UKRAF Gunners prepare for Afghanistan

As part of their ongo­ing prepa­ra­tion for deploy­ing to Afghanistan in Octo­ber 2010, 34 Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment took part in Exer­cise Lion Strike II/10 at Otter­burn Train­ing Area, Northum­ber­land, last week.

34 Squadron RAF Regiment
Mem­bers of 34 Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment dur­ing pre-deploy­ment train­ing at Otter­burn Ranges
Source: SAC Gareth Lit­tle, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The squadron, who are sta­tioned at RAF Leem­ing in North York­shire, will pro­vide force pro­tec­tion capa­bil­i­ties at the main bases in Afghanistan — Camp Bas­tion and Kan­da­har Air­field — by patrolling around the air sta­tions to ensure that air assets and per­son­nel can oper­ate freely.

Squadron Leader Mor­gan ‘Morgs’ Williams, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing 34 Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment, was the exer­cise direc­tor and assessed the squadron’s readi­ness for the next part of their train­ing:

“We’re run­ning through our tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures, with the added fric­tion of live fir­ing, which improves the stan­dards of marks­man­ship, but impor­tant­ly it focus­es the mind as we are con­duct­ing our live fir­ing drills,” he said.

“More­over the exer­cise builds up an oper­a­tional trust between the troops, know­ing that they are going for­ward, build­ing up their con­fi­dence to con­duct oper­a­tions.”

Sqn Ldr Williams is a for­mer For­ward Air Con­troller (FAC) and is pleased that since Spring 2010 there is now a FAC on each squadron with­in the RAF Reg­i­ment.

Sergeant Rick For­est will be doing the air-land inte­gra­tion role on oper­a­tions. He said:

“I will be con­trol­ling all air assets that we get, be it rotary, fixed wing, ISTAR [intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance, tar­get acqui­si­tion and recon­nais­sance] or fast jets, either from Camp Bas­tion or the patrol base.

“I will be able to see a direct feed on a com­put­er screen from the air­craft and see what and who it can see, which is real­ly help­ful if we need to look into com­pounds or any hotspots. It also helps to look for impro­vised explo­sive devices [IEDs].”

Lance Cor­po­ral Christo­pher King, com­man­der on the Pan­ther vehi­cle, returned from Afghanistan with the squadron in Sep­tem­ber 2009. He said:

“The squadron’s oper­a­tional cycle is quite quick so the pre-deploy­ment train­ing helps us get into the mind­set of doing the job.

“In Afghanistan we’ll be doing rear clear­ances of IEDs, observ­ing areas, and work­ing with the Med­ical Emer­gency Response Team.”

Senior Air­craft­woman Kayleigh Richards, sta­tioned at RAF Kin­loss, is one of two female medics who will be deploy­ing. She said:

“I’ve been watch­ing the guys do their drills as they go down the range, as it’s inter­est­ing to know where we fit in.

“I feel half-excit­ed and half-ner­vous about going as we’ll be patrolling with them and doing every­thing that they do. As a medic, if there are any casu­al­ties, I will be first on the scene treat­ing them.”

Although Otter­burn Train­ing Area has not got the same ter­rain as Afghanistan, Sqn Ldr Williams com­ment­ed:

“Otter­burn rep­re­sents a chal­leng­ing envi­ron­ment and offers a big, open space where we can use the breadth of the squadron’s weapons sys­tems, vehi­cles and equip­ment.

“At this stage of train­ing the guys have done low-lev­el drills, exer­cised at flight-lev­el with­out live ammu­ni­tion, and now face the final pres­sure of increas­ing the weight that they car­ry and prac­tis­ing under live fire, allow­ing them to think about fire dis­ci­pline.”

This week the RAF Gun­ners are at Cat­t­er­ick Train­ing Area in North York­shire on Exer­cise Lion Shield 10, fur­ther prepar­ing for their deploy­ment to the front line lat­er this year.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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