54(R) Squadron called out of Reserve to support Operations
2014 has proved a busy year for 54(R) Sqn OCU. The unit encompasses many differing areas of expertise and conducts conversion training on three different platforms whilst also delivering the “in demand” qualification through the QWI (ISR) course. The Waddington STANEVAL Unit (WSU), also part of 54(R) Sqn, ensures the standardisation of each Operating Sqn at RAF Waddington.
Whilst still delivering the Sentry Conversion Course (SCC), Sentry flight has continuously supported the Frontline on NATO Air Policing missions in Poland and Romania. This has given 8 Sqn vital respite where needed, furthered training opportunities and increased staff seat time. The E-3D Mission Simulation Flight and supporting staff, in addition to facilitating the SCC’s synthetic training needs, continue to help support 8 Sqn maintain their Combat Ready Continuation Training and preparedness for future contingency operations.
The QWI (ISR) directing staff have also seen their fair share of operations as two of the four instructors have deployed in support of Ops. Firstly, Flt Lt Phil Brooks deployed to Afghanistan in May to utilise his expertise in supporting FP at Camp Bastion. Secondly, Flt Lt Matt Greef was deployed immediately upon completion of QWI (ISR) Course 5, which graduated in July. He has deployed on board the fleet flagship HMS Bulwark, augmenting COMUKTG as part of Exercise COUGAR 14. After an initial period of finding his sea legs, Matt has become a valuable part of the Information Warfare department delivering ISR support to the RFTG. He is due to return in November, when he will join the QWI (ISR) staff in readiness for course 6 which starts in January.
The Waddington STANEVAL Unit (WSU) has also been heavily involved in frontline operations throughout the year. The cooperation of the frontline ISTAR units and the WSU has allowed the delivery of operational capability during periods of high tempo. NATO’s mission in support of the Ukraine Crisis has resulted in periods of heavy tasking for 8 Sqn and the Sentry as a whole. All WSU Sentry personnel have augmented 8 Sqn since the Ukraine Crisis began, whilst providing reserve instruction to assist OCU staff. Sqn Ldr Pickup (OC WSU) and MAcr Briggs (WSU Sensor Operator) deployed to Kandahar Airfield in support of 14 Sqn’s Op HERRICK commitment. All Reaper personnel continue to provide support to Op HERRICK, including the deployment of MAcr Gall to Camp Bastion for advice and support to the Army WATCHKEEPER. WSU Sentinel personnel have been almost permanently involved in Op HERRICK from their forward operating base in Musannah. Finally, the UK RIVET JOINT is involved in the direct provision of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance services on Op HERRICK and Op SHADER, a task requiring the support of ten WSU operators. Overall, continued STANEVAL duties in the UK and operations on multiple fronts have seen 54(R) Sqn WSU personnel deploy worldwide for extended periods – a situation set to continue as operational tempo increases.
54(R) Sqn is an ever-growing Sqn with the increase in assets and personnel due to the ever-increasing demand for instruction. However, never let it be said that 54(R) Sqn only serves at home.