MERLINS COMPLETE TEN TORS DUTY
The wings of the Royal Marines weighed in to one of the biggest outdoor events for young people – for once blessed with beautiful spring weather.
Two Junglie Merlin helicopters from 846 Naval Air Squadron provided the aerial support to participants and organisers of the hugely-popular Ten Tors trek across Dartmoor.
The challenge – now in its 49th year – sets teams of up to six young people to complete courses around the moor of 35, 45 or 55 miles in length – depending on their age and experience over one weekend in May.
This year more than 400 teams signed up.
Commando Helicopter Force are regular supporters of the Ten Tors – indeed the whole challenge is one of the biggest military-civilian joint events in the UK, with 1,000 Forces personnel making sure the whole trek passes off safely.
Which is where the Merlins come in… acting as flying ambulances for any search-and-rescue missions should walkers need evacuating from the rugged Dartmoor terrain.
The helicopters also conduct general trooping duties flying passengers around, plus supplies to some of the outlying tors – all of which makes good training by day and night for air and ground crews living and working in the field for the duration of the challenge.
“Ten Tors is perfect training for 846 Squadron,” said Lieutenant Commander Andrew White, detachment commander of the Junglie Merlins.
“Dartmoor can be a challenging area for flying as well as yomping. Ten Tors is live reactive tasking with live troops, tremendously satisfying and very rewarding as well as good training across the squadron.”
Aside from the two Merlins, 846 committed three full crews (two pilots, two aircrew apiece) and two engineering watches, providing round-the-clock casualty/medical evacuation service, and support tasking to Headquarters South West Brigade.
“The training for Junglies is invaluable – we’ve supported Ten Tors for well over 20 years and is always a very popular weekend for volunteers to help out and attend,” Lt Cdr White continued.
“Personally, it’s great to chat with the competitors and meet the teams taking part on Friday as they prepare their kit and Saturday morning before it all kicks off.
“You get a strong sense of what this challenge means to them. It’s even more amazing to see that they’ve still got smiley faces and that enthusiasm when they cross the finish line on Sunday.”