3 MCS is deployed to the Gioia del Colle air base in southern Italy in support of the RAF Typhoon and Tornado squadrons currently based there for Operation ELLAMY, the UK name for the NATO operation in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
Keeping fit while on such operations is important, especially when demanding 12-hour kitchen shifts in temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius are the norm, so 3 MCS brought its own Physical Training Leader (PTL), Corporal Simon Martin.
Warrant Officer Willie Dixon, from 3 MCS, explained:
A PTL is an addition to the Physical Training Instructor [PTI] world. When there are no PTIs in theatre, he can take us training. In this case he is a caterer from RAF Benson.
3 MCS exists to deploy on operations to provide food and other key support to members of all three Armed Services. With temperatures in the kitchen at Gioia del Colle hitting 45 degrees Celsius even before summer, fitness is a key requirement:
If you’re not fit, you can’t come onto 3 MCS,” said Warrant Officer Dixon. “You have to be fit to deploy. If you’re not fit, you’ll never do a 12-hour shift in here.
We decided we’d do two compulsory fitness sessions a week on a Monday night and a Friday night, and we’d do one session where people did their own PT. They can do other sessions as well.
The deployed operating base commander saw us doing it and asked if he could attend. Then the medics asked if they could come along, then other people. Now Corporal Martin is a little bit concerned about the numbers - he might have to run more sessions!
It’s good interaction. It’s good morale. We get to meet other people.
Circuit sessions are held in the car park outside the 3 MCS mess tent at Gioia, with basic equipment, a soundtrack that would be at home in any gym, and a lot of good humour.
It is not the only way that 3 MCS helps personnel stay fit and healthy though.
Warrant Officer Dixon said:
We’re conscious that people do want to eat healthily. We’re giving them plenty of fresh fruit, plenty of salads. We have got a budget to stick to, £2 a day. But the guys in the modern Air Force know what they can eat and what they can’t.
And they also know where to go to keep fit.
One - slightly breathless - participant said:
Sometimes it can be hard to find time to keep fit on operations, so having these organised sessions is really helpful.
The caterers always do great food, but it’s still a bit odd to come here for a great workout too!