Airtpr’s Leo White & Poppy Gosling’s third instalment
‘Hi guys, another not-so-short mobilisation update;
So, after 3 weeks off for the festive period, we arrived back at Wattisham for the final few days we had left in theUK. Mostly just admin and panic packing/issuing, but also a families day (and leaving party) which was prepared really well, trying to give our friends and relatives a wider view of all the job roles 654 SQN would be filling In theatre, along with the kind of accommodation we would be living in and equipment we would get to play with (they even provided bouncy castles, which I have yet to see anywhere on the flight line!)
We were all on different flights out to theatre, due to the differences in teams. All the hierarchy were on the first flight, crash teams on the second and the rest were on the final flight 5 days later.
The crash teams were the people selected to go outside of bastion in the event of an AH crashing somewhere in the desert or having to land on one of the forward operating bases. Both I and ATPR Turner-Dockery are on a team. Anyone who may be leaving the confines of Bastion has to do the five day RSOI.
After 36 hours travelling and a two hour holiday inCyprus, we eventually arrived in theatre, fairly late at night! Stumbling around trying to find our tents in the dark, knowing that in only a few hours we were starting our RSOI package, which is basically an induction into theatre. Similar to OPTAG, but more hands on and situationally focussed. The first day was 8 hours of briefings, it’s safe to say that with jet lag, sleep deprivation and the heaters on, we may not have retained all the information that was thrown at us. After asking around, it turns out that pretty much the only brief we had that all the lads actually remember, was the sexual health brief… Go figure!
The next three days were taken up by the ranges; zeroing weapons with additional lectures about a wide variety of things, from Battlefield casualty drills, to evidence collection and detainee handling!
Lots of CIED training, more hands on with the valons, day and night drills, in as many situations as they could provide.
Vehicle crash simulator and Patrolling techniques, how to approach different scenarios, and actions to take upon contact of any description.
The final day was by far the best! Everyone was completely shattered by this point so were all expecting it to feel like a total beasting, but the aim of the day was an exercise using all the skills and information we had gained through PDT/the previous 4 days! It was a really hot day (well, it wasn’t sub-zero) and we were all in full PPE, so: osprey with plates in, helmets, rifles etc, and we had the usual equipment to carry. We were split down into different sections, and given different job roles. I was volun-told that I would be the ECM operator… I think the lads thought I would wimp out of it after a while, it’s really heavy. We were operating out of a FOB and moving on to a PB where we would be conducting Different patrols out, utilising the CIED skills. The locally employed civilians were bought into the exercise to act out different roles, some where meant to be ANA and some where supposed to be Taliban. Our PB was mortared a couple of times, where we took a few casualties and had to extract to an emergency HLS that we had cleared previously. Then my section were called out to a local village where a couple ANA had apparently been blown up, I was situated in the middle of the patrol (The DS had some hi-tech equipment so they could tell when people were in the ECM bubble) and we were ‘lucky’ enough to have two casualties to extract, initially only back to the PB, but after a change of plan we had to get them back to the FOB. At this point I honestly believed my lungs were collapsing, and my shoulders were dislocating but it was all good fun. My section was debriefed and had worked really well.
Both ATPRs White and Oakey arrived out here when we were on day five! So only had to endure 2 days of briefings.
With all of this completed, we started the handover/takeover phase with 3 Regt, which basically just meant starting our shifts and getting used to everything that’s changed. 654 Sqn only left Afghan in January last year. It was reasonably quiet by all accounts, only a few VHR shouts during the day and almost nothing at night. Apart from when the REME’s decide that we’re getting too much sleep. It’s too cold for the bad guys to start anything! We’ve only been on shift for a few days officially, so we’re all still getting used to everything! But even now we can tell that it’s starting to get a bit busier! As the temperature warms and the Poppy season starts!
We’re still working 24 hours on/24 hours off! There isn’t really a ‘typical day’ on shift, anything can happen. Within the realms of tasked flights on ops, VHRs, and any jobs REME can come up with. VHR stands for Very High Readiness, and works almost like you would expect a fire station to. When you hear the bell ring in the crewshack, everyone sprints out to the two AH that are prepared and gets them ready to lift in minutes. They can get called for anything; troops in contact, MERT/PEDRO escorts, or operations involving positively identified bad guys!
The off shifts, mostly just involve sleep and gym, with the occasional meal or coffee from one of the club Bastion coffee shops!
Anyway, better go, sleep deprivation has started to work its magic and I’m rambling! Catch up with you all soon!
For more imnformation about 655 Squadron Army Air Corps contact Capt N Jennings firstname.lastname@example.org