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3(F) SQN UPDATE

HAPPY 2014 FROM ALL AT 3(F) SQUADRON; THE RAF’S OLDEST HEAVIERTHANAIR SQUADRON (WE HAVE PROOF). 2013 FINISHED AS IT BEGAN, WITH THE SQUADRON DEPLOYED TO THE MIDDLE EAST ON A LARGE MULTINATIONAL EXERCISE. THE CHRISTMAS BREAK AFFORDED SOME WELCOME RESPITE BEFORE JANUARY PROVIDED SOME VALUABLE MULTIROLE TRAINING AS A PRE CURSOR TO A SQUADRON STANEVAL VISIT (CUE EVIL MUSIC).

November and December 2013 saw the Squadron deployed to Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates for the Advanced Training and Leadership Course (ATLC). This 4 week exercise saw 3(F) Squadron train alongside air forces from the UAE, USA, Jordan, Pakistan, France and Italy. The significant success achieved by the Squadron was founded on a real team effort and a noticeably buoyant atmosphere was created on the squadron (maybe partly because it was 30 degrees in December!).

The Exercise allowed the Squadron to continue it’s multi-role training with a wide range of air-to-air and air-to surface missions flown including the opportunity to conduct Air Maritime Integration sorties alongside the Royal Navy. As always, the pilots owe a huge debt of thanks to those that supported us during the deployment. The engineering team put in a sterling effort to keep us flying despite some challenging IT issues and the Mission Support Flight for maintained flight operations in a building the size of a child’s shoe. Similarly credit goes to the rear party lead by Sqn Ldr Batt and his team in their hard work keeping the ‘pilot light’ on at the Squadron while the rest were away.

The sum of all the hard work was 6 weeks of extremely valuable training and many new qualifications for pilots on the Squadron. Congratulations must go to the 4 who are now officially ATLC Graduates (sporting a very shiny patch): Flt Lts Andy ‘Human Guitar’ Nilson, Mark ‘The Worm’ Smith, Jim ‘Decibels’ Fordham and Rob ‘Crab Luge’ Sampson.

It goes without saying that everyone, in the spirit of ‘work hard, play hard’, made the most of the down time. Cultural visits included the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the third largest in the world. Some other highlights involved: Squadron ‘movember’, an attempt to revive the conga, some great impromptu Eng/Aircrew nights out and also one of the best buffet lunches in history at the Fairmont. For those that made the trip the Dubai Rugby 7’s will live long in the memory. A great day out had by all and a round of applause to Sgt Chris Starkey who lead a 3(F) Squadron fancy dress team turning heads on the way!

After a surprisingly incident free trail home the Squadron set about resetting and preparing for the Christmas break. The Squadron Christmas party (albeit downsized) and then the Pilot’s Lunch marked the end of the year in typically raucous style. I think its only fair to say that 3(F) Squadron out sang everyone and owned the bar, and despite winning I think the ‘mess rugby’ made a few people question coming out of retirement.

The Squadron returned to UK operations with a thump, taking responsibility for QRA on 27 Dec. As always, the effort and sacrifice put in by those on duty over the  Christmas break is genuinely appreciated. Despite some engineering challenges, the Squadron has gritted its teeth and got stuck into the demands of delivering the UK-based flying programme. The focus was initially on regaining the basics after the Christmas period but soon moved on to multi-role training with plenty of Close Air Support exercises all over the country. The focus of these exercises is to provide pre deployment training to the British Army units who will make up the last elements  deployed to Afghanistan before the end of Op HERRICK.

In mid January Ops played Eng at football as part of a ground training day. In true 3(F) Squadron style it was a hard fought and energetic contest. Eng took the lead through a well worked goal, although it was discovered that this had been achieved with 12 men on the field. Ops were immediately awarded a controversial penalty which evened up the score line. Despite some gutsy counter attacking from Ops and a sublime free kick from Ryan ‘Ringer’ Smedley, the Eng team were the better side and ended 4-2 winners. Only some shameful finishing and some inspired goal keeping spared Ops and kept the score line respectable! Sgt Daz ‘Midfield General’ Williams and Flt Lt Guy ‘The Cat’ Hart must go down as joint ‘Men of the Match’. Hopefully the XO will have recovered from his horrific eye gouging incident at the  hands of a toddler and can play some part in the rematch.

Departing members of the squadron during this period include Flt Lt Liam ‘who ate my lunch?’ Pucill who leaves us to teach students his ways on the OCU. Flt Lts Mark Smith and Andy ‘Fiddy’ Nilson begin the QWI course in January and one half of our QWI team, Flt Lt Jon ‘Miley Cyrus’ Simcox, also leaves us to join StanEval. They, and their partners, are all big losses to the Squadron and we wish them every success.

Gladly in December we welcomed 2 new members of the Squadron. Flt Lt Steve ‘Gopher’ Moore and Fg Off Tom ‘Wally’ Wallington join us from the OCU after a decade of holding. Clearly with Smithy departing there is a vacancy for Squadron Jester so good luck lads!

As this article goes to press the Squadron is in the grip of a StanEval visit. Expect the results in the next edition once it’s all over and we’ve all stopped running round like headless chickens!

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