845NAS D Flight Return From Afghanistan
It was with great anticipation that members of 846 Naval Air Squadron awaited the return of colleagues from D Flight back to RNAS Yeovilton after another successful tour of Operations in Afghanistan. The ‘Junglie’ Sea King aircrew and engineers of D Flight, who had said their tearful goodbyes at the end of January, arrived by coach to be reunited with their families after a particularly gruelling few months.
As tea, coffee and cake were served, the returning personnel had the chance to catch up on the events of the previous 14 weeks and begin their return to normality, as well as spin a few stories of their own.
For two men, Lt James Wallace and LAET Dan Mockford, this moment was particularly special, giving them the chance to be reunited with their baby daughters, who had doubled in size since they last saw them in January. Dan said of the occasion, “The past three months have been tough, and it’s certainly good to be home. I am, however, immensely proud to be a part of this Flight and what we have achieved.”
Talking about the Flight’s experiences in Afghanistan, Lt Wallace added, “The tour had started with the off-going Flight from 845 NAS handing over the aircraft to the incoming Engineers whilst the new aircrew, some of whom were on their first ‘visit’ to the country conducted familiarisation flights in the local area, refreshing themselves on the necessary flying techniques. After only a few days, it was straight into operating and maintaining the aircraft in the bitterly cold days and nights of an Afghan winter. With working temperatures as low as -10 degC and an extremely high Operational tempo, the demands placed upon everyone were massive but, needless to say, the attitude and professionalism shown by everyone allowed an impressive serviceability and flying rate, even on those occasions when the ‘old girl’, as the Sea King is often affectionately known, tried her best to prove otherwise.
In early March, however, things changed very rapidly as within a couple of weeks, temperatures of nearly 40 degrees were being experienced. Afghanistan’s notorious seasonal switch had been flicked bringing with it a completely new set of challenges, not least the aircraft’s aversion to getting hot under the collar. With this, attention switched as it always has to the (relatively) cooler conditions of the night, a welcome change from the round-the-clock tasking previously being carried out.
Now all back safe in the UK, and having been relieved by their counterparts from 845 NAS, D Flight are enjoying a well deserved spot of leave prior to returning to work where, once again they will be poised at very high readiness to respond to any contingency. Whatever the future brings in the next few months, their professionalism and ‘Junglie’ spirit displayed over the past three months will carry them through. The only thing that is certain for them is that they will return to
Afghanistan for what will be their final tour of duty before the Flight disbands as part of the ongoing process of the Commando Helicopter Force’s transition from operating the Sea King to operating the Merlin currently flown by the Royal Air Force.