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Apache pilot dream for former barman

A former barman is closing in on his dream of piloting Apache attack helicopters.

Airtrooper Kai Yardley, aged 20, from Solihull, Birmingham, started as a pot washer before moving behind the bar when he turned 18.

But as much as he enjoyed the experience, he always had his sights set on his dream career and now, just two years later, his eyes are very much fixed on that prize.

An Aviation Communication Specialist with 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, based in Wattisham, he recently deployed to Estonia on Exercise Spring Storm.

I’ve always had a passion for aircraft... Airtrooper Kai Yardley

The month-long NATO exercise saw 14,000 land, sea, and air personnel from 11 countries demonstrating interoperability in multi-domain training scenarios.

Of his previous job, Kai said: “I worked there for about a year and a half, started as a pot washer, then turned 18, got behind the bar and really enjoyed it. It was good fun.

“But I’ve always wanted to be a soldier, and a pilot in an attack helicopter. That was my dream.

“My grandad was in the RAF, so I’ve always had a passion for aircraft and his stories got me interested. I see the Apaches in movies and think ‘I want a piece of that’.”

Instead of washing pots and pulling pints, his day-to-day role now involves ensuring the seamless operation of an air assault squadron.

He said: “Our role is mission planning, assisting the pilots, making sure their maps are up to date and everything is running smoothly.

It will be an entirely new ball game with new challenges. Airtrooper Kai Yardley

“When they fly out, we talk to them on their taskings, getting updates and when they come back in, we coordinate the ground crew and carry out post mission briefs, making sure the right videos have been recorded.

“Next year we transition into the new Apache E model. We’ll be a lot more grounded exercise-wise, however, it does mean that we’ll be trialling a new aircraft, learning new skills. It will be an entirely new ball game with new challenges.”

The former Heart of England and School and Prince Henry’s Sixth Form pupil added: “I’ve submitted my application so, hopefully, within a couple of years, I’ll be flying Apaches myself.”

Now living in Droitwich, he has also enjoyed other aspects of Army life and experiencing other countries including France and Norway.

We deploy to the Arctic circle, alongside the Navy. Airtrooper Kai Yardley

Speaking while in Estonia, he said: “I’ve really enjoyed this exercise. Our squadron’s main function is Arctic maritime, so we deploy to the Arctic Circle, alongside the Navy, on and off ships. It’s a lot different working as a land-based support unit. It’s a bit of a learning curve.”

One of Kai’s personal highlights was getting to see the Northern Lights while on exercise in Norway. A deployment which also presented his biggest challenge.

“We were up in the Arctic circle, in -20C temperatures, spending five days in the field learning how to survive. We were left to our own devices for the final 18 hours.

“It was a group of about 25 people on the course and the camaraderie really helped us get through it.”

The Army is a lot less strict than I was expecting... Airtrooper Kai Yardley

On Army culture and opportunities, he said: “The Army is a lot less strict than I was expecting, a lot more relaxed.

“I was head of the squadron swimming team and part of the basketball team. I’m really into athletic events.”

“It has built my confidence in social situations. I can speak my mind a lot more, get my point across, and gain the respect of others and in myself. I’m a more well-rounded person.”

“If you’re thinking of joining the Army, I’d say do what you want to do. If you have an itch to scratch, something you aspire to be, then do that.”

If you’re thinking of joining the Army, I’d say do what you want to do... Airtrooper Kai Yardley

The UK rehearsed the reinforcement of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP) Estonia to Brigade-level strength alongside its French allies from 15 to 26 May.

The British Army’s 7 Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team (7LMBCT) HQ and Light Dragoons Battlegroup (LD BG) joined the Queen’s Royal Hussars (QRH BG) for Ex Spring Storm.

Participating countries were the UK, Estonia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and USA.

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