Monthly Archives: October 2012

Exercise Cockney Etrangeres


Tech Task

Whilst on annual camp, 135 Geographic Squadron RE was tasked with carrying out a live technical task – to produce orienteering maps of four areas on the island of Jersey in order to practice our core GIS and Data Collection skills. This essentially involved two disciplines in three stages, Data Survey and map production using ARC GIS 10 (Geographic Information Systems).

The first stage involved the GIS team to conduct a desktop study of existing geographic data.  The field computer banks were transported from Ewell to Jersey Field Squadron HQ via MAN trucks and set up as a working Geo cell.  Using existing aerial imagery of the designated orienteering areas, the GIS team interpreted and plotted overlays on top of the imagery according to the international orienteering map standards.  Due to the fact that the imagery was five years old, features, both manmade and natural had to be verified.  Interpretation of the imagery could be incorrect and there was a requirement to go into the area to confirm and gather information.  For example, what looked like a grassy field on the imagery could now in fact be an impenetrable field classed ‘as wooded area’.

The Hon Col Dr Vanessa Lawrence being shown one of the new orienteering maps by SSM Les Hunt

The second stage commenced with the data survey team going into each of the four areas to be mapped to collect data, armed with the image maps compiled by the GIS team.  Each area was recce’d to choose two suitable base station locations which are fixed in position for the duration of the survey.  Their job is to take continual readings from satellites and between each other to make error corrections in position and then transmit these corrections to the roving GPS poles which are used to collect data.  This improves the accuracy of the positions being surveyed.  We found the perfect location for base station one, on the top of the tallest hill above a second world war bunker. Unfortunately this also meant we had to keep traipsing up and down said hill!

Base station two had to be on the other side of the area being surveyed as there were no obvious high points so we had to settle with a sand dune.  The next day we returned to commence the task, only to find that the wind had picked up, so much so that the instrumentation that we had set up on tripod legs blew straight over.  Down we went to the Land Rovers, retrieved the sandbags and shovel and weighted down the tripod legs, having used the convenient abundance of sand from the dunes all around us.  To minimise the likelihood of a passer by stealing our base station survey equipment, we hid all of the survey equipment boxes (used to transport it) within the bunker.  Base station two was assembled and we were off, capturing data.  Two hours in and the satellite signal died; the battery powering the base station antenna had died. We learned our lesson and opted for the bigger battery the next day.  On top of all this, it was raining each morning but by the time base stations were set up, the Jersey sunshine came out for us.

Cpl Carl Presswood setting up on site

Two survey teams worked in conjunction in each area, communicating by radio.  Comms were critical since requirements were updated throughout the day including location of transportation vehicles and logistical challenges; we had to transport people from camp HQ to survey area and vice versa; this used up resource and slowed up the progress of the task in hand.

Second World War bunkers and gun emplacements were a strong theme of interest throughout our data collection and acted as useful markers and interesting history lessons!

A memorable highlight was when the survey team came to the aid of a lady stranded on the beach in her car. Like good Sappers, we safely recovered her vehicle before the incoming tide swamped it.  She turned out to be the daughter of the founder of Butlins but unfortunately we weren’t offered any free accommodation for next year’s camp!

Myself and Cpl Morley were busy ‘pinging; points when to our horror, as we were approaching our base station being guarded by our sergeant we saw him, stripped to the waist, his pale white body glistening like a beacon as he took in the radiant Jersey sun.  Embarrassed by our heckling since he thought no one could see him hidden in the undergrowth, he quickly got his top back on before any more blinded sea gulls fell out of the sky.

Cpl Carl Presswood and Spr Kieran Terry

This tech task was also a training exercise and the time taken to overcome problems rapidly diminished as the team became slicker.  Once all the information was gathered in the form of GPS linked photographs and GPS data points, they were transposed onto computer and read in conjunction with the existing imagery. The time consuming task of creating the correct international orienteering standardised symbology and correctly classifying parcels of land to the ease of movement was a challenge, especially as we had very little experience of using orienteering maps previously. By day five, tensions were rising in our makeshift Geo Cell; French spellings were being scrutinised, debates on whether bunkers were bunkers or gun emplacements got technical and Naafi breaks had been cancelled. However we were kept entertained throughout by the Radio Jersey karaoke by the chefs in the kitchen next door!

Cpl OJ kept morale high in the Geo cell; as an invaluable asset to the team, he also made certain that it was easier to get into FortKnox than locating the files we were working on!

Sergeant Windle kept us motivated and encouraged us, with comments like ……. unrepeatable in print, and “get this kit set up”.

Cpl Presswood took overall command but like all good leaders, he omitted to tell us that the witness marks had not been taken and then flapped when we told him we didn’t have time to cover for him…haha, funny – we sorted him out after letting him sweat.

