Mo­ray sol­diers stand ready for mercy mis­sion

Kin­loss Bar­racks: Sol­diers ready to fly to Caribbean af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID MACKAY

Mo­ray sol­diers stand ready to join mas­sive Hur­ri­cane Irma re­lief ef­forts at just one hour’s no­tice.

Troops at Kin­loss Bar­racks are poised to join the aid mis­sions in the Caribbean to carry out ur­gent re­pairs to air fields.

The squadron had been on a two-hour no­tice for the last week but that has now been short­ened to just 60 min­utes.

Ma­jor Dafydd How­ells, of­fi­cer com­mand­ing 48 Field Squadron, said: “We lit­er­ally need to be de­part­ing Kin­loss within an hour of get­ting the call. all my ve­hi­cles are packed and ready to move.”

The standby po­si­tion of the sol­diers comes just weeks af­ter other mem­bers of 39 En­gi­neer reg­i­ment re­turned from a UN peace­keep­ing mis­sion to South Su­dan.

yes­ter­day, the troops were pre­sented with medals to cel­e­brate their work, which pro­tected char­ity work­ers in the war-torn coun­try.

Mo­ray sol­diers were on standby last night to as­sist mas­sive re­lief ef­forts in the Caribbean to help com­mu­ni­ties dev­as­tated by Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Troops based at Kin­loss Bar­racks were poised to de­ploy to the Turks and Caicos Is­lands within just one hour of be­ing no­ti­fied.

About 40 mem­bers of 48 Field Squadron were ready to be sent on the aid mis­sion, en­ti­tled Op­er­a­tion Ru­man, to carry out ur­gent re­pairs to air­fields on the Bri­tish over­seas ter­ri­tory.

The troops had been on a two-hour no­tice for the past week but that has now been short­ened to just 60 min­utes.

That means the men and women from 39 En­gi­neer Reg­i­ment need to be con­stantly pre­pared to leave the Mo­ray base and say good­bye to their fam­i­lies.

Ma­jor Dafydd How­ells, of­fi­cer com­mand­ing 48 Field Sqn, said: “We lit­er­ally need to be de­part­ing Kin­loss within an hour of get­ting the call. We are ex­pected to move from here to wher­ever we need to get to to marry up with the air­craft that would de­ploy, it could be Brize Nor­ton or Lossiemouth or wher­ever.

“That means all my ve­hi­cles are packed and ready to move. Our pri­or­ity is to get es­sen­tial sup­plies out to the area af­fected.”

The squadron is or­di­nar­ily on a 48-hour no­tice through­out the year to move to any lo­ca­tion in the world.

Troops were en­joy­ing a well-earned four-day break last week­end but rushed back from leave when they were placed on two hours’ alert. Yes­ter­day, Ma­jor How­ells praised those un­der his com­mand for re­turn­ing to Kin­loss so quickly.

Winds as strong as 175mph were recorded in the Turks and Caicos Is­lands as the ter­ri­tory was pum­melled by the hur­ri­cane.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment de­clared a na­tional shut­down af­ter homes and busi­nesses were de­stroyed by the storm.

If de­ployed to the is­lands, the troops of 48 Field Sqn will be tasked with en­sur­ing aid can land at air­ports.

A plane-load of spe­cial­ist elec­tri­cal equip­ment and tool boxes to fix un­der­ground ca­bles and lights is ready to be shipped to the Caribbean.

Ma­jor How­ells added: “Our role would be to re­pair the air­craft op­er­at­ing sur­faces – that could be the main run­way, any taxi­ways or tech­ni­cal ar­eas where ser­vic­ing takes place.

“We could also be look­ing at ac­com­mo­da­tion, in­clud­ing putting roofs back or re­turn­ing hy­gienic run­ning wa­ter. We have trades peo­ple who can de­liver those sorts of things.

“Our present un­der­stand­ing is that we would be go­ing to the Turks and Caicos Is­lands be­cause the air­fields on the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands don’t ap­pear to be as sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged as first re­ported.

“At the mo­ment I would be tak­ing about 40 peo­ple with me – but the sit­u­a­tion is be­ing con­stantly sur­veyed and if spe­cific ca­pa­bil­i­ties are needed then I might change that to pro­vide more as­sis­tance.”

More than 100 pris­on­ers have been cap­tured af­ter es­cap­ing from a jail on the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Irma.

The gov­er­nor of the is­lands said the pris­on­ers of Bal­sam Ghut prison, in Tor­tola, had been cap­tured on Thurs­day.

It fol­lowed an op­er­a­tion by Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­land and Cay­man Is­land po­lice of­fi­cers, along­side the Bri­tish Royal Marines and po­lice.

Gus Jaspert, the gov­er­nor of the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, said: “The gov­ern­ment of the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands is ex­tremely grate­ful to the po­lice and mil­i­tary per­son­nel for their tire­less ef­forts, which have re­sulted in a thor­ough and ex­tremely suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion.

“I ex­tend our grat­i­tude to the UK and Cay­man Is­land gov­ern­ments for their pro­vi­sion of per­son­nel. This sig­nals a huge step in all of our ef­forts to re­build this fan­tas­tic ter­ri­tory.”

The news comes af­ter Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lan­ders said they were “ter­ri­fied” of the pris­on­ers, who es­caped be­cause of the dam­age caused by Irma.

They said loot­ing had been “ter­ri­ble” and claimed es­caped pris­on­ers had com­mit­ted a rape while on the loose.

For­eign min­is­ter Sir Alan Dun­can said on Tues­day that the con­victs posed a “se­ri­ous threat of the com­plete break­down of law and or­der”.

Pho­to­graph by Kenny El­rick

HON­OURED: 34 Field Squadron at Kin­loss Bar­racks, For­res, af­ter re­turn­ing from South Su­dan.

Pho­to­graph by Kenny El­rick

JOIN­ING FORCES: Lieu­tenant Colonel Grenville Shaw John­ston hands out medals at Kin­loss Bar­racks yes­ter­day.

Ma­jor Wayne Meek hands medals to 34 Field Squadron back from South Su­dan

En­gi­neers from 24 Com­mando Royal En­gi­neers carry out re­pairs yes­ter­day to make Bal­sam Ghut jail se­cure

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