Joint Helicopter Support Squadron Deployed on Op NEWCOMBE

After three months supporting CH47 operations for the French battlegroup in Mali, the JHSS team was replaced this month.

Their contributions to the operation allowed the Chinooks to be used to their fullest extent and earned the praise of the French.

The first detachment is always busy, with the Mobile Air Operations Team reconnoitring ten key locations for helicopter landing sites, each one many hours travel from the Main Operating Base (MOB), and the Heli-Handling Team was no different, rigging vast resupplies for units out on the ground and providing passenger handling duties to ensure safe flying by French forces. Key tasking during this period saw JHSS flying out of the MOB at very short notice to rig and under sling a broken down French vehicle from a convoy move along a major road. The professional conduct and efficiency of the team garnered appreciation from the French and British alike, as this was an entirely new vehicle to the team and the pilots. This meant that it took all the team’s skill and experience to ensure safe flight.

The new team continues where they left off. Mass personnel moves to replace forces across the area of operations take up most of the team’s time. This is not as simple as UK Pax moves. The language barrier has trained the team to become experts in charades, their French is improving slowly. Organising people into chalks in 40-degree heat has its issues, notably trying to keep everyone hydrated. Key tasking has included the team flying to a FOB to lay out a double desert box – a set of lights laid out in a specific shape designed to help pilots land at night in an unfamiliar area. The team had to set out the points in 45 degrees wearing full kit, carrying sandbags to and fro in order to ensure the lights didn’t blow away. The speed and accuracy of their work earned praise from the 1310 Flt Det Commander as it shortened the time the aircraft had to stay on the ground.

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