Wednesday 13th October 2021

A lifetime’s work with people, businesses and organisations fittingly qualifies Veronica Pickering to be the Honorary Air Commodore for No 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron.

Veronica Moraa Pickering was born in Kenya and moved to England with her parents in the late 60’s. For over 25 years she has worked as a Social Worker, and then as an International Child Protection Consultant for the UN and many NGO’s all over Africa.

Ms Pickering now works as an Executive Coach and Mentor with companies and organisations across the UK but made history after becoming the first black woman and Kenyan to be appointed as an RAF Honorary Air Commodore. She is also a Deputy Lieutenant for Nottinghamshire, and it is in this role that she met Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, formerly Chief of the Air Staff.

Mrs Veronica Pickering with community leaders from the Samburu people in Kenya.
Mrs Veronica Pickering with community leaders from the Samburu people in Kenya.

Ms Pickering said: “I had no idea about 504 Squadron, but Sir Andrew was very interested in the work I’d been doing in Nottinghamshire and in the UK with families, communities and businesses and also as a Deputy Lieutenant.

There were obvious parallels between Ms Pickering’s work with diverse communities and as a coach, and the ethos of the Royal Air Force. She said: “Coaching is also about mentoring, supporting people to identify their strengths and helping people grow but in an intensely focused way. 504 Squadron is made up of volunteers who want to give something back and learn something to help improve their own lives – it feels like this is what I do as a coach.”

No 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron was originally a flying unit and saw action during the Battle of Britain. Today 504 Squadron is a Reserve Logistics Support Unit. It recruits, trains and employs Chefs, Drivers, Suppliers, and General Electrical and Mechanical Technicians. The Squadron has personnel at RAF Stations across the UK and in deployed locations around the world.

Working with the community on Windrush Day in Nottingham. From left to right: Reverend Clive Foster (Pastor, The Pilgrim Church, Nottingham), Mrs Veronica Pickering, Right Reverend Paul Williams (the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham).
Working with the community on Windrush Day in Nottingham. From left to right: Reverend Clive Foster (Pastor, The Pilgrim Church, Nottingham), Mrs Veronica Pickering, Right Reverend Paul Williams (the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham).

Squadron Leader Andy Ham is Officer Commanding 504 Squadron. He said: “We’re hugely honoured to have Air Commodore Pickering as our Honorary Air Commodore.  As an immigrant who’s made a huge success of her life, she brings an entirely fresh perspective, and the Squadron is really benefiting from that.  She’s encouraged us to explore and better understand what diversity and inclusion really means to members of the Black, Asian, Oriental, and Eastern European communities who contribute so much to the fabric of life in the UK.”

The reaction to the release of Honorary Air Commodore Pickering’s official pictures, particularly in Kenya, took her by surprise. She said: “I was amazed by the reaction in Kenya, humbled by it. My cousins were calling and texting me, letting me know that I had featured on local radio. I had never done anything that people back home had tweeted about, it’s very strange.”

Squadron Leader Ham continued: “We’re better equipped to recruit talented members from those groups in the Midlands.  Our objective is to make 504 Squadron truly representative of the communities we live amongst, and Air Commodore Pickering is helping us to achieve that.”

Although the official images have only recently been released, Veronica Pickering has been 504 Squadron’s Honorary Air Commodore for around three years. In that time, she and the RAF have had significant impacts on each other; Ms Pickering has been made an ambassador for the RAF Museums, and she has enjoyed a steep, but fulfilling learning curve. 

Honorary Air Commodore Pickering concluded: “I am super proud to be the first black woman to be appointed to this position, and to represent the RAF and be part of the 504 team. I am amazed by the all the skills, the technology, science and engineering, and constantly fascinated and surprised by the RAF and it’s amazing people.”

See also: New Station Commander at Royal Air Force Wittering

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