Al Sylvester

RAF Mountain Rescue Service Leader & Adventurer

Al Sylvester is a very well known RAF Mountain Rescue Service leader who as well as being involved on over 400 rescue operations, has adventured to the extremes of the planet, including the South Pole, Aconcagua, Mt Kenya and the base camps of Mt Everest and Annapurna.  His post-military and current educational roles make him a consummate on the parallels between working in the hostile mountain environment, to the management of a company to the modern day classroom.

Al Sylvester grew up in the flatlands of Lincolnshire and had his first encounter with the mountains via the Scouting Association in the Peak District, which subsequently led him to the Lake District and Scotland. Throughout his education his ambition and drive was to join the Royal Air Force to provide him the opportunity to explore the world.

In 1983, Al fulfilled his dream and joined and trained as an RAF communicator. His first posting after training was to Prestwick, where after a short while he intercepted a signal advertising for recruits in the Mountain Rescue Service MRS.  Without authorisation, Al signed off his own reply and following a 3 week selection trial, was accepted as the team’s full time Wireless Operator based at RAF Stafford.

Over the next decade, Al moved several times between RAF’s Stafford and Kinloss consolidating his mountaineering and search and rescue management of operations. Attending almost 200 rescues during this period, he gained a vast experience resulting with him being selected for Team Leader of the RAF Leeming MRS. Here he led over 80 operations including various fast jet aircraft crashes and many technical stretcher rescues of stranded mountaineers within the hills and fells of the Lake District.

On completion of this tour, he worked between Bosnia and Croatia during which he was awarded a Joint Commanders Commendation for his outstanding duties performed within NATO’s Stabilisation Force.  His main reward was being selected to return and lead the RAF’s largest and busiest mountain rescue team at Kinloss. Here he led over 100 operations including the RAF MRS’s first overseas aircraft crash to recover the wreckage of a Hercules aircraft in Kukes, Albania. In 2001, he led the operation for the UK’s largest military multi-aircraft crash, for two USAF F15 jets that crashed within the Cairngorms mountains of Scotland. He was awarded an MBE for his services to the MRS and for his exceptional charitable work in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Utilising his vast spectrum of experience, Al was selected as an assistant controller at the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre where he specialised in co-ordinating search and rescue ground operations throughout the whole of UK.

Finally after 21 years of rescue service, the RAF caught up with him and promoted him to Warrant Officer resulting with a move back to communications at High Wycombe, the home of RAF Air Command. Knowing the highest echelon commanders were based here, he rekindled their links, established many more contacts and over a period of 2 1/2 years,  organised and led the RAF’s first unsupported attempt on the Geographic South Pole.  Returning from Antarctica with frostbite and this new accolade, Al became a member of a prestigious presentation team, briefing to all RAF personnel the latest policy and opportunities being offered to them in the modern day Air Force. In the 2010 New Year’s Honours list he was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal<?cite>.

Al’s final tour was as the College Warrant Officer at the Joint Command & Staff College at Defence Academy, Shrivenham. He concluded his 31 years service by walking 881 miles, unsupported between Land’s End and John O’ Groats in 39 days in memory of his fellow RAF colleague, raising over £26K for a hospice in the process.

Since retiring Al has worked as a special educational need interventions co-ordinator for school children aged between 6 – 7. He inspired the challenge to run 2017 miles in 2017 which he completed in 10 months. In his spare time, he enjoys training and competing in ultramarathons, volunteering at the local handicapped youth club and managing the local under 12 football team.

To book Al Sylvester as the motivational speaker for your corporate event, function or conference, simply contact the Champions Speakers agency by emailing or by calling a booking agent directly on 0207 1010 553.

When at corporate events, Al is known to cover the following topics:

  • Motivational Speaker
  • Extreme Environments
  • Management of People
  • Overcoming Adversity
  • Maximising Success
  • Perseverance & Determination
  • Search & Rescue
  • Royal Air Force

“Al Sylvester kindly gave a presentation at our annual HSE Conference, the theme of which was Leadership. His dynamic and captivating presentation left the audience engaged, motivated and inspired to apply his leadership qualities to their own working ethos. Quite simply, I cannot recommend Al Sylvester enough.”Simon, Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm

“I worked extensively with Al when I was appointed Director of the RAF Junior Officers’ Development Programme. When working in day-to-day Academy business, Al was the consummate professional. However, it was in his role of supporting our leadership programme where he also excelled. As part of the leadership programme the Students would prepare a series of debates, one of them discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of Captain Scott. Al, as a man who has tackled the Antarctic himself, would play a significant part in the discussions, as he could not only bring to bear the reality of operating in such an unforgiving environment, but also his extensive experiences in the Armed Forces and particularly in the crucial RAF Mountain Rescue Service. As such, this charismatic man, a true leader and adept manager, with countless examples of real-time, hard-earned and always relevant experiences. A truly inspirational man.”Stuart, Independent Training Consultant

“Al has visited 2210 Cowley Squadron and also 1861 Wantage Squadron of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets at my request when as Officer Commanding both units. Al is simply an inspiring role model for the cadets and staff alike. He is a former Royal Air Force Warrant Officer who demonstrates the highest standards of bearing, respect, integrity, service, excellence and leadership and he is in particular an inspiring speaker. He has inspired cadets and volunteer staff to never let anyone get in the way of their dreams. A number of cadets have taken to heart Al’s advice and passion and have gone onto university and professional careers. If nothing less the cadet following a session with Al seem to walk a little bit taller and are certainly fired up to take on the world and its challenges. I commend Al Sylvester to you.” – Nigel, Leader in Infrastructure Resilience & Security

“In my role of Fundraiser for 1st Faringdon Scouts, we had the great pleasure of asking Al Sylvester to deliver a fundraising talk about his expedition to Antarctica. Without doubt it was the best talk I have heard. It was clear, concise, motivational, emotional, amusing, shocking and inspirational. Al speaks very well and delivers his talks with the passion he also puts into his life. We still speak of it and of the fact that we all came away affected in some way by his words. I can’t recommend Al enough (and each time I feel a little chilly I think of what he’s been through which is a great motivator to carry on!).”Faith, Freelance Museum & Heritage Consultant