8 Force Protection Wing HQ Welcome Home
The more observant of you will have noticed that the Wg HQ did not submit an article to the last Insight. This wasn’t an oversight on my part but was due to the high tempo of the Wing and the fact that we spent most of the last two months away training.
This time away has however, given me ample to write about – starting with Ex JOINT WARRIOR.
This was a tri-service exercise that saw the Wg HQ deploy to the west coast of Scotland to plan, run and support (and in the case of SAC Murray, perform an Oscar award nomination acting role) the exercise on behalf of the Force Protection Force HQ. This allowed 5 FP Wg (a sister unit from Lossiemouth) to exercise their subordinate units, namely 51 Squadron RAF Regiment and a Sqn made up of the RAF Police’s Contingency Force. The Exercise saw the FP units deploy to Pastonia (a notional country) to provide support to the local security forces. In facilitating the exercise I found myself as the project officer with Flt Lt Stu Clark acting as the enemy commander. One of us had late nights living in a damp building, planning serials for the next day and dealing with a plethora of issues, which included providing pot washers for the Navy kitchens, arranging complex vehicle loading plans and providing the link between 3 Commando Brigade and the FP Wg. The other one had to stay in the Sand of Luce Caravan Park and conduct one or two patrols aimed against the FP forces. I’m sure you can guess which job I got……
The exercise was awash with valuable trg opportunities for both the exercising troops and support staff alike. I even found myself learning tremendous amounts of information most notably that the Royal Navy (largely the Royal Marines) cannot cook. Thankfully the RAF provided a couple of chefs to offer real food interspersed with the gruel.
Following JOINT WARRIOR the Wg reconstituted back at Waddington in time to spread far and wide in support of FP tasks. These tasks included live firing, a communication exercise with 1 Squadron RAF Regiment and an Officers and SNCOs study day. The period covered in this article finished with survival training which was delivered with the support of staff from 54(R) Squadron. The training commenced with a pretty heavy PowerPoint session which was challenging enough, but then as we moved in to the field phase was seen as ‘not so bad’. This second phase started with the deployment of the Wg HQ to Otterburn Training Area (horrendous mountainous terrain just south of the Scottish border) where we had to establish our shelters and start to conduct activities to ensure our survival and eventual recovery. At this point I should probably point out that our Wing Commander was unable to attend due to other “commitments” however he was only made aware of this whilst sitting at his desk awaiting Sgt Morris’s returning to pick him up having forgetten him on the outbound journey.
Some might say that Sgt Morris’s lapse in memory was divine intervention, we like to think of it as old age.
For RAF Regiment personnel, living in the field is second nature but we normally survive through a combination of morale (usually in the form of Haribo) and by being so busy that time flies. Unfortunately due to the scenario we had no foodie type morale and due to the keenness of the troops and a natural can do attitude, all activities were achieved in double quick time. This left vast amounts of time to contemplate the universe, watch the fire or conduct the worst of all human endeavours and ‘fern farm’. Fern farming, for those that don’t know, involve hunting for the elusive fern plant and cultivating its soft bushy and sort of waterproof leaves for use in bedding or cover for the shelters. This activity produces huge handfuls of leaves and a great sense of achievement right up until you put them down and find that even though you have spent an hour collecting vast quantities of these plants, they cover about a 30cm x 30cm square on your shelter and that you need to go again and again and again and again and again and…..
Needless to say that even though we Regiment types love exercises and field conditions, our return to Stn routine has been a welcome one.
Following our arrival back at Waddington, Wg personnel even found time to conduct our first rugby training session during which we took great pride in trialling our new strip. The shirts which were purchased by the troops were kindly printed for free by Needhams uniforms in Waddington Village.