A reservist was recognised in the New Year’s Honours list for her outstanding work during the pandemic in her unusual part-time job – taking pictures and creating videos for the Royal Air Force.

Press photographer Anna Lythgoe joined the Welsh based 614 Squadron RAF Reserves in 2017 and now works in her spare-time as a photographer and videographer for the RAF, covering events as varied as military exercises, commemorations and airshows.

Airshows, of course, have fallen victim to coronavirus, but a project to bring one of the world’s biggest to the virtual world has won Anna Royal recognition when she was part of a team that recreated the Royal International Air Tattoo as a Virtual Air Tattoo (vAT).

Anna said: “We were tasked in mid-May with creating videos from new and existing footage that reflected the aircraft and attractions and events normally on display at RIAT.”

One of the videos Anna produced was on her life as a reservist mobilised as part of the military support during the coronavirus pandemic – Operation Rescript. Her job while mobilised was to support media coverage of military aid in the pandemic.

“It is such a big challenge for the whole nation that I really wanted to help in some way and I’m glad I was able to through the RAF Reserves,” said Anna.

Part of Anna’s job was to edit videos and scripts to make sure they were compelling and full of impact – something that her background as a news photographer made her ideally suited to do. “It’s part of the thinking behind the Media Reserves that you get people who have these skills in civilian life and they can be put to real use in the RAF.”

Anna’s pieces were among the 100 new videos produced to enable the virtual event to take place. The team’s commendation recognised how each team member “delivered far more than would normally be expected in their primary roles and attacked the gargantuan task with energy and good humour.”

Their award also praised the impressive results they produced. “The media reach of the event was tremendous and unprecedented – better than physical RIAT had ever achieved: trending second on YouTube, fifth on Twitter, and attracting around 230,000 viewers between YouTube and Twitch (an online gaming platform that was used to radically broaden the audience whilst showcasing the RAF).”

The vAT project is just one of the many diverse challenges Anna has taken on since becoming a reservist. After joining the RAF Reserves, Anna completed her basic training at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. There, alongside RAF Reservists of all trades she learned how to shoot a weapon and deal with chemical attacks. Since then, she has taken on a variety of work, including being deployed on exercises overseas.

She says one of her deployment  highlights  was taking pictures out of a Hercules transport aircraft as it flew at low-level over the forests of central Sweden. “They opened the rear door so I saw the land shooting past as I took my pictures. Pretty exciting really!”

She says experiences like this are why she joined the RAF Reserves. “You get the chance to do some amazing things that you just wouldn’t do every day like hanging out the back of a Chinook or a Hercules taking pictures. It keeps you pushing yourself to do things out of your comfort zone.”

Anna serves with Number 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron, which is based in Cardiff. The photographers and journalists who make up 614 Squadron’s Media Flight operate as part of RAF Media Reserves.

Simon Wren CBC, Honorary Air Commodore of the RAF Media Reserves added: “I offer my warmest congratulations to the team who have been so rightly recognised with a DCOM’s Team Commendation for the brilliant virtual Royal International Air Tattoo that they developed in response to the pandemic.”

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