2020!! What a year. Whilst we’re all pleased to see the back of it, 39 Sqn did manage to deliver continued operational output and, due to significant ingenuity, effort and practice, achieved quite a few things, including virtual attendance at our training events, supporting several charity events and virtual social gatherings.
November saw 39 Sqn’s Remembrance Parade conducted by the Creech AFB Padre; an altogether humbler gathering compared with preceding years. In previous years the Sqn has been able to leverage its location by visiting local historical military sites to create poignant and memorable events. The obvious restrictions meant that this year, the service was carried out within the unit compound with only that day’s mission essential personnel able to attend. To overcome this and to widen the accessibility to the whole Sqn family, the Media Team pushed a live stream of the ceremony out via Zoom. Virtual hosting is something that we had never really considered previously for ceremonies and events such as this. The Sqn have adapted to the restrictions and have demonstrated innovative means by which events can be streamed in future, particularly useful given not just our geographical dislocation from the UK, but also the long commute from town to work! At least half the Sqn were able to view the ceremony remotely; not only a great success in allowing all who wanted to commemorate our service of remembrance the chance to do so, but also a useful way to beat lock-down boredom!
Each quarter 39 Sqn holds a ceremony to celebrate the Honours and Awards that have been earned by Sqn personnel. The ceremony is held by OC 39 Sqn, with the most recent held in November 2020 immediately after the Sqn’s Remembrance service. The challenges of creating a COVID secure space again made this awards ceremony very different to previous events. Past ceremonies saw the entire 39 Sqn family coming together to celebrate the achievements of our personnel. The team arranging the event did a fantastic job in ensuring both safety and celebration. Various medals were awarded along with an internal Sqn award – the ’39er of the Quarter’. This is voted on by all on the Sqn and is given to the person or team that has made a significant difference through the quarter. On this occasion the J1 team won the award for their continued hard work helping Sqn personnel with arrivals, departures and personal issues. An added bonus, this award gives the recipient the VIP parking space, the closest to the gate of the compound. Whilst not a major factor in November, come the 45°+ heat of summer, this is a very welcome advantage!
Finally, as the year came to an end OC 39 Sqn made the difficult decision to cancel the Sqn Christmas function. However, this did not deter the organisers and instead the Sqn held a virtual party. Multiple personnel worked together to make a night which involved the entire Sqn community, the event was a great success. A family-organised Children’s Craft Competition was announced for all the Sqn children to take part in, tasking them to create a ‘loo roll’ Christmas tree topper. Prizes were given for the top three entries with all decorations judged and reviewed online by the Sqn Cdr and his family. Christmas goody bags were also handed out to all Sqn personnel in a drive to get folk into the Christmas spirit! One of the highlights of the Christmas function was the Bad Carollers. Throughout the night members of the Sqn would dress up and call on unsuspecting households of other Sqn members, standing in a socially distanced arc they serenaded their hosts with carols both old and new. Those unfortunate few whose door was graced by the singers were rewarded for their participation with a bottle of Prosecco, helping to keep the party going.
The Sqn band ‘The Cross Hares’ played online sets from a downtown Las Vegas studio, chosen for its size to allow appropriate spacing. The band displayed their talents by playing a wide variety of songs throughout the night. The music was a great part of the online party and people were showing their dancing skills in the Zoom windows. One family organized a Sqn raffle, with prizes donated by Sqn members and local businesses. The Sqn chose the Brain Tumour Charity in the UK as this a charity close to all our hearts with a colleague who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour. The Sqn wanted him to know that even with him being back in the UK, he and his family remain a valued member of 39 Sqn. The highlight of the night was a video of him thanking everyone for their support and updating us on how he was doing; his wife then joined us all on a Zoom call meeting to announce the total raised on the night for their charity which was the grand sum of $1600, a superb effort!
This was a fitting way to end what was a hard year with many events cancelled, along with this being the last Christmas in the US for many 39 Sqn families; it was important to make it a good one, thankfully we did!
2021 is currently planned to be the final year for 39 Sqn in its current guise, it will be an emotional and busy year with many personnel moving back to the UK. Although this year will mark the beginning of the end of 39 Sqn’s current chapter, it will also be the start of a new, exciting period for the Sqn personnel as they move onto other roles. Undoubtedly the men and women of 39 Sqn will continue to play key parts in wider RAF roles, while supporting our sister Sqn, sustaining Reaper’s Operational output and assuring the transition to Protector.