Tuesday 16th October 2018

Royal Air Force personnel have graduated from a US Marine Corps training course, the first overseas students to have fully participated in the gruelling Weapons Tactics Instructor Course.

Chinook pilots and crewmen from RAF Odiham have spent the past seven weeks working around the clock at Marine Air Corps Station Yuma in southern Arizona. They have trained alongside over 200 US Marine students in some of the most realistic training available.

Group Captain Lee Turner, Station Commander RAF Odiham and Commander of the RAF Chinook Force said:

“This is really world class training. We’ve come here in effect to improve the capability of the Chinook Force and to train our people. It’s challenging for our crews and for our personnel here, not only the climatic conditions but also the complex nature of the training and the intensity of this which is a very focussed seven-week course.

“It’s a proud moment to be here as the first overseas fully participating members of the course and hopefully we’ve built strong relationships with the US Marine Corps and built on relationships we’ve had in the past.”

With temperatures on occasion reaching 50 degrees centigrade the conditions faced by students mirrored those experienced in the Middle East and Africa where RAF Chinooks operate today.

The Detachment Commander responsible for the four RAF students and four instructors was Squadron Leader Chris Middleton from RAF Benson. He said:

“For the students this is a testing course. It’s training we haven’t received on the helicopter course for a generation. The complexity and scale is an issue for the students but over three to four weeks of ground school and then a crawl, walk, run process they get to be experts by the end. The students on return to the UK will take the good lessons they’ve learnt here back to their squadrons and build them into squadron training.

“In recent wars we’ve found ourselves with the US Marine Corps fighting side by side. If we have the lessons that we’ve gained working together in our pockets already then we’re going to be a more effective fighting force.”

Chinook pilot Flight Lieutenant Jim Luke said:

“It’s an awesome course to be part of and is as close as you’ll get to live operations. The students have felt the pressure; it has a relentless pace to it with six-day weeks, 12 hours a day through academics and flying.

“It takes in all the disciplines you expect to undertake as support helicopter crews, but they’ve integrated well with their Marine counterparts and have spoken about the value they’ve got from the course.”

© Crown copyright 2018

Image: a Royal Air Force 27 Squadron Chinook CH-47 helicopter from RAF Odiham flying in formation with two United States Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallions in Arizona, USA.

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