Operation RUMAN is our contribution to the international humanitarian relief operation taking place in the British Virgin Islands following the devastation of Hurricane Irma.
The first week of September saw the Caribbean facing the full force of a Category 5 Hurricane and as a result, thousands of people were left without food, water, shelter and basic human needs. The Support Helicopter Task Force reacted very rapidly, and on 7 September, engineers and support staff worked tirelessly through the night to prepare aircraft and personnel for deployment. Less than 24 hours later, the first Puma was carefully manoeuvred onto a C-17 at RAF Brize Norton and along with its cargo, was on its way to the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean to provide life-saving and life-changing humanitarian aid to those most in need.
Preparing a Puma for transportation is a laborious task but one that is completed swiftly by a small team of our skilled engineers. Landing at its destination, the process is reversed and the team take just 4 hours to replace the rotor blades and prepare the aircraft for tasking. After the first Puma landed in the Caribbean, 2 more followed shortly after along with 60 personnel from RAF Benson.
The team quickly got to grips with the task and were soon making a massive difference. One of the most notable tasks in the early days of the operation was the successful deployment of a small team of Royal Marines to Jost Van Dyke; a small island North West of the island of Tortola. The team helped to support this isolated community of just 300 people, as well as helping to clear buildings and provide security.
Alongside providing water and rations to those who desperately needed it, a crucial task was to deliver medical staff and supplies to where they were needed most. The Puma was also ready to evacuate casualties from remote locations to central hospital care.
The Detachment Commander, Wing Commander Andy Baron said:
“This is an incredibly rewarding deployment for my team who are here to help the people of the British Virgin Islands get back on their feet after the devastation of Hurricane Irma. Now established and delivering meaningful helicopter lift capability in the region, my team’s focus remains on answering every request for help.”
With the remaining Pumas landing in the Caribbean, they loaded crucial aid alongside 40 Commando Royal Marines and successfully conducted several air drops to assist the communities in the West End, East End and Cane Garden Bay; where a Puma was met by elated locals in need of supplies. The team have remained in high spirits after seeing first-hand the difference they are making to the local communities and are continuing to make a real impression. They were humbled when a number of local businesses and families rallied together to make them a home cooked meal instead of eating their rations.
We are all extremely proud of all those who have worked tirelessly to provide relief after the devastation of Hurricane Irma.