LCpl Walmsley did a smashing job in creating the orienteering map and then died of shame when the visiting CO pointed out that there was a spelling mistake.

This same CO caught Cpl Presswood and Sgt Windle eating lunch; the exact time when they downed tools for a brew was the exact time that he rocked up in the car park to see them ‘working’ flat out – busted.

Sgt Trepanier (American exchange) did a great job in collecting survey data on vegetation until she found that she had used the wrong base point and she had to do it all again – next time check first

We had all checked that each team had the correct kit before leaving base, and then one team promptly drove off without the booking sheets meaning that they had to write everything up after the days surveying, doh – special. All good learning points for the next time!

By the end of the five day task, we had captured over 2500 GPS points, taken over 400 photographs and successfully produced two orienteering maps to officially handover to the Combined Cadet Force and Jersey Field Squadron. The customers were happy and we had all learned a great deal.

For more information please visit : http://www.serfca.org/en-us/reservists/ta/135independentgeographicsquadronre.aspx

 

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Welcome to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan


LCpl Davies, 128 Field Coy with CSLR LAD, Op Herrick 17

Having gone through some initial training with 1(CS) Battalion REME, I joined 12 LSR LAD, Abingdon in August 2012. Immediately the LAD made me feel welcome. The three week FTX that followed my arrival at the Regiment, gave me a good opportunity to get to know everyone. It also helped me to understand what would be expected of the LAD on tour. The Regiment left Abingdon late on Tuesday 18th September and arrived in Camp Bastion on the morning of Thursday 20th.

The LAD workshop with the sun setting

The first week in CampBastion passed by in a bit of a whirlwind. On the first day, we were all allocated our accommodation and essential items of kit. I was able to sort out admin and prepare for the following day.

On Friday I started the 5 day RSOI package. RSOI is mandatory for everyone deploying in Afghanistan. This package ensures that everyone is current and up to date on the potentially life saving ‘skills and drills’. The five days allows for acclimatisation and I quickly became acquainted with the complete PPE; Osprey, helmet, gloves and eye protection.

Even though the temperature is dropping in Afghanistan; for those arriving in mid September there is no escaping the fact that this place is hot by comparison to the UK. The first couple of weeks here were blue skies and blazing sunshine. Whilst the temperature had crept back up to 30 degrees + during the day, already the mornings have a crisp chill to them. I have also experienced a couple of rain showers, both lasting all of about 30 seconds. There will be plenty more of that to come, I have been told!

So after completing the RSOI package and Equipment Support RSOI, I had been here a week already. With no time to spare, the LAD quickly got on with the handover/takeover from 4 CSLR LAD, Op Herrick 16. It didn’t take long to fall into a very basic work ‘routine’. In addition, I started to adapt to life in CampBastion; “home” for the next 6 months. Tents and ISO containers become the scenery. Carrying Osprey to and from work everyday has soon become the ‘norm’. Mobile phones have been replaced by the IPod Touch. No one leaves home without their rifle. Gunfire and explosions are regular background noise.

The cookhouse on Bastion 2 has excellent food, so much variety. The NAAFI has all the essentials and the American PX at CampLeatherneck is full of life’s little luxuries. My spare time in the evenings is taken up by general admin, going to the gym or writing blueys. ‘Op Massive’ has already started for some of the LAD, many of them spending their evenings in the CV suite or the weights room. For those not so self disciplined, we have three sessions of PT a week; CV and spinning class.

Scenery of tents and isos

So as the first month in Afghanistan draws to a close, the ripping in/out process almost at an end, our main effort is the LAD workshop. As a unit we maintain all of the RLC vehicles for the CSLR, keeping them operationally fit.

Look forward to the next installment For November 2012 ~ “Working for the LAD and our primary role”.

For more information on 128 Field Company please visit: http://www.serfca.org/en-us/reservists/ta/128fieldcompanyreme.aspx

New War Memorial


Stanford Village War Memorial

Stanford in the Vale in Oxfordshire at long last has a Village War Memorial. A remembrance memorial was recently inaugurated in the churchyard with Nivelle Company, Oxfordshire (The Rifles) ACF, under the command of Cdt RSM Fearn and lead by the Oxfordshire Army Cadet Band, marching through the village to the churchyard.

Cadet Band and Nivelle Company

Here, in the presence of members of local Royal British Legion branches and their standards, local senior military officers, the Army Cadets, members of the Fire Service, Scouts and Brownies and a very large gathering of local people, there was a service of dedication and the first wreath laid.

 

Stanford Parade and onlookers

The service was conducted by Rev Max Young, retired Vicar of Sanford, and Rev Richard Hancock, the Area Dean.

