UK — Dambusters prepare for Afghanistan deployment

Air­crew and engi­neers from the RAF’s 617 (Dam­busters) Squadron (617 Sqn) have been test­ed to the lim­it in a sim­u­lat­ed ‘war week’ in order to pre­pare them for their next front line deploy­ment to Afghanistan.

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An RAF Tor­na­do of 617 Squadron [Pic­ture: Senior Air­craft­man Lau­ren Gal­loway and SAC Gar­ry Perkins, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The week con­sists of a series of bespoke exer­cis­es which form the pre-deploy­ment train­ing for 617 Sqn before they deploy to Kan­da­har to replace fel­low RAF Lossiemouth unit 12 (Bomber) Squadron next month.

It will be the Dam­busters’ sec­ond deploy­ment to Afghanistan and they returned from their first tour last July. But, even though around 70 of the 100 per­son­nel in the unit are vet­er­ans, every­one needs remind­ing of the dan­gers they may face, which is where the train­ing comes in.

The war week is planned and facil­i­tat­ed by the Joint Force Air Com­po­nent (JFAC) from Air Com­mand and involves 617 Sqn’s air­crew and engi­neers being trained and test­ed in a series of real­is­tic sce­nar­ios, includ­ing indi­rect fire attacks, first aid emer­gen­cies and engi­neer­ing acci­dents amongst many oth­ers.

Although the train­ing is tar­get­ed at 617 Sqn per­son­nel, a num­ber of oth­er exter­nal agen­cies were also involved — such as com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ists 591 Sig­nals Unit, legal advis­ers, Trau­ma Risk Man­age­ment per­son­nel, and a Tac­ti­cal Air Con­trol Par­ty — to repli­cate and reflect the col­lab­o­ra­tive nature of the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment.

“We deploy next month; we are up for it, we are trained for it, and we are very much look­ing for­ward to it.”
Wing Com­man­der Kei­th Tay­lor

Offi­cer Com­mand­ing 617 Sqn, Wing Com­man­der Kei­th Tay­lor, said:

“War week is a fan­tas­tic train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for us; the range of events planned by the JFAC team here are excel­lent. We deploy next month; we are up for it, we are trained for it, and we are very much look­ing for­ward to it.”

In addi­tion to the chal­lenge of main­tain­ing the reg­u­lar fly­ing pro­gramme dur­ing the week, RAF Lossiemouth also host­ed two vis­its.

Air Offi­cer Com­mand­ing Num­ber 1 Group, Air Vice-Mar­shal Stu­art Atha, met with 617 Sqn engi­neers and air­crew, and spoke with JFAC train­ing per­son­nel about the imple­men­ta­tion of the war week pro­gramme. He said:

“This is the best and most real­is­tic train­ing that we can give our per­son­nel as they pre­pare to deploy. It is about air­crew and ground crew work­ing togeth­er as a team to pro­tect them­selves against ever-present threats in the­atre.

“The rea­son why this train­ing is so good is that it specif­i­cal­ly reflects the real­i­ties — espe­cial­ly the poten­tial threats — of the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment they are about to deploy into.”

On the same day, two MPs from the Armed Forces Par­lia­men­tary Scheme — a sys­tem designed to devel­op politi­cians’ under­stand­ing of UK mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty — vis­it­ed to watch the train­ing take place.

Both Adam Hol­loway and Robert Flel­lo got involved in the train­ing and assist­ed with the first aid response to a road traf­fic acci­dent sce­nario.

Mr Flel­lo, who is the Shad­ow Min­is­ter for Jus­tice, said:

“All of this train­ing is phe­nom­e­nal­ly impor­tant. It’s cer­tain­ly helped empha­sise the real­i­ties of the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment. I have great admi­ra­tion for every­one involved.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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