Thursday 24th June 2021
Support force regulars and reservists are allies and enemies this week as units from across the Royal Air Force take part in Exercise Lion’s Tail.
No 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron (2MT) and No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron (3MCS) from RAF Wittering have joined forces with several RAF Reserve Squadrons to put their military skills and logistics capabilities to the test. Lion’s Tail is the first exercise designed exclusively to test Support Force units.
Phase one was completed at the Cambridgeshire Station last week with the participating units rehearsing their basic military skills, such as camouflage and concealment. Phase two, in which these skills will be tested, began at the Defence Training Area at Swynnerton in Staffordshire on Monday.
The scenario places 2MT and 3MCS, augmented by Reservists from No 605 (County of Warwick) Sqn, No 501 (County of Gloucester) Sqn and No 502 (Ulster) Sqn, at a barely functioning airbase in a foreign country, surrounded by a hostile population. Working conditions perfectly simulate those of a hostile environment. Over five days the men and women from the Support Force will live in a virtually derelict building, which stands for a makeshift military headquarters.
Flight Lieutenant Joe Francis from 3MCS is one of the officers commanding the forces in the exercise. He said:
“This is the first time we’ve worked together as the Support Force, as a fully integrated unit. We’re being tasked just like an expeditionary unit would be, and we’re being given precisely the same kind of problems that a unit like this might encounter in real life.”
One of those problems is hostile demonstrators. RAF Reservists from 501 Sqn, 600 Sqn, 606 Sqn and 614 Sqn have been doing their best to disrupt business at the headquarters. Under the guidance of instructors from RAF Wittering’s 504 (County of Nottingham) Sqn, the angry demonstrators have insulted sentries, thrown smoke grenades, climbed the walls of the HQ and even stolen rations from the back of a pick-up truck.
Reservist SAC Andy Wright, a logistics driver with 605 Sqn from RAF Cosford, found himself on the receiving end of some simulated abuse. He said:
“This is really good training, it constantly refreshes you, knowing new stuff. I was an air cadet, but it’s wonderful working on 605 Squadron.”
Exercise Lion’s Tail was planned and co-ordinated by the Support Force Training Cell at RAF Wittering, with the basic military training provided by 504 Sqn.
The RAF Support Force brings together most of the capabilities and skills needed to sustain modern air operations and exercises; specialist engineering and logistics, advanced military communications, tactical medical services, mountain rescue and music services.
Group Captain Jo Lincoln is Deputy Commander of the Support Force. She said:
“We are a high-readiness, deployable force and we need to be ready for situations like these. I’m very pleased with the way Exercise Lion’s Tail has evolved. It has provided an opportunity for Support Force Regular and Reserve personnel to work together as a cohesive unit and it has tested their preparedness to deploy on operations around the world.”
Top image: Sleeping quarters in operational conditions.
Images ©Crown Copyright 2021