RAF Veteran and Reservist goes the distance for SSAFA

Former RAF Chinook Crewman and current Boeing employee tackles 500-mile cycle challenge across the UK

Simon O’Brien, from Hook in Hampshire, has set himself a series of cycle challenges to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Simon – also known as ‘OB’ – is the Lead Operations Analyst at Boeing’s Portal in Hampshire and through a series of cycle challenges, will be connecting key military and Boeing sites across the UK, with the aim to raise £5,000 to help current and ex-serving, and their families.

OB joined Boeing in 2017 after serving 34 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF). The former helicopter crewman returned to full time Reservist duty earlier this year when he was mobilised to support Joint Helicopter Command as part of the military’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

He said

“With so many SSAFA fundraising events cancelled or postponed this year due to COVID-19, including the London-Brighton cycle ride that I was due to take part in, I simply couldn’t sit back and do nothing. I came up with this individual challenge idea, which allows me to go it alone on my bike while joining the dots between the military communities along the way. It’s my way of recognising and honouring the hard work of SSAFA who have continued to support the Armed Forces family throughout – and in spite of – the pandemic.”

Over 200 miles have been cycled by OB so far, taking in RAF Odiham, RAF Benson and the RAF Museum, Hendon. Future cycle routes are set to include RNAS Yeovilton, Middle Wallop – home of the Army Air Corps – and the naval town of Gosport, which is also a key Boeing site. Current plans are to finish at RAF Lossiemouth, the new home of the RAF’s fleet of Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon.

Alice Young, Senior Special Events Officer at SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity said: “We are grateful to OB for thinking outside of the box to adapt his support of our vital work with the military community. Now, more than ever, we need to be able to respond to the men, women and families who make up our Forces family swiftly and effectively – and every penny raised from this amazing challenge will go towards underpinning this aim. Everyone at SSAFA would like to say a massive thank you and wish OB the best of luck with the rest of his ride”.

OB is also a member of Boeing Reservists and Veterans Organisation (BRAVO) in the UK, the community that connects veterans, reserves and colleagues across Boeing UK.

“OB is one of many Boeing employees who are veterans or active reservists and work alongside their military counterparts within the broader UK defence community”, said Mick Richens, President of Boeing’s Reservist and Veteran Organisation (BRAVO) in the UK. “As Boeing UK’s chosen charity of the year, we’ve been proud to see that SSAFA has been using the Boeing Emergency Fund to help those directly affected by COVID-19. We wish OB the best of luck with completing this impressive challenge, the entire BRAVO community are right behind him.”

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