After the service, and Last Post and Reveille had been sounded, Mr Gordon Belcher, representing the Farringdon and Stanford RBL, thanked everyone for attending and invited them to refreshments at the Village Hall. At the hall, Mr Roy Walker, Chairman of the Stanford in the Vale Public Purposes Charity, Wg Cdr Guy Sawyer RAF, Station Commander of the Defence Academy, and Gp Capt David Drew RAF(Retd), RBL County Chairman for the Vale of White Horse, made speeches.

For more information please visist

Web: www.oxonacf.org.uk

Cadet overcomes Autism to earns BTEC award


Maidstone Sea Cadet Callum Helwege

Maidstone Sea Cadet Callum Helwege is celebrating after overcoming the challenge of living with autism to earn a CVQO-led Edexcel BTEC Level 1 vocational qualification.

For Able Cadet Callum, (14), who attends Bower Grove School, it is his first recognised educational qualification and one that has had a huge impact on his confidence according to his mum, Samantha Stevens, an adult volunteer at the Maidstone Sea Cadet Unit.

Michael Bax, High Sheriff of Kent, Able Cadet Callum Helwegge, Bryn Price, Kent People’s Trust, Petty Officer Samantha Stevens (Callum’s mother) and Edward Woods, chief executive of CVQO.

Samantha said: “He has benefited greatly from the BTEC qualification in Teamwork, Personal Skills and Citizenship. Because he’s autistic he wouldn’t have had the same chance to do the qualification and even in his special school he would not be doing GCSEs.

“He’s as chuffed and punch and may even think about taking a Level 2 qualification now as his confidence is sky high.”

Along with other members of Maidstone Sea Cadets, Callum received his certificate from the High Sheriff of Kent, Michael Bax, at a special presentation evening at the Sea Cadet Unit.

Callum was able to take the BTEC qualification, delivered by education charity CVQO, because of sponsorship by the Kent Peoples’ Trust which has funded a total of 50 cadets from across Kent.

Edward Woods, chief executive of CVQO said: “This is a great achievement for Callum and I’m delighted that he CVQO-led Level 1 qualification means so much to him. It’s important that we give all young people, whatever their ability, the opportunity to show what they can do and to achieve recognised qualifications. I am very grateful to the Kent People’s Trust for funding the Kent cadets. Without their generous support the fifty cadets and particularly Callum would not have been able to achieve this qualification.”

For more information contact http://www.sea-cadets.org/maidstone/home.aspx

Trafalgar Day Parade 2012


Trafalgar Day

On Sunday morning 125 Sea Cadets and Royal Marine Cadets from Sea Cadet Units across Berkshire gathered in Maidenhead town centre to commemorate Trafalgar Day. Each year a different unit plays host and this year it was Maidenhead Sea Cadets turn to invite cadets from Basingstoke, Henley, Newbury, Reading, Slough and Windsor. Although it meant an early start for some, there was an excellent turn out and the sun shone throughout the parade.

The inspecting officer was Commodore Gerry Thwaites RN Rtd, who now lives in Cookham Dean, he was ably assisted by Councillor Andrew Jenner, the Deputy Mayor; they both spent time talking to all the cadets on parade. After inspecting the cadets Commodore Thwaites congratulated them on their smart appearance and awarded prizes for the best dressed cadets. He also presented a cup to Maidenhead Sea Cadets, performing best overall in competitions throughout the year they are the top Sea Cadet unit in Berkshire.

Following the parade the cadets and guests made their way to TS Iron Duke for lunch, which was generously supported by Sainsbury’s, Taplow branch.

Maidenhead Sea Cadets was formed in 1942 so this year is the 70th anniversary of the unit; thanks to the recent publicity by the Maidenhead Advertiser several former Sea Cadets joined the party to swop stories and share memories of the good times they had when they were cadets.

Commodore Gerry Thwaites with members of the Guard

The occasion also had a slightly poignant side as Lt Cdr Dick Boardman was remembered with the unveiling of a picture of him on the ‘memorial wall’; Dick Boardman passed away in February this year after a short illness. Dick was a member of the Sea Cadet Corps for well over 50 years and in January he received a 50 year medal from Captain Mark Windsor, Captain of the Sea Cadet Corps.

For more information please visit http://www.sea-cadets.org/maidenhead/home.aspx

HMS King Alfred Reservists sail to victory


Just another day in the Royal Naval Reserve

Sailors from HMS King Alfred achieved success in the Royal Navy Reserve regatta held in Portsmouth harbour. Able Seaman Rachael Asquith from Gosport, with her crew Leading Seaman Liz Grady, sailed their Bosun dinghy into overall second place but won the prize for the highest placed boat sailed by ratings. Rachael beat off stiff competition during the 9 race series in conditions that varied greatly, the later races proving testing for even the most experienced crews.

