Another blisteringly hot day in Kandahar marked the final chapter of combat air operations in Afghanistan as IX(B) Squadron handed over to 31 Squadron.
Cpl James Cooke 26, (normally stationed at RAF Marham from) 31 Squadron Tornado Detachment working on a Tornado aircraft at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.The Royal Air Force has operated fast jets over Afghanistan since 2004, first with Harriers and then Tornado GR4s for the past five years.
Before returning to RAF Marham in Norfolk, Wing Commander Chris Snaith, Officer Commanding IX(B) Sqn explained the role his squadron has played during the run up to the end of UK combat operations in Afghanistan later this year. He said,
“Our job has been to provide tactical reconnaissance and close air support to ISAF and Afghan forces across the entire country. We have had eight aircraft here and about 135 people on detachment and have ready to respond to a requirement at a moments notice. You can achieve quite a lot with a relatively small footprint.”
Talking about the how things had changed in Afghanistan since the RAF flew their first missions of the campaign, he said,
“Children are being educated, kids are smiling, there is less violence and there is hope. If we have done our bit to give the Afghans the opportunity to stand on their own feet, then that is something for which I think we should be proud. Everyone on the squadron is a part of that including our colleagues back at home at Marham and especially our families.”
Both being based at RAF Marham ensures there is plenty of friendly rivalry between the two squadrons; however, Wg Cdr Snaith was quick to endorse his 31 Sqn neighbours. He said,
“The working relationship between the two squadrons is really good. The Tornado force has gained an enviable reputation over the last 5 years here and 24 years of nearly continuous ops in the Middle East. 31 Sqn are now the custodians of that reputation and it is their job to keep that reputation at the top and I have absolutely no doubt that they will manage to do that.”
For 31 Sqn boss, Wg Cdr Rich Yates, it is his second time commanding a squadron in Afghanistan. He said,
“Being the final squadron out here we build upon the legacy of all those who have gone before. We have an important job to do right up to the end as the drawdown happens, to assist the Afghans and provide security to ISAF forces during the redeployment. We don’t live in isolation and are keenly supported by everyone here on 904 Expeditionary Air Wing and 83 Expeditionary Air Group across the wider region. We are a well drilled and well prepared team.”
Both squadron commanders recognised the essential support given by families and friends back home. Wg Cdr Yates said,
“The families back at home are very much a part of the squadron. Their support is key and helps us achieve mission success out here and keep us at the tip of the spear.”
Editor: Cpl Chantelle Cooke
Cpl James Cooke 26 from31 Squadron Tornado Detachment working on a Tornado aircraft at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.
Junior Engineering Officer Charlie Baker from 31 Squadron ‘receiving the baton’ from a IX Squadron pilot.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014