After 6 continual years of basing in Afghanistan, Number V(AC) squadron, flying the SENTINEL R1 aircraft, departs its ground base in Afghanistan, but still supports operations.

In 2008 V(AC) Squadron deployed its ASTOR system in support of Op HERRICK. Ground Intelligence Analysts deployed into Afghanistan and the aircraft was deployed to locations in the Middle East.

At its peak, 12 tri-service personnel worked at the ground station at Camp Bastion, with a further two Liaison Officers at HQs in Kandahar and Camp Leatherneck, before moving into the air HQ in Qatar.

The Camp Bastion ground station was the link between the aircraft and the HQs, passing and receiving messages via secure voice and data transfer. The Ground Analysts were able to receive data in near real-time and were tasked in producing in-depth intelligence analysis products from the aircraft for wider dissemination into the military community.

With the gradual drawdown of coalition forces and the satellite communications abilities of the aircraft, it was decided that the ground station in Afghanistan would cease operating in December 2013.

A surge team of four personnel deployed for a short period to assist in the preparation for redeployment. This enabled some of the infrastructure to be prepared and packed, in order to reduce the workload for the embedded team.

The embedded team spent Christmas packing, cleaning and moving the equipment, prior to returning to the UK to spend New Year with their families. However, one motivated and dedicated individual remained behind    ensuring all equipment was returned back to the UK safely.

This was not an easy task due to the intense logistical demand the air-bridge was experiencing, complicated by some freak adverse weather, the likes of which had never been experienced at Camp Bastion.

Sgt Mike Cook (43) from Croydon has seen operational experience all over the world, from Iraq to Italy, and is on his 5th detachment in the tough climate of Afghanistan. He says:

“It is sad to see us leave Afghanistan, but I know we are leaving having contributed to the success of the ISAF mission and have helped to make a positive difference.”

Over a few months all the equipment was successfully packed, moved, prepared, checked, weighed, loaded and made its way back to RAF Waddington, ending over 6 years of enduring ground operations in Afghanistan for the Squadron, although the air element of the squadron remains operational in theatre.

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