A short stop was made in Gibraltar to finalise preparations for the pending Continuation Operational Sea Training which beckoned. However, our colleagues from 42 Commando Royal Marines had additional plans to mark a very special occasion. Even though it was 6am the embarked forces of the Royal Marines, led by Sergeant Bagshaw RM (and a smaller and slightly slower group of Ship’s Company) took on the infamous Gibraltar Rock Run. The challenging 4 km run that climbs over 1300 feet to the summit of the Rock through winding, monkey-laden trails has long been a staple for sailors and marines visiting Gibraltar. However on this particular occasion the ‘Royals’ were especially keen to show their mettle. It was October 28th and the Corps’ 353rd birthday. The capture of Gibraltar was the first battle honour the Royal Marines were awarded in 1705 and is worn with pride on their beret badge. Unsurprisingly, our friends celebrated their climb and the history of their comrades with traditionally understated photo and well earned glass of port.
Back into the Mediterranean
ECHO said goodbye to Gibraltar and headed back to sea. Whilst in Gibraltar a training team from Flag Officer Sea Training had arrived ready to put the Ship and her Ship’s Company through their paces. Probably the best way to describe their role is as the harshest OFSTED inspectors a school could ever meet and their job on board was to put ECHO through a week of Operational Sea Training. The test of everything that Ship’s Company had been working towards since leaving the UK. More simulated fires, floods and man-over-boards lay in store, culminating in a huge final exercise . This exercise simulated the ship suffering a major collision and grounding resulting in a multitude of flooding compartments, fires and casualties. Huge credit must go to the entire Ship’s Company for their relentless energy and determination doing what they do best. ECHO passed Operational Sea Training with flying colours which is no surprise given the effort put in by all. With that major milestone out of the way ECHO was ready in all respects to proceed east and resume her role as the UK’s contribution to the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean.
Getting Back to it…
Now back in the heart of the action in the Med. ECHO is working with our European Union partners on a variety of Naval tasks. With migrant numbers in the Mediterranean reduced at the moment there has been less involvement in rescue events. This has allowed us more time for to conduct Maritime Security Operations, help disrupt illegal arms smuggling and monitor the Libyan Coast Guard as they step up and put their new skills at migrant rescue operations into practice.
Even though our tasking has been keeping us extremely busy, there have been a few moments where our program has changed to allow a variety of evolutions to take place. One of these was the opportunity to join up with our colleagues in the other European Union Naval Force vessels taking part in Op SOPHIA. The opportunity was taken to visit other ships within the force as well as host crew members from our partner nations. Such events allow us to exchange ideas and experiences thereby increasing mutual understanding and increase our levels of interoperability. An additional outcome of such a gathering of ships is the inevitable photo opportunity. The organisation and execution of such a picture is highly complex, requiring precise and skilful shiphandling to achieve and is enough to send the most experienced wedding photographer over the edge. However, we were successful as evidenced by the picture below.
Despite being thousands of miles away in the warm Mediterranean sun, ECHO still observed Remembrance Sunday with the ceremony and reverence such an important day demands. A formal ceremony on the upperdeck featuring readings by the Captain and representatives of the Junior and Senior Rates mess, including the newest members of Ship’s Company, joining us fresh from Phase two training on their first deployment. The laying of our own wreaths including a homemade paper ship filled with poppy leaves and inscribed with messages of thanks from the crew made for a touching tribute to those that have fallen.
What’s Next for ECHO?
With ECHO back on task off North Africa, the Ship’s Company are getting back into the rhythm of Op SOPHIA. Over the coming months the tone of Op SOPHIA will change as the illegal migration model continues to adapt and evolve. ECHO will remain a vital part of the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean for some time to come as she remains deployed on operations throughout 2018 and beyond.
