54 Squadron – What does the R stand for?

…asked my Army ISR student preparing to deploy to Helmand within days.
“Reconnaissance” I replied, hastily reassessing the degree of ISR training this particular individual required.
“54 Reconnaissance Squadron, makes sense I suppose” he remarked.
I breathed a small sigh of relief as I realised he was asking about the R in ‘54(R) Squadron ‘rather than the R in ‘ISR!’
Should the R stand for something else other than Reserve?

How about ‘Repertoire?’ The Squadron certainly has a large one of those as it continues to operate 3 different aircraft types by training future operators of E-3D Sentry, Sentinel R1 and Nimrod R1. However, the Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) stalwart of the Nimrod R1 will very soon be taking to the skies for the last time and consequently 54(R) Squadron have finally wrapped up its last Nimrod training courses. In January 5 expert and experienced operators deployed to the 338th Combat Training Squadron, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, USA to commence their RC-135 (Rivet Joint) Operation Conversion Unit training. The new Rivet Joints will replace the Nimrod R1 capability and will eventually join 54(R) Squadron’s stable of different types it is responsible for training.

At time of writing it would be entirely appropriate for the R to stand for ‘Reign’ as the Squadron currently reigns at the top of the CO’s Cup league. Following a solid semi-final performance in the seated volleyball in January the Squadron played its joker and managed a respectable 4th in February’s bucket-ball.

Based on the different aircraft operated by 54(R) Squadron the R could easily stand for ‘Radar’ and the new crop of Qualified Weapons Instructor(QWI) students would certainly agree as they are currently being bamboozled with a week of radar theory training. The QWI(ISR) course is notoriously demanding and the deep Radar theory week represents the peak of the course’s academic challenges. Flight Lieutenant Dan Marshall has taken control of the course and replaces Squadron Leader Ewan Stockbridge as the QWI(ISR) Course manager. We all wish Ewan the best of luck in his second career and are pleased he won’t be far away working in the high-tech synthetic environment of the Air Battlespace Training Centre here at RAF Waddington.

On the subject of senior officers Retiring, the Squadron will be sad to lose Squadron Leader Lee Mansell and Squadron Leader John Cairns who both retire this year.

Like most of the military, 54(R) Squadron is reducing in size and is currently 1.4% lighter than it was at the start of the year. However, we have not reduced in number of personnel but reduced the overall weight of our squadron members as part of the Station Health and Wellbeing initiative. 54 (R) Squadron are currently sitting in 3rd place and looking to regain our 2nd place spot over the coming weeks. Well done to all those taking part, it’s a great initiative and great to see the Squadron up there battling for the top spots!

54(R) Squadron are rightly proud to have a recent MBE recipients in the form of Master Aircrew Daz Isaac from Astor Conversion Course 12 who previously carried out some outstanding work with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) supporting forces in Afghanistan. In addition to Daz’s Recognition, Flight Sergeant R J Allport from the Nimrod Flight was awarded a Chief of the Air Staff Commendation. Well done guys and congratulations from all of the Squadron.

In summary, it is clear that the R in 54(R) Squadron could easily stand for anything from Radar to Recognition and is a function of the Squadron’s wide remit to train individuals in many different and varying aspects of Combat ISR. 54(Reserve) Squadron is currently living up to its name as we supplement the front line Squadrons with reserve forces and seeing operational action in Afghanistan and all over the middle-east. More details to follow in the next edition…

By Flight Lieutenant Seb Hall

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