Marham squadron set for Afghan tour as drawdown of UK forces enters final months

Armourer SAC Sam Flanders (left) works on a jet before a mission. Picture: Sgt Paul Oldfield

Armourer SAC Sam Flanders (left) works on a jet before a mission. Picture: Sgt Paul Oldfield - Credit: SGT Paul Oldfield

Norfolk's Tornado force is preparing for its penultimate deployment to Afghanistan.

Members of Marham-based IX(B) Squadron will take over from II(AC) Sqn later this month. They will be the last but one to take their turn at providing air cover for allied and Afghan ground troops, with Marham's 31 Sqn overseeing the final drawdown of UK forces at the end of the year.

Personnel have been taking part in special training exercises to prepare for deployment to Kandahar Airfield.

Scenarios have included intruders trying to get into the base, dealing with a variety of casualties and tackling a fire.

Wing Commander Chris Snaith, IX(B)'s commanding officer, said: 'The exercise has tested Squadron personnel's ability to deal with a huge range of events, ranging from industrial and road traffic accidents to complex close air support missions, aircraft crashes and insurgent attacks on the operating base.

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'A significant number of the Squadron have not deployed to Afghanistan before, and the confidence that they have drawn from their experiences during the week has been invaluable. They have proved that they are ready to deploy and, should the worst happen, that they know how to react.

'This will be Squadron's final tour in Afghanistan and, as the curtain is drawn on this episode in the Squadron's history, I am confident that the Squadron could not be better prepared to do what is needed to help and support that country.'

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The training was delivered by the newly formed Operational Training Centre (OTC) based at RAF Leeming, which is responsible for training units prior to a deployment anywhere around the world.

Exercise director Sqn Ldr Simon Reade said: 'The IX(B) Sqn exercise is the first exercise to be delivered by the OTC. It has proven to be an extremely successful exercise which has highlighted the depth of preparation for their forthcoming deployment.'

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