Rutland Reserve Sqn Goes Wild In Wales
Members of 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron – an Operational Support Squadron based at RAF Cottesmore – have been living in the field for a week of training to prepare themselves for working in a war zone. The Exercise came at the end of a year of training and reinforced the lessons learnt over the previous 12 months.
504 Squadron’s role is to support Regular RAF Regiment Squadrons in their duties to protect the assets of the RAF. Trained as infantry gunners, the personnel learn to fire a number of different weapons including assault rifles, pistols, grenades and the general purpose machine gun.
While in Wales the Squadron were running an operating base, undertaking vehicle and foot patrols in the surrounding area and learning to deal with situations they may encounter in a war zone, such as IEDs (improvised explosive devices), coming under enemy fire and casualty evacuation, as well as working alongside local people whose language and customs differ from those they may be used to at home. However, it wasn’t all work and no play for the 504 Squadron personnel. Before the exercise commenced, they spent the first two days in Wales doing adventurous training, with coasteering (scrambling, swimming and cliff jumping around the coastline), sea kayaking and rock climbing.
Squadron Leader Jan Burton, Officer Commanding 504 Squadron, said: ”Although the weather in Wales is likely to be wetter than the Reservists will experience in Afghanistan, the drills will be the same. By practising these drills until they become second nature, the gunners can confidently go on to deal with the real life situations they will meet in an operational environment.
“All Squadron personnel are eligible for call up for deployment to an operational theatre. It is vital therefore that they are fully prepared and able to work seamlessly alongside their regular RAF counterparts.
”The whole Squadron gets involved in these exercises with head office staff joining in and trying to make the exercise as realistic as possible. Coping with living in the field in any weather conditions is a skill in itself, although on this exercise we had the mobile catering unit to prepare hot meals, which are always a real morale booster.
“Although there is a very serious side to the training, the gunners have a good time as well. They are all volunteers, so it’s essential that they enjoy what they are doing.”
More information on 504 Squadron and the RAF Reserves can be found at www.raf.mod.uk/rafreserves.