Squadron Update from OC XXIV

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Reproduced below is a letter from the Officer Commanding XXIV Squadron, Wing Commander Daz Rawlins, to all Association Members, with the latest Squadron news update.

Dear XXIV Squadron Association Members.

It hardly seems a heart-beat since the splendid Centenary celebrations back last year but much has happened on the Sqn in the 6 month period.  I thought I would take this opportunity to give you a snap shot of what has been keeping XXIV Squadron busy and busy we have been! Excuse the absence of full names and ranks for OPSEC reasons particularly if you post this on your Blog.

Following the departure of our previous Squadron Association representative (Rocky) to ETPS we have had a re-shuffle and decided to send you Charlie, an improved and far prettier version of Rocky who also happens to be one of our most respected, diplomatic and personable Air Loadmasters on the Air Mobility Force. Together with Hoggy (No2 I/C) and George (another excellent Air Loadmaster) Charlie will be our front-of-house for the XXIV Sqn Association Engagement Team and hopefully you will have already seen the benefits of this initiative.

Looking to the future, we are delighted to have been given the details of the Summer Social on the 1st June 2016 and although I am on leave, I am hoping my wife will issue me with a pass to attend!  Notwithstanding this, we will do our utmost to support.

The EGM date of the 1st Oct is firmly in our diary and we have recently suggested you the use of the Atlas Building and Conference Room.  I would be delighted to formally offer you this location; it is mobility friendly, warm and comfortable for you to enjoy.  In addition, my team will seek to run the Simulators on the day.  I would respectively mention that there are steep steps to the Simulators and because of Health and Safety I could only offer this to those who are not of limited-mobility.  However, for anyone who falls outside that bracket, I will arrange something equally as exciting. Finally, our Squadron shop will be stocked, open and ready to fleece every available Association member! I have just ordered some red and black Sqn Lanyards for our RAF ID Cards which most definitely identify XXIV Sqn members from about 100 yds and of course, we still have limited stocks of Centenary Coins, T Shirts and our new Sqn print displaying the C130J, Atlas and C17 on it.

Before I get to the 2016 Ligny-Thilloy Hawker expedition, I must tell you about some recent correspondence from the Air Staff.   The 28 October 2016 will mark the 100th anniversary day for the death of former German fighter pilot Oswald BOELCKE who served during WWI on the Western Front and died in a crash after colliding with another German aircraft during an air combat with British fighter pilots. The Tactical Air Wing 31 “BOELCKE” and the independent tradition community BOELCKE have developed the idea of erecting a plain memorial stone in front of the town hall of the French City BAPAUME (BOELCKE crashed nearby that town) which should remember both Oswald BOELCKE and the historical date. By commemorating Oswald BOELCKE people should not only remember an outstanding fighter pilot but all fallen soldiers of both nations. The rescue of a young Frenchman by Oswald BOELCKE on 28 Aug 1915 demonstrated that even during war times there was still room for humanness among the nations.

The German Air Force has already requested the formal permission by the French Air Force. The respective mayor and the assemblymen of the electoral district Pas-de-Calais valued the project and have both given their general approval. Afterwards two formal meetings between German and French representatives have already taken place in October and December 2015. As of now it is intended to hold a small ceremony with delegations of both the German Air Force and the Armée dé l’Air on 28 October 2016.  However, since Oswald BOELCKE dies during air combat with British fighter pilots (not to forget the Royal Flying Corps dropped a wreath a day later “ To the memory of Captain Boelke, a brave and chivalrous foe” both Germany and France would highly welcome the participation of a RAF delegation on this occasion.  XXIV Squadron has been chosen to receive this honour and I will lead a small party out to the event.

Of course, the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and of Hawker being shot down is a significant event in the Squadron calendar.  The 11th November event is firmly in our thinking and Charlie and George will work up viable options as well as considering some of your excellent suggestions.  You can assume the Squadron Standard will attend providing I can get clearance to allow it to leave the UK.  I will also seek to gain permission for a flypast on the Friday but because this is a working day, it rather depends on the training programme.

Optimistically, I would like to think we have a strong case given the ample notice you have given.  We will tie in the Squadron’s contribution with a wider Staff Ride to study the Somme so it is likely we will be out in the area all week probably staying in the same town as yourselves.  My intent is then to travel directly to over to Pisa to join in with the ‘Folgore’ Annual commemorative ceremony with Col Bertoncello.  When we firm up plans for this I will send out the details.

You will already be aware of our initiative to replace the commemorative welsh slate in the RAF Church at St Clement Danes in London.  One of our Junior Officers (Samantha) is championing the project to replace this at a total cost of £880.  Having recently viewed the slate, it most certainly needs replacing.  The plan is to hold a small consecration Service at a suitable date when the replacement slate is available.  This event will be open up to all Squadron and Association members who are available to attend.

One of the Engagement Team has approached the Association for financial assistance, however small,  but I totally accept that your generosity in commissioning the Centenary Silver Bowl was considerable.  Of note, the Centenary Bowl still shines brightly and has been deployed during several Dining In Nights!  Although I formally thanked you in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal and following your AGM,  I would like to repeat my thanks to the Association once again for the splendid gift and appreciated generosity.

So on to business!  I started by saying how busy the Squadron has been over the past 6 months.  Here is a snap shot.

