39 Squadron Force Develop in San Diego
In June 2014, members of 39 Squadron travelled to San Diego for some long overdue Force Development.
Two groups were formed, both of mixed ranks ranging from Senior Aircraftsman to Flight Lieutenant, allowing different ranks to socialise together and enhance Squadron camaraderie. Due to the demands of a busy flying programme, each group travelled separately, using the Squadron vehicle to make the 4 hour journey to San Diego. A rest stop at Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner was a must for burgers and their renowned milkshakes!
Both groups stayed at the United States Navy Lodge situated at the Naval Base on Coronado Island. Upon arrival in San Diego, we immediately participated in a guided boat tour of the Naval Base. The tour took place across the San Diego Bay area, overlooking Coronado Island where we were able to observe a large portion of the United Naval fleet currently in service and see where the US SEALs are trained. The boat tour was conducted by a passionate ex US Navy SEAL, with consummate knowledge and questionable humour; the two hour tour was highly informative and thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Taking advantage of the afternoon sun, and the hotel’s beachside location, the groups organised a BBQ dinner and were entertained by individuals recalling previous Force Development trips whilst watching the helicopters out at sea. We also had a very good vantage point for watching the US military aircraft come in to land at the Naval Base – a little too close for comfort sometimes! After a quick shower and change we headed out to the Gaslamp District in Downtown San Diego to enjoy some of the delights on offer.
After a good night of rest at the Navy Lodge, and a delightful breakfast at a local cafe, we set off for the San Diego Air and Space Museum, the emphasis being on the history of flight, from the days of hot air balloons to today’s space shuttles. We even got to take a look at the actual Apollo 9 command module spacecraft. Briefs were given by participants on the Lockheed A-12’s operational history including why it was retired and the Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk and its comparison with the MQ-9 Reaper. One group member shared his passion and wealth of knowledge about medals in an impromptu brief as we walked around different national collections. Throughout our tour, we were greeted by guides who were retired engineers or pilots. Not only did they take the time to explain the exhibits but they made them come alive with their real-life stories and enabled those of us with less knowledge to understand better and to ask any questions we had. These individuals had a real passion for what they did, and were more than happy to entertain us. We all came away with the feeling we had learned quite a bit about all aspects of air and space flight. By having a variety of ranks and trades with different experiences within the groups it enabled everyone to learn something from one another.
After viewing all of the exhibitions and enjoying the F-35 simulators, the group quickly refueled at The Alaska Airlines Flight Path Grill.
The groups then headed to the USS Midway. The tour of the Navy vessel was mostly self-guided using the audio guides and information boards next to the displays. In addition, personnel gave briefs: an introduction to the USS Midway and key points of service, the USS Midway’s role in the Vietnam War and Operation FREQUENT WIND and an overview of Aircraft types carried on the USS Midway. We were lucky enough to come across a US retired helicopter pilot whose experiences include the Vietnam War and is thoughts on manned aircraft versus unmanned were very pertinent to us.