- No. 7644 Squadron RAF
No. 7644 (VR) Public Relations Squadron, RAuxAF Active 1940 – Present.
As a squadron: 1997 – Present
Country United Kingdom Branch Royal Air Force Role Media Operations Garrison/HQ RAF Halton Motto Verite a Jamais (Truth or Nothing) Commanders Current
Wing Commander Peter Clarke Honorary Air Commodore Air Commodore Alex Dickson
The squadron's role is to provide Media Operations (military speak for public relations) support for RAF and NATO forces world-wide in times of peace and war.
The unit is based at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire.
What was to become 7644 Sqn was the 1940 brainchild of Lord Beaverbrook. The government of the time identified the need to keep the public informed about the War, giving the hard facts, but also introducing servicemen and women telling their own stories. It was realised that the reporters covering the stories needed to be guided by people with dual expertise.
Lord Beaverbrook's idea was to find information experts with a service background or interest and ask them to become officers in each of the Armed Forces. Almost everyone approached volunteered and so was formed the first specialist public relations unit in the RAFVR.
After the War, the RAF recognised the benefits of maintaining a small number of journalists in uniform. After being part of other units, these PR specialists became No 7644 (VR) Public Relations Sqn RAuxAF at the amalgamation of the RAFVR and the RAuxAF on 5 Apr 1997.
The RAF has full-time officers serving in communications, notably at 7644's headquarters unit, Media & Communication Group at Air Command, RAF High Wycombe. 7644 personnel support these professionals whenever required. The role might be to organise a one-off media facility, or provide longer term effort by standing in as a Corporate Communications Officer at an RAF Station, or running a Media Operations unit on a Deployed Operating Base, as for example during the Iraq War.
Using its journalist's skills, the squadron prepares a large number of news releases, 'home town stories' on serving personnel, and video and audio news releases for the media. Often exercises and operations in the Royal Air Force happen at short notice, and in distant parts of the world. Organising a full press trip may not be possible, or affordable, so 7644 can provide the personnel and equipment to gather material which is sent out to media at home for them to make their own stories out of.
The Royal Air Force is keen to promote its image, and develop a reputation for being open and honest. To achieve this, officers of all ranks need a range of media training and particularly interview training. This gives them the confidence to agree to interview requests from the media, and be able to answer questions directly in a friendly manner, supported by appropriately trained specialist media staff. 7644 Sqn provides a range of media training, supporting units such as the Media Operations Training unit based at RAF Halton, the Joint Services Command and Staff College at Shrivenham, and the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.
In order to give RAF personnel a chance to experience contact with the media, 7644 officers act as 'simulated' press at exercises, to provide an authentic and robust experience of what it is like to be a subject in front of the microphone or camera. These can be small events, or major exercises involving hundreds of personnel over several days, of which the media and public relations element will only be a small part. An important element is being fair, but robust in questioning, and preparing individuals for what may be difficult encounters with reporters.
Other media and publications
Using their skills 7644 Squadron produce various individual pieces of work ranging from magazines and other publications, to video productions.
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