could utilise my Joint Services management experience. Having completed seven years of tri-service roles, experience has taught me that things rarely change if people facing specific challenges do not express their concerns. As an independent voice for all Serving Personnel and families we collate evidence in an attempt to inform and influence those in a position to implement change. Things will get better if we speak with one voice.
Stan Brathwaite, Accommodation Assistant (job share)
With 38 years as a communications electronic engineer in the RAF and a further three years in the same roles as a contractor in the MOD, at all of the very interesting isolated detachments has sculpted a highly polished cynic of all things establishment-related. However as a young thrusting Corporal, the moves between five stations, eight married quarters and the associated family disruption in a nine-year period was the last straw that saw me and my wife scrambling into the private housing market. That was the precursor for the mortgage rates to rise exponentially, 15% or more, oops! We stoically dug in and survived. Does this qualify me to represent families? You might think not, however in my defence, I find it a privilege to assist RAF families and serving personnel, especially as a number of organisations seem to need more than a gentle reminder of the very important role that you all play in the defence of the realm.
Ken Wood, Evidence Assistant
I started in the Families Federation in April 2019 and am looking forward to the role and being one of the main points of contact for serving personnel or families who contact us with concerns or enquiries.
I was in the Royal Air Force for 22 years as a Mechanical Transport Driver from 1987 to 2008 and in this time I served in various roles and units including RAF Innsworth, in the Netherlands on a NATO Unit, RAF Henlow and RAF Saxa Vord. I also completed various out-of-area tours throughout my career. After leaving the RAF I went to work at HMP Peterborough in various roles from a Prison Officer to an Offender Supervisor. Finally working in a Public Protection department working alongside the Police and other outside agencies such as Probation and Children’s Services.
Lisa Thipthorp, Policy and Operations Manager
I made the natural move from RAF Association Welfare Project Manager to the RAF Families Federation in 2015 and have enjoyed every minute (well, mostly!) since I arrived. To be part of a committed team of experts whose purpose is to make life better for our serving personnel and their families is a very good reason to get out of bed in the morning!
Being the Policy and Operations Manager has allowed me to get closer to some of the vast number of research projects being conducted around the country (and abroad). Research and evidence is at the heart of everything we do so it is vital that we work closely with these institutions. Happily, academics are very keen to ensure the voice of the family is heard and we are keen to ensure work is ongoing in the policy areas where greatest change and most significant positive impact is felt.
Alison Cotton, Policy Advisor (Health & Additional Needs)
I am delighted to be taking up this role with the RAF Families Federation and using my knowledge and experience to benefit members of the RAF and their families. I am moving out of Education, where I have had a full career, most recently in the area of Special Educational Needs (SEN).
In March 2019, I also completed a three year MSc in Global Military Veterans and Families Studies at Anglia Ruskin University. My studies included reviewing the research around the area of the psychological impact of deployment on military personnel and the mental health of children who have a parent who has been deployed. My final assignment focussed on the importance of educating healthcare professionals, such as GPs and Nurses, to have an awareness of the military lifestyle and culture and to understand how it may impact on military personnel and their families’ lifestyle, health and behaviour.
Louise Briggs, Policy Advisor (Education and Childcare)
I have worked for the RAF Families Federation since October 2016, initially as the Transition Liaison Manager, on a funded project collaborating with the Naval and Army Families Federation to produce a report. This report was about families’ experiences of transition to civilian life, called ‘Lifting the Lid on Transition – the families’ experience and the support they need.’ The work was funded by the Forces in Mind Trust and was published in November 2018.
Since March 2019, I have been in this new role as Policy Advisor for Education and Childcare and am thoroughly enjoying working in this new field, understanding policy and initiatives and helping RAF serving personnel and families in this key area that impacts so many. This also nicely utilises my professional background in Higher Education administration and management.
After growing up as a military child, I am now a military wife – married to a serving RAF Officer since 2002 with two children. Last year, my husband left regular service and joined the full time reserve service and we are now settled in Lincolnshire enjoying a new lease of life with stability and the ability to actually plan life!