Pride in Armed Forces Day Headshot of Ayla Holdom and Craig Jones MBE

Pride in Armed Forces Day with Ayla Holdom and Craig Jones MBE

As Pride in London and Armed Forces Day are acknowledged and celebrated on the same day this year, we want to explore the importance of Pride in Armed Forces Day with two distinguished leaders who are at the intersect of both communities. 

In this conversation Emily Nevins and James Payne speak with Ayla Holdom, a pilot for the National Police Air Service and Craig Jones MBE, the founder of Fighting with Pride about what Pride in Armed Forces Day means to them and to LGBTQ+ personnel and veterans. 

We also explore: 

  • What message they would like to convey to LGBTQ+ personnel and veterans during this time 
  • How their career experiences have influenced their leadership style and approach to driving change 
  • What the most pressing issues currently facing the LGBTQ+ community are, and what can those in leadership roles do to address these challenges 

Watch the full conversation here:


About Ayla Holdom

Ayla Holdom - Pride in Armed Forces Day

Ayla Holdom is a distinguished aviator and advocate, whose career and personal journey are both inspiring and impactful. Ayla served in the Royal Air Force for 13 years, where she excelled as a Sea King helicopter Captain with the RAF Search and Rescue team, responding to over 400 SAR missions and receiving formal commendation for her exemplary service. In 2010, Ayla courageously came out as transgender, continuing her operational role with unwavering support from her colleagues and the armed forces. 

Ayla now is a pilot for the National Police Air Service, supporting police forces across the UK. Her commitment to advocacy extends beyond her aviation career; she volunteers with All About Trans, is a proud patron for Mermaids, and serves on the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group. Her efforts have been recognised in the Independent on Sunday Rainbow List and the Attitude Pride Awards. 

Ayla’s story has been celebrated in the stage production ‘Still Point Turning’ and the RAF Museum’s ‘RAF Stories’. 

About Craig Jones MBE

Craig Jones MBE - Pride in Armed Forces Day

Craig Jones MBE is the founder of Fighting With Pride, a charity dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ veterans and the Head of the leader of the charities Campaign for restorative justice. With a career spanning over three decades, Craig has held senior leadership roles in both the public sector and private industry, including 20 years in the Royal Navy, where he was honoured for his work in advancing equality and human rights. 

His experience includes leadership roles at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and founding Brighton and Sussex Care, which gained national acclaim for its mental health services. Craig has 20 years of governance experience, serving as a Trustee and Non-Executive Director across various organisations. He is currently a Trustee of Sound Delivery and a member of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee. 

At Fighting With Pride, Craig has continued his lifetimes work to enable LGBT+ inclusion in Armed Forces Communities and is leading cross-party discussion to enable reparations for LGBTQ+ veterans anticipated to be announced later this year. 

Armed Forces Day 

Armed Forces Day (28 June) is a chance for us to show our support for the people who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving personnel to Service families, veterans and cadets. It also includes Reserves Day (26 June), which provides the country with an opportunity to recognise our Reserve Forces. 

Showing support for the Armed Forces provides a much-valued morale boost for serving personnel, veterans and their families. You can find out more by visiting the official sites of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. 

Armed Forces Covenant

Armed Forces Covenant Logo

GatenbySanderson is a proud signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant. By signing, we are committed to upholding the Armed Forces Covenant and supporting the Armed Forces Community. We recognise the contribution that Service personnel, reservists, veterans, the cadet movement and military families make to our organisation, our community and to the country.  

We seek to uphold the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant by:  

  • Promoting the Armed Forces: promoting the covenant and our supporting actions internally to our own staff and more widely across our public service leadership work, where we headhunt for senior leadership roles and develop leadership teams.   
  • Offering employment support to members of the Armed Forces Community: searching and building networks of veteran and assessing their unique skill set and qualifications to senior roles within the public and not for profit sectors, including executive and non-executive roles. Additionally, encouraging the support of veterans within our own business and their families through Forces Families Jobs, providing an agile and flexible working environment to manage a partner’s deployment. 
  • Skills Development and Transition: actively engaging with those looking for executive and non-executive roles and offering tailored workshops and advice to help prepare veterans for application and recruitment process. Helping veterans to effectively align their skills against required competencies and provide an overview of the recruitment market.  
  • Engagement with potential employers: to promote the skills and fit of veterans to our client base and the value of their lived experience to add value, richness and diversity to leadership teams. 
  • Participating in National Events: as part of our programme of thought leadership, profile raising and other national activities, support Remembrance Days, Poppy appeals and other relevant Armed Forces activity.  
  • Ensure that at least one armed forces charity is considered as one of our annual fundraising charities, (voted for by our staff).

This is one in a series of Pride In Leadership interviews and leadership profiles taking place during Pride 2024. We are amplifying the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQ+ leaders and active allies throughout June and beyond as part of our ongoing commitment to inclusion. Find out who else is taking part and read and watch back previous profiles from others in the community here

Share this article

Related Articles