Another King Alfred crew among the prize winners, AB Alex Snow, won the Novice Cup, for being the highest placed helm that had only learned to sail in the last 18 months; he was ably supported by CPO Ian Chown from HMS President.

HMS King Alfred prize winners, LS Liz Grady and AB Rachael Asquith, celebrate their success

The RNR regatta is held at the Royal Navy Sailing centre on Whale Island each year, the centre runs a fleet of sailing dinghies, teaching Naval personnel and Sea cadet and their families how to sail and handle small RIBs . Units from all over the UK took part from HMS Eaglet in Liverpool to HMS Flying Fox in Bristol. In all there were 16 boats taking part, many with experienced helms and crews, but also some novices.  For 2 of the crews, this was their first weekend ever being in a dinghy, it was “an amazing experience, great fun” one was heard to say.

With 16 boats in the fleet the starts were keenly fought. Start lines always look much longer than they are, with the wind direction constantly varying, one end of the line is almost always favoured, with the strong winds making the starts very lively, there was plenty of white water splashing about, loud shouts of “water”, “Starboard” and a fair number of bumps thrown in.

One boat got accidently “T boned”, which is when one boat crashes straight into the side of the other (ramming in all the movies), causing damage to the rubbing strake which needed to be replaced. Due to the superb skills of the Sailing centre staff; the boat was all fixed and ready to race only an hour after being pulled from the water.

Every leg and mark on the course was keenly fought for, the heavy conditions catching out even the top boats. One boat that had been in second place found itself with its mainsheet wrapped around the first windward mark, the helmsman holding a disconnected rudder, the rest of the fleet then had to navigate their way around this unusual obstacle! A few boats did capsize but in the end every boat much to the credit of the novice sailor’s went on to finish.

The wind strong as it was, produced a great weekend of sailing, there’s nothing like a testing weekend to get the blood going, but then that’s life in the Royal Naval Reserve.

For more information on the Royal Naval Reserve see: http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/Careers/Maritime-Reserves/Royal-Naval-Reserves

Adventure Training with Southampton University Air Squadron


ASPT 1

During the summer of 2012, students from Southampton UAS took part in a week named “ASPT 1”, which combined adventurous training in the Snowdonia region, before returning to Boscombe Down for flying instruction. There were a wide range of activities covered, including rock-climbing, kayaking and mountaineering – a great week was had by all; rounded off by the annual delight, which is the SUAS Summer Ball.

From the beginning the weather looked unpromising, but when we arrived at Capel Curig Training Camp near Betws-y-Coed (North Wales), although cold, the rain held off. On the first day, the group split into two, and half of us accompanied Officer Cadet Pirkis for a dip in the nearby lake for some kayaking, whilst the rest of the team went off for a day of rock climbing. Despite the cold, everyone had a good time and learnt new skills, as well as improving on existing ones. We practised individual skills of rowing, and then set up some team games, which were great for building confidence for capsizing. There was a great community spirit of everyone getting involved and helping one another, regardless of the range of abilities.

 

All set for some kayaking

One the next day, the groups swapped activities, so those who had been kayaking went rock-climbing, and vice versa. Due to early morning rainfall, the climbing group decided to head over to Anglesey to the Indefatigable Climbing Wall, where we got to practice our skills on the different grades of wall. As the clouds cleared up, we spent the afternoon enjoying some outdoor rock climbing. This gave us the chance to apply skills that we’d learnt on the indoor wall, which was the safer environment for the beginners in the group. The next day, our last in Capel, was spent mountaineering. Everyone got to practice some basic navigation as we set off across the fields, through a forest, around a lake, and up the mountain. As the weather conditions improved, we got some glimpses of the spectacular Welsh scenery. The day was a great show of team-work and bonding.

During mountaineering and basic navigation

With the first half of the week now over, we drove back down South to Boscombe Down. Unfortunately, the Snowdonian rainclouds accompanied us, which meant over the next couple of days not much flying could be done. Thankfully we were able to make use of Indoor Climbing Wall at the Tidworth Leisure centre, meaning the first day was not wasted. Many people attempted more technical moves, and the overall experience was a positive one. The next day, around 6 Officer Cadets got the chance to fly before the weather once again degenerated. The day was not wasted though, as students were able to spend time learning about metrological conditions and the NOTAM system.

The final day started off clear enough for more SUAS personnel to partake in flying, and those who didn’t were able to help decorate the Lower-Anti room for the Boscombe Summer Ball, which had a great attendance and was a fitting send off for the third years whose time on SUAS had sadly come to an end.

A big thank you to Officer Cadets Edwardes, Pirkis, Williams and Musgrave for organising and running the week so successfully.

If you are interested in finding out more please visit: http://www.raf.mod.uk/southamptonuas/