Engineers and technicians from 5001 Squadron at Royal Air Force Wittering in Cambridgeshire are supporting military exercises in the deserts of Oman.
Exercise Saif Sareea 3 is the third UK-Oman joint exercise, with the previous two taking place in 1986 and 2001. Saif Sareea 3 is the UK armed forces principal exercise this year and the largest joint exercise of its kind in 17 years.
Corporal Martin Bulmer is a General Technician Electrical with 5001 Squadron. Martin has designed the temporary electrical installation for, and will look after, the tonnes of equipment used by the Chefs of No 3 Mobile Catering (MC) Squadron; burners, ovens, fridges, freezers and everything else you would expect to find in a military field kitchen.
General Technicians are the backbone of the Royal Air Force’s engineering workforce. As well as looking after complex ground equipment, they use manual and computer-operated machinery like drilling, milling, cutting and forming equipment. Fully trained ‘Gen-Techs’ also manufacture or modify aircraft parts to strict standards and consult with Aircraft Technicians on the best ways to remove and fit aircraft parts.
This exercise will test the UK and Oman’s ability to operate together in harsh desert conditions through the deployment of a Coalition Joint Task Force. Royal Air Force Wittering’s squadrons are making a substantial contribution to the exercise.
During Saif Sareea 3, 5001 Squadron’s to-do list will be filled from top to bottom. The technicians will work on ground equipment for the Voyager aircraft, keep the specialist vehicles used to load and unload aircraft in working order, and maintain power generating equipment for the Army’s field hospital.
Martin has been in the RAF for 10 years and is an experienced hand. He said: “It’s been busy. This is an important exercise so everything has got to be spot on when you get there. It’s going to be hot in Oman so it’s not just a question of keeping the equipment going, there’s also a need for air conditioning equipment so people can work in reasonable temperatures.”
5001 Squadron was originally formed to build airfields, but its role has changed over the years and it has now evolved into a valuable general engineering unit. Temporary hangars, aircraft shelters, power supply, vehicle maintenance and equipment repair are all part of the Squadron’s role.
A team of five technicians from 5001 Squadron will be on their way to Exercise Saif Sareea 3. They will be joining teams from 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron, 3 Mobile Catering Squadron and personnel from 1 Expeditionary Logistic Squadron are due to leave soon.
Group Captain Tony Keeling is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering and an engineer himself. He said: “The Royal Air Force is a technical service and it’s very easy to think of RAF engineers as always working on aircraft. True, air power is what we’re here for; but that is not the whole story. Every piece of equipment on the ground, from an aircraft shelter to an electrical generator, will need a technician to keep it going. This is what our General Technicians do so well.”