The arrival of the New Year has also brought with it the promise of an extremely hard one as we have at long last entered the year that our Lords and Masters have set aside for the move of 3 Commando Brigade in its entirety back to the United Kingdom. Most of the units and sub units have been allocated their new locations, but the Squadron still has that big '?' behind our proposed new home. The long term policy is that Plymouth Airport is to be accorded the privilege of housing us, but the short term solution is Coypool on the outskirts of the city. If all the stories that we are told are true, the new location promises to be a very exacting one from every aspect, but clearly time will tell.
The Squadron is already a hive of activity and the aeroplanes seem to be parked closer and closer to one another as more and more boxes arrive and are stored in the hangar. A certain amount of re-organisation is taking place to ensure that the correct persons and stores are returned to the United Kingdom with 42 Commando Group and also to remain in the Far East with 40 Commando Group until early next year.
Flying. The flying training emphasis this month as been on IF training for all Scout pilots in liaison with 11 Flt AAC and Lieutenant Hordey. The amount of training that can be done is limited by the fact that the Scout must be fitted with flotation equipment for IF training in Singapore. The Squadron has only one set of this equipment, but in spite of this programme is progressing well.
Observers. Normal observers continuation training was carried out, the aim being a minimum of two hours per observers per month.
Clear View II. This was a 40 Commando unit exercise held between 25th and 29th in the Kota Tinggi Training Areas. Two Sioux of Dieppe Flight supported the exercise. Tasks were normal and the exercise was used by the Flight as a work up period after several personnel changes.
Winged Dagger II. This exercise had two aims.
a. To layout and to operate the reduced Brigade Headquarters complex in the field.
b. To test the ability of the reduced Brigade Headquarters and its supporting elements to move by air.
This was exercised in four phases:
i. The move by C130 aircraft from RAF Changi to RAAF Butterworth.
ii. The setting up and operation of the Headquarters complex to be tested in a communications and control exercise.
iii. A CASCOMEX (Close Air Support Comm Exercise) to test the Tactical Air Request Net and to exercise the Squadron Forward Air Controllers.
iv. The move back by air from RAAF Butterworth to RAF Changi.
The exercise was used by the Squadron Headquarters to evaluate various ideas on the organisation of the Squadron control, and to confirm some initial conceptions on the movement by air of Sioux and Scout aircraft. The Squadron Commander, CSgt Lawrence, Sgt Streeter, signallers, drivers and mechanics all took part. Also airlifted were 2 Sioux, 1 Scout and 2 x 3/4 ton landrovers and trailers.
The air move went quite smoothly and the points that arose during the move up were corrected for the move back. The main lessons learned were:
a. The Scout was moved by air for the first time by the Squadron. It was found to be the easier rig for an airlift than the Sioux, and takes approximately one hour to prepare.
i. The load spreader ramps designed for getting the Sioux from the ground onto the Hercules ramp can be used for the Scout.
ii. If the Scout is to be lashed down at the rear of the Hercules fuselage, it is preferable to remove the tail rotor to prevent damage to either the rotor or the Hercules upper rear door.
iii. The tail plane must be removed to allow the helicopter to get to the correct angle for movement up the ramp. The tail plane just fits onto the rear seat of the Scout.
iv. Make sure the Hercules has a winch that works (pushing is difficult!)
b. The Sioux have been moved by air several times before. The main problem with preparation for flight after the airlift is the fiddly job of getting the bolts back into place when refitting the main skids. A timescale for the preparation of the Sioux for airlift is two hours, and the preparation for flight is two and a half hours.
c. The Ardrose detection set must be included in the dangerous cargo box as there are aerosol dispensers in the set.
d. Whenever Squadron aircraft are to be moved by air there must be aircraft technicians available to assist and to give technical advice to the MAMS on the delicacies of helicopters when being pushed and lashed.
As a result of the communications exercise and SOP is being written giving the disposition of the Squadron personnel and their duties. The table in the Headquarters complex has been modified and all that needs to be finally decided and practiced is the communication link between the Brigade Light Aircraft Desk and the Squadron location.
The CASCOMEX was a great achievement in Anglo-Australian diplomacy. The Squadron Commander, CSgt Lawrence and Sgt Streeter each completed at least three strikes against military targets pre-positioned in the area, directing RAAF Mirage II fighters. The orbit method was used as this is the standard system used in Vietnam and is feasible for this type of country and target. The Australians were so pleased that their GLO, Major Mannion, has asked if the Squadron can provide FACs for the exercises in Malaya using Mirages in support of 1 RAR and 1 RNZIR. Needless to say this was accepted with alacrity. Most of the flying was on communications duties. Many lessons were learned and ideas crystallised for the future.
Commendation - Sergeant T.C Almond REME
Sergeant Almond is congratulated for his perseverence and determination in walking and hitch-hiking from TANAH RATA, Cameron Highlands, to IPOH Airport on 16th January, to service two helicopters of Kangaw Flight. He and a REME Sergeant of 95 Regiment had to cross numerous landslides on the road down from the Highlands which had been badly affected by monsoon rains, and for most of the way they had to carry a heavy tool kit. They managed to complete the 75 mile journey in just over 4 hours. Sergeant Almond successfully cleared the aircraft to fly and they proceeded on task to TANAH RATA. His action showed great devotion to duty.
Details of Commendation. On 5th January 1971 two Sioux helicopters of the Air Squadron arrived at IPOH, Perak, West Malaysia prior to flying to Slim Barracks in the Cameron Highlands where they were to support units of the Brigade. A number of small faults were found on both aircraft and some minor servicing was required. The country was experiencing very bad weather and the monsoon had caused large scale flooding and landslides in the Cameron Highlands. CSgt Mackie, the Detachment Commander, telephoned to Sergeant Almond who was at the time in Slim Lines, TANAH RATA, telling him of the faults. Sergeant Almond said that he would come down the road to IPOH to do the servicing. The road between TANAH RATA and TAPAH, at the bottom of the Highlands had been cut in seventeen places by landslides and the landrover with the servicing equipment was stuck 9 miles down the road. At 0930 hours on 6th January Sergeant Almond and Sergeant Davies, the armourer with 7 Bty 95 Cdo Lt Reg RA, walked down to the vehicle crossing numerous landslides on the way. Having collected the toolkit from the landrover, which wieghted about 60 lbs, they drove down as far as they could and then walked down to TAPAH. In all they walked 18 miles. From TAPAH theyhitch-hiked to IPOH where they arrived at 1130 hours. Sergeant Almond successfully cleared the aircraft for flying.
It is considered that Sergeant Almond showed more than the normal persistance and determination to get his job done and the aircraft on task.