7 Aviation Support – Battalion REME

71 Aviation Company Cpl Hess: After a very busy 2018 that saw 71 Company deploy on two Ex LIGHTNING FORCE’s and Ex CRIMSON EAGLE for three months, 2019 has started right where 2018 left off.

The main effort for the Company has been the support to 4 Regiment and Ex CLOCKWORK. This has included the aircraft deployment and recovery as well as deploying troops on the main exercising phase. Before deploying to the Arctic Circle all troops must first complete the Cold Weather Survival CourseThe aim of the cold weather survival course was to prepare the soldiers mentally and physically for working within the Arctic Circle for the first time and what conditions to expect when deploying back on exercise in January for another 6 weeks. The first couple of days were classroom based; running through the different dangers that we may come across and what to do if such situations arise. In addition, basic survival methods were taught such as building improvised shelters and making fire to protect from the elements. After the classroom phase we then deployed out into the field for three nights running through different drills and exercises like the construction of a first aid sledge, Avalanche rescue drills and Cold weather tactical drills. The Exercise culminated with a 24 hour survival night where all equipment was taken from us and we had to survive with nothing but standard everyday military kit and a Golok (a large machete-like tool) to cut wood, we had to work in groups to create a shelter, start and keep a fire alight for the duration of the night and also kill and cook the evening meal so that everyone was well fed for the cold night ahead. The temperature dropped to around -20C this night and was said by most to be the hardest and most challenging thing they had done to date in their military career. On the final morning the group were picked up and transported back to the hangar for a quick change of clothes and then straight back out for the final test, the ice lake. This consisted of full submersion into the lake whilst carrying a Bergen, answer a few simple questions, before climbing out and do drying drills before getting back into warm kit and transporting back to the Hangar for a debrief. Overall the course was extremely challenging and eye opening but at the same time very enjoyable. It was an experience not to be forgotten and would be recommended to anyone who has the opportunity to do it in the future.The aim of Exercise CLOCKWORK was to primarily test the robustness of the Apache to its limits in an extreme cold weather environment for the first time whilst testing us as technicians in temperatures dropping below – 30◦c for 6 weeks. The first 3-4 weeks were initial flying sorties beginning with small flights in and around the training area but soon hitting full sorties well out of the area, week 5 brought live firing and with it some temperature related issues occurring, but not enough to stop the pilots getting some rounds down on the live firing area. The hard work didn’t go unnoticed though, with regular ski and snowboarding trips offered and the chance for some AT, with snowmobiling and dog sledding packages available which certainly kept morale peaking. The scenery was spectacular, with regular appearances of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) on clear evenings, the views were second to none and not to be missed if the opportunity ever arises.It became apparent throughout the exercise how the Apache had exceeded all expectations and goals originally set out, leaving nothing but optimism amongst all ranks as to how much more the Apache can be tested within the Arctic Circle in the years to come…

Read more in the Spring 2019 issue of The Eagle