Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (JHSS) – RAF Benson
THE JOINT HELICOPTER SUPPORT SQUADRON CONTINUES TO OPERATE ACROSS THE UK AND THE WORLD SUPPORTING BOTH EXERCISES AND OPERATIONS FOR A VARIETY OF UNITS.
Heli Handling Teams are currently deployed in the United States of America facilitating Ex IMPERIAL ZEPHYR, the Falklands Islands, facilitating all underslung capability for the island; and another team has also recently returned from a capability demonstration at the Berlin Airshow.
The MAOT Leaders have also been busy revalidate UK and landing sites, in order to maintain JHC operational capability. The Sqn has also supported the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) LIVEX on Salisbury Plain Training Area, which culminated in a capability display in front of the secretary of State for Defence, Chief of the General Staff and other assorted dignitaries form both the UK and abroad. Within the UK the Sqn has continued to maintain a National Standby team which deployed on Op BOOMSTER in Carlisle loading CH47s from Odiham with essentials including fuel and food, before assisting the Police with liaison between the isolated locals and the Royal Marines deployed to deliver the supplies on the ground.
In early March the UK experienced the most significant spell of snow and low temperatures since December 2010, rending some villages in Cumbria isolated and short of food and fuel. On March 4th the JHSS National Standby team (sat at 2hrs NTM) was mobilised and met the RAF Odiham Chinooks at Carlisle Airport to load essential supplies. Both Army and RAF personnel assisted the Royal Marines in the delivery of these supplies, liaising with local police and the stranded villagers to ensure everyone remained safe during the storm.
JHSS has been integral in the UK Armed Forces commitment in the South Atlantic. At a landowners request, the military has demonstrated a tri-service capability to show how disparate elements can come together to achieve. JHSS operated as embarked forces on board HMS CLYDE to rig sections of a roof in seven-thousand kilogram nets, a task that is no easy feat as each net is 7.6m x 7.6m and weighs over 100kgs. This was an “unconventional load” and required the team to be on top of all their TTPs and use all their professional nous. Cpl Magee rallied his team and moved the roof from the sea to Sea Lion Island, displaying the Sqn’s central position in the forces deployed in the area. MAOT-Ls were requested by the Commanding Officer 905 Sqn (Expeditionary Air Wing) to revalidate all of the helicopter landing sites to enable operations to continue. This essential task was completed with alacrity and with no adverse effects on operational output.
The Squadron supported 27 Squadron’s role demonstration at the Berlin Airshow at short notice, deploying a team to rig specialist loads and allow the CH47 to show off its triple hook capability. Cpl Goral led his team to achieve a shining performance in front of an eager crowd and successfully demonstrated the CH47s capabilities.
Ex IMPERIAL ZEPHYR
Two JHSS MAOT-Ls deployed as part of the JHC advance party to in order to ratify the HLS directory for Southern California and Arizona. All flying training makes use of land which falls within USMC ranges or belongs to the US Bureau of Land Management. Before the aircraft begin flying it is necessary to liaise with the US authorities to ensure that sites are still available before visiting each site to ensure that they are suitable and safe. Many of the sites are easily accessible by air, but due to the nature of the desert they can be very difficult to access over land this can make the ratification process rather time consuming. In addition to the MAOT-Ls, a Heli Handling Team continues to be instrumental to the Puma Force Desert Environmental Training, working tirelessly to deliver support to aviation tasks.
Joint Expeditionary Force Live Exercise 2018
The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) Live Exercise is a multi-national, tri-service exercise that takes place across the UK. 3 Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade commanded the UK forces, whilst troops from Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Estonia were embedded within the brigades. JHSS deployed in support of the Aviation Task Forces, with one team each led by a MAOT-L embedding with each brigade, operating with Apache, Chinook, Puma and Wildcat helicopters. The teams were integral in moving stores to the exercising troops and facilitating troop movements for assaults. Of note, Cpl K Wakeham and his team rigged engineering bridging equipment for 33 Sqn to lift, proving the Pumas capability to lift over 1.8 tonnes and fly it forward to ensure natural features do not impede the advancing troops. MAOT-Ls were employed in their recce role, siting HLSs for aviation assaults and areas for FOBs to move to when the scenario dictated. The exercise ended with a demonstration day, and JHSS supported this by briefing VVIPs in London, marshalling them to the waiting aircraft and receiving them on the other end in SPTA where they managed the HLS.
Op CABRIT is the NATO enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, and in April Wildcat helicopters from 1 Regt AAC deployed as the first UK aviation asset in the area. JHSS were requested to deploy one MAOT-L in order to create a HLS Directory to ensure safe operation across the country. Flt Lt Armstrong joined 661 Squadron AAC and worked with their groundcrew and pilots to select and ratify HLSs in direct support of both UK and NATO operations.
RAF 100 Support
JHSS supported the Puma force’s RAF 100 outreach by reconnoitring local schools and managing the HLSs as Pumas landed. This community engagement was at the forefront of the station’s RAF 100 celebrations, and JHSS were proud to be involved as part of Team Benson.
Airtpr Scrivens received his Advanced Apprenticeship in Aviation Operations on the Ground from the Chief of Staff Wing Commander Tandy this month, a culmination of his hard work. To achieve this level 3 qualification he demonstrated both practical competence and technical knowledge in his trade within the Corps. Additionally, LCpl Bodle received the award for the best graduate of the apprenticeship programme from across the AAC, winning an iPad. This award is a demonstration of his dedication to his role as a JNCO, as he not only worked tirelessly to complete his own apprenticeship but then proceeded to use his experience to mentor and develop junior Airtroopers. Even whilst working in a busy operational environment he took time to help others, guiding them and checking their work before it was submitted to the Babcock, the apprenticeship provider. He is an excellent ambassador and champion for the scheme, and has earned this prize. Both are congratulated wholeheartedly.