RAF Reservists from Yorkshire based 609 (West Riding) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) took gold in Europe’s largest military skills competition for reservists – Altcar Challenge 18 – held at Altcar Training Camp near Liverpool recently.
The annual competition, designed to test a range of operational tasks and disciplines, was run under field conditions and comprised a series of stands and exercises with tactical scenarios.
The event is open to non-commissioned ranks only and included entrants from Holland, Denmark, France, Poland and, for the first time, the US National Guard.
Corporal Danny Burke gave an account of his experience at the event:
After a challenging journey to Southport, a few hours’ sleep and a hearty breakfast the 609 Sqn four-man team commenced the competition. Additional members of 609 Sqn formed up with reservists from other units to form a further team. The first stand highlighted the roles of local emergency services, then we moved on to map reading, Command tasks, Counter-IED (C-IED), Close Quarter Battle (CQB) skills and Vehicle Check Point (VCP) drills.
Despite the constant heavy rainfall, which saw the teams all completely soaked through, the chance to score some points spurred the 609 Sqn team on. We achieved one of the fastest scores of the day on the command task and were off to a good start with a gold standard assessment.
On the C-IED stand, the team was once again awarded a gold standard for accurately identifying all the associated and component parts of an IED using Vallon detection equipment.
Next came the stand everyone was most looking forward to, CQB. The teams were split to each take a building, with the RAF Regt personnel once more tackling challenge. After a dynamic effort, the final calls of ‘Building Clear’ were heard.
It was a similar story at the next stand, where the team quickly identified and collected scattered parts of a drone before successfully reassembling it. The medical stand was quite a challenge – team commanders were removed and communication skills were thoroughly tested. But with an RAF Team Medic on the team, we had little trouble and received a glowing debrief by the Directing Staff.
The next two stands were run by members of the Royal Navy, with personnel practising how to evacuate a sinking ship and survive on a life raft. This took the form of an ‘It’s a Knockout’ style dress up and run to the raft. All good fun considering the weather meant everyone was already soaking wet!
The second Navy stand was underwater mine recognition. Participants were blindfolded before describing their findings through interpretive drawings – this was probably very amusing to the Navy diver who was judging.
The final stand of the day was a planning exercise. Despite the team having very little military planning experience, other than myself (Ex-regular), the plan delivered was high quality and well thought out – which meant less questioning and interrogation from the Directing Staff and they quickly skipped over to the next team.
After a night under the stars and another mess breakfast the teams headed for the assault course. We came fourth, despite the high average age of the 609 Sqn team. This was followed by the march and shoot – the pace set on the assault course continued as we began the march element and the team finished in fast time of 9 minutes 26 seconds before achieving a silver standard in the shooting.
Overall 609 Sqn Team 1 achieved a much-deserved gold standard for our efforts with the mixed team achieving a bronze, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and we are already thinking about taking part in Cambrian Patrol in 2019.
609 Sqn Team 1 members – Corporal (Cpl) Burke, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Dowell, Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Lumsdale, SAC Ogol
Mixed Team – LCpl Meakin (609 Sqn), LCpl Hinchley (REME), SAC Lazenby (609 Sqn), LAC Hitching (505 Sqn)
Article written by Corporal Danny Burke 609 Sqn, Section Commander.
Photo shows Cpl Danny Burke leading the Vallon lane during C-IED.
609 (West Riding) Squadron, based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, is one of two RAuxAF unit in Yorkshire and The Humber. Initially formed in February 1936 in Yeadon, 609 Sqn played a vital roll in the Battle of Britain and is one of the most famous of Auxiliary Squadrons, with a proud tradition to live up to.
To find out more about the RAuxAF in Yorkshire contact 01677 457127 or 01677 457125/457123.