Wednesday 24th August 2022
Dramatic scenarios unfolded at Royal Air Force Wittering this week as heavy aircraft and Support Force Units returned to the Station for Exercise Swift Lion.
5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron’s former headquarters was the venue for the exercise, in which Tactical Medical Wing (TMW) built an impressive working field facility. TMW’s role is to train and deploy qualified RAF medical and nursing personnel in support of operations and exercises all over the world.
To keep their skills sharp, TMW personnel were confronted with a series of simulated medical emergencies. Among the first of these was a replicated accident involving the Fuels Team from No 1 Expeditionary Logistics (1EL) Squadron. 1 EL Squadron had set up their deployable fuel tanks when one of the team sustained a serious groin injury from a missile.
The Fuel Support Team at 1EL Squadron specialises in providing tactical refuelling for fixed wing aircraft no matter where they are in the world, from smaller portable fuel tanks to massive primary installations.
Corporal Tracey Robinson is part of the Fuels Team at 1 EL Squadron. She said: “It felt very tense, but the team remained calm and I came across the casualty first. We set up a tactical refuelling facility, like we would do on a real operation and had live fuel in the tanks. We had to deal with the casualty and then check that there was no more explosive material and no damage to our equipment.”
At around 800 square metres, and with nearly 30 qualified personnel on hand to run it, TMW’s field medical facility is equipped to deal with most medical emergencies. It can be scaled up to suit larger operations and has an emergency room, primary health care wards, physiotherapy, environmental health, and even a pharmacy.
Group Captain Michael Priestley is the senior medical officer in the Support Force. He said: “This is what teamwork looks like; our regular and reserve personnel are working together seamlessly, to deliver the kinds of exceptional healthcare needed for deployed air operations. These are trained RAF medical and nursing personnel working with real cohesion, delivering operational effect quickly and responsively.”
The RAF Support Force brings together most of the capabilities and skills needed to sustain modern air operations and exercises; specialist engineering and logistics, advanced military communications and tactical medical services. Exercise Swift Lion brings the Support Force together, so that it can train collectively, as though a real operation were underway.
And, just like on a real operation, heavy aircraft have to be loaded securely, troops need to be fed, and secure communications are an absolute must. Throughout Exercise Swift Lion, No 1 Air Mobility Wing safely loaded and unloaded passengers and freight from RAF Atlas aircraft, No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron kept the entire exercise fed, and the engineers of 90 Signals Unit deployed their advanced communication hardware.
Group Captain Nick Huntley is Deputy Commander of the RAF Support Force. He said: “Military capability is one thing, capability under pressure is quite another. The essence of a successful exercise is in how our teams respond to the unexpected, this is what exercises like Swift Lion are all about. Our training team has put together a realistic scenario to really test our capabilities, which our people have responded to with calmness and professionalism.”
Top image: Corporal Tracey Robinson of No 1 EL Squadron. (AS1 Kimberley Waterson)