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Exercise Intrepid Owl

23rd October 2009 - 11:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Armed personnel shielded their eyes from the dust as the battlefield helicopters swooped down out of the sky, ready to pick up a patrol on a reconnaissance mission to monitor enemy activity.

But this was not Afghanistan; this was Salisbury Plain, and Exercise Intrepid Owl, helping to train Royal Auxiliary Air Force personnel to cope with the demands of deployment.

Run by 606 (Chiltern) Squadron based at Royal Air Force Benson, the three day exercise was designed to replicate the tasks and situations military helicopters and their support personnel could face whilst on operations.

Involving over 100 staff, from chefs to aircrew, Joint Helicopter Command provided 1 Merlin and 2 Pumas from 28 (Army Co-operation) and 33 Squadrons, RAF Benson, as well as a Royal Navy Sea King from 846 Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton. Also taking part alongside the 70 RAF reservists were 30 members of the Territorial Army’s 43 Signals Squadron, whose role is to provide helicopter communications.

Officer Commanding 606, Squadron Leader Gary Lane, talked about the benefits of the exercise. “This has provided personnel the opportunity to develop their trade training in a real field environment.

We are replicating living in the field conditions on a bare base, so that the challenges faced are representative of those that personnel will face in Afghanistan. It’s all about preparation and team work – deploying the necessary kit and working together for the exercise to run smoothly”.

606 (Chiltern) Squadron exists to provide trained reservist staff able to support the work of Joint Helicopter Command. Made up of 4 Flights, the Squadron can offer a complete support team to a helicopter and its crew.

Operations staff will co-ordinate all movements, acting as the crew’s eyes and ears on the ground, whilst the Supply and Mobility staff refuel and load the aircraft with passengers or freight. Throughout all this activity, the Regiment gunners will protect and defend the helicopter and all personnel, with the Engineering Flight on standby for their specialist skills.

Corporal Mark Goodchild is one of a 12 strong Regiment team. “We are exercising the ability to recce suitable helicopter landing and re-fuelling sites and then secure these sites from possible enemy action. Working with and alongside helicopters is what we do” he said. His colleague Leading Aircraftsman Nicola Bailey will then fulfil her role as a Flight Operations Assistant.

“I’m based in the Ops Room, which is the hub of all activity” she described. “I monitor the radio, keep a log of all activity and update the ops board – where the aircraft are at all times”. She admits the job takes some serious brainpower; “you need to be on the ball – talking to the aircrew, taking all requests for helicopter movement – you have to make sure that all kit and personnel are in the right place at the time they are needed”.

Training for Afghanistan has captured media interest, and 7644 (VR) Public Relations were on hand to assist their reservist colleagues as they played host to specialist aviation magazines and their local radio station, Jack FM.

Squadron personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan since the start of the military operation, and will be sending another 2 members in the New Year to join the 6 currently serving out there. In addition they provide support to exercises both in the UK and abroad as personnel continuously train to be ready for deployment.

By Royal Air Force

The Shephard News Team


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