YEOVILTON LIFE: Emotional homecoming for helicopter crews
TWO Merlin helicopters have returned home to RNAS Yeovilton after five months at sea covering 27,000 miles and 13 countries while with a French ship.
Over the five months 845 Naval Air Squadron trained with US, French and Japanese forces as part of Jeanne d’Arc 17, a multinational training mission, crossed the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, South China Sea and the Pacific, and visited ports that included Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City, Darwin and Colombo.
Landing at Yeovilton the squadron personnel were met by their families and new Commanding Officer, Commander Robert Bond, however it was Commander Matt Punch MBE, the outgoing CO, that embarked on French Ship Mistral.
“It’s great to have a flight home after such a historic and successful deployment onboard the FS Mistral,” said CO Punch.
“I’m particularly proud of how well 845 NAS personnel integrated with our international allies. Our contribution has reinforced the reputation of the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm as a capable and global fighting force.”
The deployment was the first time that the Merlin Mk3a helicopter had operated at sea and the squadron engineers had to maintain the aircraft in tough weather conditions.
Lt Cdr Joe Stevens, 845’s air engineer officer, said: “The engineers have, as always, worked hard in testing weather and produced outstanding results. This was no mean feat, especially as for many of the younger men and women this was their first time working at sea. “
The Stubbs family eagerly awaited the return home of Warrant Officer (WO1) Richard ‘Seth’ Stubbs, the senior maintenance rating, with the deployment.
Willow Stubbs, ten, said: “I can’t wait to have dad home he can walk the Teddy (the dog) as I’ve had to do it! Oh and we are also going on holiday to Mexico so that is really exciting.”
The returning personnel now head off for some well-deserved leave, before returning to prepare for future embarkations in the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
PHOTOS: Supplied by RNAS Yeovilton.