New commander flies into 845 naval air squadron
On 17th January 2012 Commander (Cdr) James Newton DFC RN became the new Commanding Officer of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), taking the reins from Cdr Jolyon Woodard who had been in charge since April 2010.
Cdr Woodard oversaw one of the busiest periods in the Squadrons history and, acknowledging the Commando Helicopter Force Squadron’s heavy commitment to activity in Afghanistan and on the high seas, he gave a heartfelt leaving address to the squadron personnel:
“It has been nothing short of an honour to have commanded 845 NAS these past 2 years. The Squadron is its people, and is thus made up of over 200 of the country’s finest individuals who consistently deliver extraordinary results in some of the most demanding circumstances imaginable. Amongst other places my command has taken me to Afghanistan and Libya, operating from the deserts and the high seas, and I have loved every minute of it. As part of the Commando Helicopter Force the men and women of 845 NAS are set to face many challenges in the years to come, associated both with Defence reform and defence of the realm but I have no doubt they will continue to face down all that confronts them in true Junglie style - with professionalism and more than a little panache.”
Cdr Woodard inherited a squadron that has established itself as a key part of Operation HERRICK supporting the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The squadron has also undertaken training in extreme climactic conditions, from the arctic environs of Norway to the scorching sands of the desert; there have also been Amphibious exercises in the Baltic, Atlantic and Mediterranean. The latter of these saw its focus switch from Exercise COUGAR to Operation ELLAMY, as part of the effort against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in Libya.
The new Commanding Officer, Commander James Newton was educated at South Dartmoor School, Ashburton and King Edwards VI School in Totnes, before joining the Royal Navy in 1991. Having gained his coveted ‘Wings’ in 1993, his first tour was with 658 Squadron Army Air Corps (AAC) flying Gazelle and occasionally the Scout helicopter, before a 5 month tour conducting drug enforcement operations and medevac flights in Belize, Central America. He completed his ‘Junglie’ training in 1995 before being appointed to 846 NAS, with tours to Northern Ireland the Arctic, Mediterranean, and the Far East. He converted to Lynx AH7 in 1997, seeing yet more global tours, and then completed the Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) course in 2000.
A two year tour as a Sea King instructor on 848 NAS was followed by a return to 847 NAS, flying both Lynx AH7 and Gazelle AH1. During this tour Cdr Newton conducted operations in Iraq in 2003; for his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross - the first Royal Navy pilot in over 50 years to receive the Gallantry medal.
His next appointment was to Naval Flying Standards Flight where he regularly flew all types of Naval helicopters. His first Tour outside of the cockpit took place in 2007 as the CHF Operations officer, co-ordinating Operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He returned to the training environment in 2008 as the Senior Pilot and Executive Officer of 848 NAS. Having been selected for the Advanced Command and Staff Course in 2010 he was promoted to Commander in 2011 and now joins 845 NAS for his first command.
Commander Newton said:
“It is a real honour to Command 845 Naval Air Squadron – the premier Junglie Squadron. Life for the whole of the Commando Helicopter Force continues apace and 845 is right in the thick of current UK commitments. The Squadron is supported by some of the most dedicated, selfless and loyal personnel who rise to the global challenges day in, day out – they are truly remarkable”