February and March saw the culmination of all our CVS training when the Sqn deployed again to HMS INVINCIBLE off the coast of Oman to finalise pilot quals and take part in Ex MAGIC CARPET – whilst embarked. Not for us the luxury of a land-based exercise as in past years – although we did field a substantial FARP (Forward Arming and Refuelling Point) party at Thumrait who did manage to sample the delights of Salalah. For the majority, the lasting memory of MAGIC CARPET will be cramped and hot accommodation. But the flying was fantastic and a solid, non-confrontational relationship was established with the ship’s crew, which made the time go more quickly and enjoyably.
There was a moment of historical significance at the end of MAGIC CARPET when we mounted missions on successive days into Afghanistan from the deck of the CVS. The pre-planning was intense: the number of potential pitfalls and pinch-points were significant but the job was done. The Boss and OCA (Tim) flew on Day 1 and QWI2 Ben and Fleet Air Arm sprog Mark flew on Day 2. So 4 members of Happy 4 already have a good idea of what to expect on April 3rd when the whole Sqn deploys to Kandahar in Afghanistan to begin a 3 (or perhaps 4) month deployment on Op HERRICK. Deep joy.
On 16 March we hosted an informal parade to present Op TELIC/Iraqi Freedom medals to those members of the Sqn who served at Al Jaber in Kuwait 2 years ago. The Presenting Officer was Air Cdre Mike Harwood who was the DOB Commander at Al Jaber. The Association kindly donated ?100 to the Sqn to facilitate provision of tea and biscuits to the friends and relatives of medal recipients. The event, which began in the Sqn hangar and ended in the WO and Sgts’ Mess, was adjudged a huge success.
Final snippets, Pete (PK) has been shortlisted for the Reds and will join them in Cyprus this April and we have just heard that Wg Cdr Ian Duguid (Squid) will take command of IV (AC) Sqn from Wg Cdr Andy Offer in April 2006. Squid last flew as Exec with Happy 4 in August 2000 since when he has been treading the corridors of power in London and Shrivenham.