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Jul 1 2020

Wing Commander Sarah Tunstall

43, Born in London, England

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Adaptable - Experienced - Mum

One of the best things about being an officer in the Royal Air Force is the variety of opportunities and challenges you are faced with. To thrive in such an environment it is necessary to be adaptable and flexible.

I like working in a team and am happy to fit into whatever role is required to ensure success. Sometimes that means taking the lead but other times, it means supporting others or using my experience to guide and mentor colleagues. I am able to adapt quickly to new working environments and different cultures. The last few months the Coronavirus crisis has really tested us all and I have been thankful that my career has helped me to cope with uncertainty and to adapt to a new way of working, living and homeschooling!

Having served in the military for over 20 years I have lived and worked in so many interesting and different locations. I have significant operational experience having served in Kosovo, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar and the Falkland Islands, but have also worked in our UK Military procurement system, commanded a specialist Trails and Evaluation Unit and instructed at the UK Command and Staff College. I have also spent 2 years as an Exchange Officer in the USA and attended the German Staff Officers Course in Hamburg. This breadth of experience helps me to bring a wider perspective and challenge some of the accepted norms.

Being a Mum is definitely the hardest job I’ve done – but undoubtedly the most rewarding. I have two wonderful children who make me proud every day. They are resilient and open-minded; they enjoy travelling and meeting new people, all of which I put down to them being brought up in a military family. I love being a military officer, a logistics professional and having a career; but as a working Mum I have to try to balance work and family life. Coronavirus has, undoubtedly, made this even harder. Since the schools shut in March 2020 I have had the new challenge of homeschooling. I have tried to focus on the positives and enjoyed the extra time this has given me with the children and I have been thankful for the support from my command chain enabling me to work from home.

What makes your home country special to you?

History - Diversity - Churches

England has a long and rich history, which I think, makes the country special. It is easy to overlook what your own country has to offer until you travel to other countries and meet other people who have a different heritage. I have learnt a lot about my own country by talking to people from foreign countries.

England is relatively small compared to many other countries but it is very diverse. The countryside and cities, regions and people vary greatly between north and south, east and west. The mountains of Wales and Scotland are stunning and the coastal walks in Cornwall are beautiful. Often people who visit the UK only go to London and I try to explain that London is not England and England is not the UK. My recommendation to anyone who wants to visit UK is ‘get out of London’ visit Bath, Oxford, Edinburgh if you like cities or stay in the Lake District or the Cotswolds if you want to explore the English countryside.

My country has some amazing modern architecture but I think our cathedrals and medieval village churches and are particularly special. Nearly every village has a quaint village church that is rich in heritage. We also have famous cathedrals such as Saint Paul’s in London, Bath Cathedral and the iconic Salisbury Cathedral.

What is your impression of Ulm in three words?

Vibrant - Pretty - Friendly

There is so much going on in Ulm and at the start of my tour we were constantly finding more things to do in the city and in the local area. Now we just have a long list of things we are planning to do as the Corona restrictions are removed. There is something to please everyone. As a Mum I am particularly impressed with the sports facilities and outdoor spaces available to enjoy with my energetic young children. Especially during lock-down I have been thankful that we live in such a beautiful and open area. We had the ability to be outside in the fresh air walking through the fields and woods – it has been a Godsend.

Ulm is a pretty and very clean city. I love living so close to the Danube (Donau) it is great for cycling, walking or chilling out with a picnic. There is definitely a calming effect being near flowing water.

The people here are very friendly and helpful. In restaurants, cafes and shops most staff are able to speak English and seem happy to chat in English at any opportunity. We live in a quiet neighbourhood out of the city and our neighbours have been so welcoming. They have helped us to feel very settled in Ulm.

How would you describe JSEC in three words?

New - Challenging - Growing

JSEC is a new organization established for a new set of challenges and therefore it provides an intellectually challenging environment where new ways of working need to be developed. As JSEC develops it needs people who are going to challenge the accepted ways of working and bring new ideas. It is not a place to work if you like to do things “the way they have always been done”! People here are motivated to work together to build an organization to meet the current and future needs of NATO.

JSEC is constantly growing – we see this in the building works on site but also as more and more people arrive. The UK footprint is currently small but throughout 2020 and 2021 more British servicemen and women will be posted to Ulm with their families. I’m glad to be here and look forward to welcoming more of my fellow Brits over the coming months.

What makes JSEC special to you?

Opportunity - People - Location

The opportunity to live abroad and work with people from many different Nationalities is one of the things that motivated me to join the Royal Air Force and that is still true today. JSEC certainly has provided me with an opportunity to learn more about the German Armed Forces but also to work with other NATO nations with whom I am not so familiar.

People here are very friendly and open and they come from such a variety of backgrounds. I love learning about different languages and cultures and learning from the experience of others. Taking the time to talk to people and find out about their background can be so beneficial – as well as very interesting!

JSEC is situated in a beautiful city that has so much on offer and it is in a fabulous location for exploring Europe. It is near to the mountains, which means skiing and hiking are easily accessible activities for the family to enjoy. We can also travel to Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France all within a few hours’ drive. 

All we need now is for the borders, hotels, bars, restaurants and swimming pools to re-open!

Story by Joint Support and Enabling Command Public Affairs Office

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89081 Ulm

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89081 Ulm