‘A’ Flight, C130J conversion has been developing the new C130J Course which will see an ab-initio pilot, straight from 45R Squadron, achieve Tactical Air Transport (TAC AT) proficiency within 6 months of arriving on the Squadron.  This is a significant venture and one which will see the C130J Force be in a position to talent spot individuals for more specialist duties at a much earlier stage.  This ‘cradle-to-grave’ approach is pioneering for the Force and runs alongside a Qualified Pilot Instructor / Qualified Role Instructor (QPI/QRI) scheme aimed at giving our non-QFI instructors a recognised, Central Flying School (CFS) accredited qualification.  We have just has this signed off by CFS after months of hard work.  In addition, A Flt are developing 3 Engine Take-Off procedure for the  C130J and Regulated Take-Off Graphs for high-terrain locations such as Bardufoss in Norway.

‘B’ Flight has been equally as busy.  Development of a new Defensive capability has been a main effort as well as delivering routine Tactical Courses including Air-to-Air Receiving to the Frontline.  Later on in the year, they will be delivering some Tactical Training to the Royal Oman Air Force as directed by the ACAS so you will appreciate much of their work has been directed by the very highest levels.  Like A Flight, they will be involved heavily in the new C130J Course Design. In addition, the SDSR will see some new capabilities come to the C130J Force which I will brief you on during our next meet. The Flight recently deployed to Scotland for a Tactical Exercise (TARTAN SPIRIT) and will do the same for the whole of May for another Exercise in California.

‘C’ Flight Atlas Conversion continue to train crews for LXX Squadron and currently have 5 Courses running.  There have been some interesting challenges for Atlas, specifically an Engine related issue has required the careful allocation of flying hours to the Force.  This has slowed momentum slightly but the plan for the Squadron is to continue as directed and run with the current Course schedule.  The Squadron will return to RIAT this year to defend the top award we won in 2015 and you will see an Atlas and C130J fly in formation (line astern) at the 2016 Queens Birthday Flypast (QBF).  XXIV Squadron will co-crew both aircraft.

Of note, Seb, a ‘C’ Flight Pilot was awarded a Green Flying Endorsement this week for his efforts in landing a Lancaster with an Engine Fire!  Yes – Seb is a BBMF Pilot in his spare time but don’t feel too sorry for him.  He loves the attention!  Finally, the Atlas Cargo Hold Trainer will be Ready for Training (RfT) in August 2016 and the 2nd Simulator will be finished in June.

‘D’ Flight Training Support,  who also has Maintainer Trainer School (MTS) in its Command Chain has made significant progress in several areas.  They are the foundations of the Squadron’s training structure and the Air Mobility Force Commander (1*) has recently endorsed the concept for XXIV Squadron to become the Air Mobility Training of Excellence.  This is significant and not only is reflects the hard work ‘D’ Flight has done to demonstrate the training benefits of such as concept but it also highlights the high regard the Squadron is held in.

XXIV Squadron now owns every Air Mobility Platform Training Officer including 32 Squadron’s (146) and 10 Squadron’s (Voyager).  If this wasn’t a sign of things to come, the C17 Though Life Training Solution which may see a new C17 Schoolhouse at RAF Brize Norton in the future which is likely to be managed by XXIV Squadron!  My plans for total training dominance and takeover are certainly firming-up!  On a more serious note, it is the right and proper way to proceed.

The provision of an external and specialised training organisation to support the Frontline Squadrons is vitally important from an Air Safety perspective.  It provides assurance at all levels and makes XXIV Squadron solely accountable for the training and standards.  MTS, commanded by Samantha, still delivers Engineering Training to the C130J, Atlas and C17 Forces.  They have recently sailed through an Internal Audit making a huge improvement from last year. The Flying elements of the Squadron did equally as well during their annual CFS visit.

It is difficult to articulate just how busy we are on the Squadron at present in such a short update.  The Squadron is front and centre of all high-profile engagement on the Station.  In the past 6 weeks alone, we have had Mr Fallon, the Defence Secretary visit. The Indonesian Defence Minister and a French 4* General have all spent much time with us.

The Royal Air Force Oman Training I previously mentioned is vitally important for the RAF/RAFO enduring relationship and a number of other countries have expressed an interest in XXIV Squadron training.  The Squadron you will have served on is completely different in structure and purpose but the Core Values and Ethos remain the same.  This is typical of the Royal Air Force in general where I think the challenges we face, particularly regarding global counter-terrorism, are unprecedented, asymmetric and have no rules.  There is no longer a single post which cannot deliver anything less than 110% at all times.

So finally, I wish all of you a very Happy Easter Break and look forward to seeing you in the near future.  Please feel free to call round for a coffee any time and forgive me if the lines of communication are not always as fluid as they should be from our side.  We are genuinely working relentlessly to stay afloat but the Association are always in our thoughts. Excuse any typo’s.  I’ve given my Flight Commanders some Easter leave so the usual sanity check of my prose is just not possible!

In Omnia Parati.

Wing Commander Daz Rawlins, Officer Commanding XXIV Squadron.

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3 Responses to “Squadron Update from OC XXIV”

  1. Graham Broad Says:

    Thanks for this update. It is entirely fitting that 24 Squadron should receive the honour of participating in the Boelcke commemoration, since Boelcke was killed while in pursuit of two 24 Squadron pilots, Alfred Edwin “Eddie” McKay and Arthur Gerald “Gerry” Knight, two Canadians serving in the RFC.

  2. Graham Broad Says:

    An addendum to the comment I sent a moment ago: McKay and Knight were Canadian but like all English Canadians of that generation they were also proudly British.

  3. Jidradyr@aol.com Says:

    Thanks for a most interesting up-date. The Squadron is a world away from the one in which I served in the early fifties. I wish I could be with it now!! Good luck to all who serve now. JI Davies (Wg.Cdr (Ret’d))

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