RAF personnel from 2 Squadron, Tactical Communications Wing, 90 Signals Unit (90 SU), based at Leeming, experienced almost every weather condition when they set up camp at Driffield Training area, in North Humberside. It was from here that the airmen would conduct their mission rehearsal exercise ahead of their deployment to various military posts in Italy and Cyprus next month.
The aim of the exercise was to ensure that the highly-qualified technicians will be able to cope with, and overcome, any technical difficulties or surprises that might be thrown at them. Their performance in a crisis could be the key to ensuring that vital communications links with aircrew on a mission, or even back to the UK, are kept open.
As part of the training exercise, the Squadron was tasked with setting up voice and data lines in a completely bare field using masts, a satellite dish and extremely specialist vehicle-borne equipment - bearing in mind the needs of, and danger posed to, any aircraft which might be sharing the area.
The lines then had to be kept running through any challenges posed by the exercise staff, or even the weather.
Senior Aircraftman Lee Lightfoot already has operational experience of Afghanistan, but feels that exercises such as those at Driffield still have huge training value. He said:
Training like this gives us the right experience to work on the equipment. It’s a very high pressure job - lots of questions and requests have been coming through all the time for the guys on the ground.
I think Italy will be very different from Afghanistan, but I just love the lifestyle and the camaraderie. You have a laugh together after a hard day’s work.
The exercise had also been a challenge for Flight Lieutenant Charles Sudborough:
We have to get the right information to the right people at the right time,” he said. “We have a great bunch of guys and girls here who are dedicated to doing the job and making the world a safer place.
Whilst communications might be one of the most vital roles on operations, it is often one of the least understood.
Group Captain John Wariner, Commanding Officer of 90 SU, acknowledges that his personnel are often unsung heroes, and said:
Whether one is in the back office, the kitchen or the fast jet cockpit, we are all equally committed to the mission to protect the Libyan people.
The timely provision of operational information is vital and 2 Field Communications Squadron is ready for the challenge.