644 Ground Support Flight Deployment to Rutja
In Spring 2021, 664 Squadron deployed to Estonia alongside other elements of ATF-1 on Ex SPRING STORM. We operated primarily out of two locations, Amari Airbase and Tapa, in support of NATO operations which were taking place in the Baltics at the time. During our time there, as well as working out of these two main operating bases, there were opportunities for us to deploy forward to other locations and practice vital skills we rely on, not only as a GSF, but as soldiers too, that ensure we are able to conduct our work in a multitude of environments, both tactical and non-tactical.
One example of this is when ATF-1 deployed forward to Rutja Airfield in Northern Estonia to practice tactical Forward Arming Refuel Points (FARP). On arrival we established a harbor area and set up our landing points ready to receive aircraft. As we were deployed tactically it meant we also had the opportunity to hone in on essential soldiering skills that we don’t always get to utilize in our standard day to day job.
A vital element of conducting a FARP in a tactical environment is the ability to do so with a minimal visual footprint giving the ability to operate without being seen until operational necessity dictates this. One of the main things enabling us to keep a minimal visual footprint is vehicle camouflage. Erecting cam nets above our vehicles, whilst also utilizing our natural surroundings, helps to distort their shape, making it harder to be seen from a birds-eye view. Once the concealment aspect had been completed, we then moved our focus to our contact drills whilst on a FARP, running through different scenarios we could potentially face in future tactical environments.
Having the opportunity to come under contact whilst conducting upload drills and refuels, whilst on a point, gave us valuable experience for any upcoming future exercises. This is something we are looking to develop with the use of a FARP matrix and moving FARP locations. This all means we have the knowledge and skills to be able to react to whatever may be thrown our way.
To summarise our time in Rutja, it was an enjoyable experience doing something different from our day to day norm. It gave us the chance to develop and utilize the skills that we have touched on during other exercises throughout the year. We could then put them all together to run a cohesive, tactical training situation for ourselves but also the aircrew, signals and other elements of the Squadron that joined us during our time there. This puts us in good stead moving forward on other deployments and future exercises.