Fleet Air Arm Sailor of the year awarded to Culdrose safety expert

A Sailor from RNAS Culdrose, responsible for ensuring the safety of Royal Navy Fast Jet Pilots, has won the first ever ‘Fleet Air Arm Sailor of the Year’ award.

Petty Officer Matthew ‘Willow’ Williams was recognised for his efforts to maintain the safety of those who fly Hawk jets on Royal Navy’s Adversary unit, 736 Naval Air Squadron.

Sixteen men and women from across the Fleet Air Arm (the Royal Navy’s Flying Force), were invited to the Houses of Parliament for the Arm’s first ever Navy Wings ‘Live your Life’ Awards Dinner. 

All of the individuals attending have been recognised for their contribution to the Fleet Air Arm during the past year. 

It is really nice to receive the award and be recognised for the hard work that my team does.

Petty Officer Matthew Williams

Some operate on the front line and others behind the scenes, but they all have one thing in common; they are worth of commendation as the Head of the Fleet Air Arm was keen to point out.

Rear Admiral Keith Blount (OBE) said: “This is my opportunity to gather and thank those that have received awards for their extraordinary hard work or talented flying skill over the last 12 months in support of the Fleet Air Arm and the nation. 

“I am extremely proud of them all and I hope that by inviting them to meet Members of Parliament and visit the most important ‘House’ in the country, they realise just how much they are valued.

“All of the event organisers agreed that PO Williams should be awarded ‘FAA Sailor of the Year’ because of his outstanding contribution to the safety of those who fly in the Royal Navy’s fast jets.”

Award recipients included a Royal Navy pilot serving in America to gain fast jet experience, others who have contributed to flight safety and the design of the new aircraft carrier, and those who train others in frontline operations.

Engineers and Survival Equipment experts were also present, as were those who are responsible for leading physical training and adventurous training expeditions. 

During the evening, only made possible with the support of Keith Knowles (OBE), Founder of ‘Beds and Bars’ and the Navy Wings Charity, a special award was presented to recognise the ‘Fleet Air Arm Sailor of the Year’.

This award, a Bremont watch, was given to Petty Officer Matthew ‘Willow’ Williams for his efforts to improve safety on Royal Navy’s Adversary Squadron, 736 NAS based at RNAS Culdrose.

The watch was kindly donated and presented by Mr Giles English, one of the founding brothers of the Bremont Watch Company.

“There were a lot of people nominated who have done an excellent job this year, so to be selected from the group was amazing,” said PO Williams, who ensures that fast jet pilots have the right safety and survival equipment to enable them to fly.

“The evening was something that I will never forget and I hope that it inspires others to work towards this award next year.

“It is really nice to receive the award and be recognised for the hard work that my team does.”

“My job is all about looking after all the survival equipment for aircraft on the fixed wing force at Culdrose.

“I work in a team of three and we make sure that all the pilots have the right survival equipment to perform their role; helmets, oxygen masks and aircrew preservers.

“It is the equipment that keeps them alive. I really enjoy working with the Royal Navy Fixed Wing Force and hope to one day work with those flying the new F-35B.”

Commanding Officer of 736 NAS Lt Cdr Barry Issitt said: “Within the Fast Jet world, the hostility of the in-cockpit environment of a fighter jet is arguably only surpassed by strapping yourself to a rocket into space.

“Each pilot’s flight equipment doesn’t just increase chances of survival should the worst happen, it is absolutely fundamental to keeping aircrew alive at the extremes of altitude, speed and G that we encounter on every flight. 

“The care and maintenance of the equipment is of paramount importance; any minor problem or issue can have fatal consequences. 

“We quite literally put our lives in the (capable) hands of PO Williams’ outstanding team each and every time we fly.”