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My story comes from Exercise Purple Star in the Summer of 1996 when the Brigade was deployed to North Carolina, USA for a very large multi-national exercise. I had finished the Army Pilot's Course only a couple of months earlier and was very new to how the Squadron operated. I was fortunate enough to avoid the dreaded 'Duty Pilot' job for most of the exercise, but early in the morning of the last day, about 12 hours after the above photo was taken, it came time to do my first ever stint on duty.

I arrived at the Command Post at about 0400, felling pretty tired as I seem to remember I had been flying the night prior and had only had a couple of hours sleep. I got the usual 'high quality' handover from the off-going pilot: "you've got it, I'm off to bed." Sitting in the back of the BV206 I looked around and found a few bits of paper lying around with various bits of writing on and piled them up as they may come in useful. Fortunately we were expecting ENDEX pretty soon that morning and were looking forward to a proper shower after a couple of weeks in the field. While I was sat there on duty the OPSO decides that it is time to dismantle the CP as it was nearly over and so all the tentage and everything else are removed while I am sat there trying to keep radio watch.

Morale was high as the end of another crappy exercise approached and everyone has pretty much lost any interest, myself included, in anything to do with the last bit of the 'war'. The aircraft commader of a Lynx (no names) that had been tasked to fly the Brigade Commander came to the BV and asks if I have the grid reference of the Brigade CP so he can go and pick him up to take him to the exercise hot washup with all the other Force Commanders. For some reason I pulled a small scrap out of the pile of paper that was lying around, as I remembered seeing it had said 'Brigade CP' on it along with a grid reference (did I say that I had lost interest!) and gave it to the pilot.

My stint on the duty desk finished soon after that and I disappeared to get a couple of minutes kip before the big move to Camp Lejeune and then onwards to CAX, and the OPSO turned all the radios off as nobody else was on duty after me.

An hour or so later I could hear raised voices coming from the CO's location, with the OPSO getting a lot of grief from him. I remained concealed, but moved closer to listen in, and as I did so it became clear there was an issue with the Brigade Commander's Lynx and a Gazelle was being readied at the rush. I had a fair idea by this stage what had happened, and knew I had a hand in it and so made myself even more scarce.

By the end of that day the blame was lying squarely on me and the brown stuff was caking the fan. It transpired that the grid reference on the piece of paper was for Brigade Tac and not Brigade Main and the Brigade Commader's Lynx did not show up to pick him up, as he was at Main. It took about 3 hours before anyone actually knew where the Lynx was, as the crew could not find the Brigadier and had just shut down hoping he would come and find them. Fortunately a Gazelle had been dispatched and got the Brigadier to the debrief, but he was not a happy man. Did I mention that the Brigade Commander was Brigadier Milton, who was not known for his compassion and tolerance. A friend of mine had been working in the Brigade at the time of the incident and later told me that the Brigadier had virtually exploded with rage when the Lynx did n't show up, and grabbed a radio handset off the watchkeeper and shouted "where is my F***ing helicopter" into it.

Needless to say that it all rolled downhill and I had to give the CO of what was called CHOSC at the time (now CHF) a reasons in writing letter. That in itself was pretty challenging as I had no decent writing impliments or paper as we were still in the field. Fortunately J C Woods the SD Bootneck working in CHOSC provided a fountain pen and writing paper (got to love SD Officers) to allow me to complete and deliver the letter to the CHOSC CO. All in all not a stunning start to my career in the squadron, but it could only get better after that - surely!!!