Afghanistan — Maintaining the Navy’s Sea Kings in Helmand

Air­craft Engi­neer­ing Tech­ni­cian (AET) Kayleigh Beck­ley has been in Afghanistan for the last three months help­ing to main­tain the Roy­al Navy heli­copters that trans­port troops and equip­ment around Hel­mand province.

A Royal Navy Sea King on a resupply mission in Afghanistan (stock image)
A Roy­al Navy Sea King on a resup­ply mis­sion in Afghanistan (stock image)
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

AET Beck­ley, aged 23 from Man­ches­ter, is the only female AET from 846 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) cur­rent­ly based at Camp Bas­tion in Hel­mand province. 

Togeth­er with col­leagues from 845 NAS they make up the sup­port heli­copter ele­ment of the Roy­al Navy’s Com­man­do Heli­copter Force. 

AET Beck­ley main­tains the Sea King Mk4 heli­copters which form part of the tri-Ser­vice Joint Heli­copter Force (Afghanistan). She said: 

“I was look­ing for­ward to com­ing out here because it rep­re­sents the cul­mi­na­tion of all my train­ing. I think my fam­i­ly were more wor­ried about me com­ing here than I was. My biggest con­cern was know­ing what kit to bring with me — I find it hard enough pack­ing for a two-week hol­i­day, so pack­ing for three months was a bit of a challenge!” 

A nor­mal day at work for AET Beck­ley ranges from basic flight ser­vic­ing and dai­ly main­te­nance tasks to big jobs such as dou­ble engine changes. 

How busy the shift is depends on how much the heli­copters have flown and how harsh the envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions are on a par­tic­u­lar day. She said: 

“Every day the jobs are dif­fer­ent; it can be qui­et but not often. I enjoy the busy days because there is always some­thing to do, and it’s reward­ing to know we will get the air­craft fly­ing again to help out the lads on the ground.” 

Although work­ing in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly male envi­ron­ment, AET Beck­ley says it makes no dif­fer­ence to her or the lads she works with: 

“I get involved with all the ban­ter and hard work. I think the lads for­get I’m a girl when I’m work­ing with them, but I do seem to find myself clean­ing up after them a lot.” 

In a cou­ple of weeks AET Beck­ley will be head­ing home from her tour of Afghanistan, and, although she has found it an inter­est­ing and reward­ing expe­ri­ence, she said: 

“I am look­ing for­ward to get­ting back and going on leave in Man­ches­ter — I can’t wait to see my boyfriend and my fam­i­ly again.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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