As you will remember from our November blog , Guy Gibson bear has headed out to Afghanistan with 617 Sqn from RAF Lossiemouth. Gibson Bear is working hard to raise funds and awareness for the RAF Benevolent Fund through his website and Just Giving page. You can follow his adventures on Twitter through his profile @GuyGibsonBear
We are grateful to Gibson for taking time out of his very busy work and social life to write a wee blog for us.
Back in September, I was picked up from Bear Force HQ to go on my first ever mission supporting the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. This was a mission I gladly accepted after my predecessor, Bader Bear, sadly became missing in action earlier in the year. With one last pep talk from the boss I was off, travelling north to RAF Lossiemouth to meet my chaperone, Cpl Paul Lewis and join, arguably the most famous squadron in the RAF, 617 Squadron, the mighty Dambusters.
After a brief whizz around Lossiemouth meeting a few lovely people, it was time. Bags packed, checked in at the movements hanger and exciting times for me. I got my first ever flight on the brand new Voyager, it was so big and shiny and very comfortable! I was in for an even bigger treat though, when the Captain very kindly agreed to me sitting in the cockpit for take-off!
It was a short first hop to Brize Norton to pick up some more passengers, before the long flight which, after a stop to change to a Hercules (and another visit to the flight deck for me!), saw us arriving in Camp Bastion for a few days of more training and acclimatization, then one last flight to our temporary home at Kandahar Air Base and the Millie Award winning, 904 Expeditionary Air Wing.
Twelve hour shifts are the way out here and trying to find a routine that works. I started helping with the engineers on the day shift, which means breakfast, work, gym, sleep and that is pretty much repeated, with very little difference every day! I got to have a tour around, seeing all the wall paintings from previous squadrons and looking around, there are many names that appear more than once.
After a few weeks, it was time for a shift change and on to the night shift. No change to the routine, it’s just dark while you are at work! However, I did have to pull a double shift one day, but the opportunity to sit in the back of a Tornado GR4 during a mission was one I was not going to miss! My chaperone for this trip is very jealous, having spent nearly all his RAF career on the Tornado, he has never got to fly in one, yet I manage it in weeks! Guess it helps that I can sit on the knee of the person in the back though!
Once we got to December, thoughts naturally levitated towards Christmas, and with the arrival of every mail run someone would get some festive treats! It has been hard for a bear to stick to his healthy diet with all these lovely treats around, but the whole Squadron have really appreciated every single parcel that arrived, some from friends and family, some from people they have never met, but each parcel that arrived was like a big thank you for all the boys and girls. I even managed to find time to be interviewed by the Mirror, appearing on page 25 on Christmas Eve!
Christmas day came; work again, but lots of hats, jumpers, even Santa suits being worn! Everyone tried to make the best they could of it, grabbing opportunities to contact loved ones, but generally it was just like every other day.
January sees the Squadron on its homeward straight. Thoughts are already being put into plans for when everyone gets home, seeing loved ones, holidays, trips away, new cars, just the things people look forward too! As for me, well I guess it will be time for me to return to Bear HQ for some R&R before I get assigned my next mission!
I would like to say thank you Cpl Paul Lewis for looking after me so well and to everyone on 617 Sqn for making me feel so welcome. Good luck with the parades and disbandment parties when you get back and all the best with your future postings. 617 Sqn will of course live on and I am proud to say I was part of this historic chapter.
See you all back in Blighty soon!