135 Geographical Squadron Royal Engineers
Mobilisation and operational output
135 Sqn have a number of roles: Geospatial Information Dissemination (GID), survey, geospatial analysis and in the future bulk reproduction of mapping The Sqn continues to provide geo support to the Army, Defence and wider Government.
The Sqn has a constant remit to provide geo support when required to the following customers:
• Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), in support of NATO
• VANGUARD – support to a UK Divisional deployment
• Wider Defence
Last year we supported ARRC who were the force ready to provide the NATO Reaction Force at high readiness for NATO in 2017. The Sqn had personnel at a readiness for being deployed within 30 days. Whilst we and indeed ARRC were not called upon we were ready, should the call have been received!
ARRC is at a lower readiness for 2018, but we still are ready to support. Indeed we are currently selecting and training a new set of personnel to take up the ARRC and VANGUARD roles for 2018.
We are currently preparing new personnel to take up the mantle of support to both ARRC and VANGUARD for 2018. This will involve our personnel being integrated within the wider Regiment?s step up training, to ensure interoperability between Reserves and Regulars both in terms of personnel and technical equipment culminating in the multi-national EX ARRCADE GLOBE in the summer.
The Sqn has also competed at Corps and Army level in a number of sports including cross country, orienteering and rugby. Adventure Training has continued with teams participating in the Original Mountain Marathon where the purposefully difficult navigation was compounded by atrocious weather this year.
The jewel in the crown of Adventure Training this year is Spr Longyear?s participation on Exercise DRAGON ECUADORIAN ODYSSEY. This is a challenging mountaineering expedition to the Ecuadorian Andes, taking place over the 4–24 Jan 2018. The Andes are the worldas highest mountain range outside Asia. The peak of Chimborazo, (one of the aims of the expedition), in the Ecuadorean Andes is farther from the Earthas center than any other location on the Earthas surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from the Earthas rotation. Spr Longyear is thankful for the financial support the WCCS has provided him, following the return of the expedition, you will be able to hear all about it at a presentation that will be delivered to the WCCS.
The Sqn appreciates the close bond between the WCCS and the Sqn, and is delighted to host the WCCS Master and Military Representative at our annual Endeavour Dinner in April which honours the achievement of Cpl Kirchmair the current Endeavour award recipient.
The Sqn recently appeared in the CICES journal, the article can be found at:
Maj N Archer | OC 135 Sqn, 42 Regt
7010 Sqn Activities, December 2017–January 2018
Current Establishment: 94. Strength: 71. Fully Trained Strength: 58
Four members of the Sqn are currently mobilised for full-time service with the RAF in support of Op SHADER in the UK and overseas. One JNCO has demobilised since the last up-date, however that individual is now planning for another mobilisation this year. The mobilisation process has also been initiated for one of the Sqn Officers who will deploy for a six-month period.
The Sqn’s primary focus is to provide real support to Operations by augmenting Regular RAF teams at RAF Wyton. The feasibility study mentioned previously has been completed and the Sqn will begin working at RAF Wyton two weekends per month from February 2018.
Organisational Development & Training
The Sqn is beginning to grow into its broader ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) support role with personnel working in two new functions in the last two months.
11 Sqn members are currently enrolled on the Operational Air Intelligence Course (OPAIC (R)), with two expected to qualify in March 18 and the remainder at various points during this year. Successful completion of this course will enable those qualified to be utilised to a broader extent in intelligence roles. This will certainly give us greater opportunity demonstrate our value to Defence and provide a wider range of activity for members to become involved in.
We still await confirmation of who our new Honorary Air Commodore will be. At present Air Cdre Delva Patman continues her long associate with the Sqn and joined us in December for a glass of port and a mince pie to celebrate our success in 2017.
Events & Highlights
The Intelligence Reserves Wing is planning to hold a reception in March 18 to mark the formation of the Wing (comprising 7006, 7010 & 7630 (VR) Intelligence Sqns. The planning is currently in its early stages and I will share details as they are confirmed.
OC 7010 Sqn