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Squadron Leader Ali McLean, Woman of the Year and Inspirational Awards Winner 2017

What went through your head when you heard your name read out as the Winner of the Inspirational Award, and then as the overall Woman of the Year?

To then win Woman of the Year, was completely unexpected. One of those surreal moments where I think I was having a drink of water looking around the room at the different finalists and then couldn’t quite believe it when my name was read out. My automatic response was, there are so many other finalists at the dinner who had achieved, what I believed, to be far greater things than what I had, but then, what I was pleased to acknowledge was the impact of what myself (and the team behind me) had achieved was being recognised in this forum.

What work were you nominated for? Was there a specific achievement that resulted in your nomination?

I was nominated for the Inspirational category in recognition to my determination in overcoming a life-changing and career threatening injury sustained whilst serving in Afghanistan, which led to a spinal operation in 2014, returning to full Service in the RAF and delivering an array of betterment opportunities for service personnel and their families in my role as Officer Commanding Personnel Management Squadron at Royal Air Force Odiham.

Can you provide a brief overview of your role and responsibilities?

As Officer Commanding Personnel Management Squadron at Royal Air Force Odiham, I have 5 different departments under my Command, Leadership and Management; Station personnel welfare, HR, Service discipline, Accounts Flight and Community Support. Circa 40 personnel, including Civil Servants, each department works under my command to provide Personnel Support to circa 1700 Station personnel. The Welfare team and I managed personnel in the work place who experience Diversity and Inclusion issues, individuals suffering with external pressures which affects their primary role or personnel on Long Term sick; this can be injuries to severe mental health and attempted suicides, supporting and assisting the medical support in aiming to return personnel to the work place or for a smooth transition from the Service. The Community Support team and I provide projects, information and activities to our Service community, be that whilst Serving personnel are deployed or for families and dependents in general. This spans 5 outlying Service Families Accommodation sites with an aim to include a variety of activities and support for all personnel and their families.

If you were judging the Inspirational Award category, what would you be looking for in a nomination?

Something that stands out that has impacted a variety of people and influenced other people’s lives or created a ripple effect of action or enthusiasm for further projects and ideas which benefit the greater good.

What does winning the Inspirational Award mean to you?

It was rewarding to be recognised not only for the work that I enjoy doing but also the work that I have personally dedicated a lot of time to. Equally, being recognised for the daily dedication to my injury recovery over years, which certainly wasn’t easy especially with an episode of depression, was extremely touching. If what I’ve achieved through the opportunity of the role I am in or my shear belligerence to never give up on yourself has inspired others to make things better for people, then that is truly humbling.

To also have won the overall Women in Defence category was truly unexpected and I felt very honoured, from all the finalists there that night, to have won overall. It wasn’t until after the award that I took time to reflect on what I had achieved, in a very pressured job, and realised the impact it had on a vast number of people. It was a rare opportunity to actually feel proud of the work and influence I was able to have at Royal Air Force Odiham; hearing the issues from the grass roots and being in a strategic human resource management position to be able to effect change was a real privilege.

If you had a piece of advice for future Inspirational Award nominees, what would that be?

I firmly believe that if you can improve things for others, whether that be through your own effort or that combined with your team – then do it. Not for recognition but for the pleasure it gives you to see other people in a better place and the enthusiasm that can create in others to do the same.

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