Where Eagles Dare

“Dad, why are you putting your RAF uniform on – I thought you had left?” – a recent conversation I had with my kids!

Almost a year to the day since I hung up my uniform for the last time as a Regular, I was once again packing my kitbag, ready for my first detachment as an RAF Reservist.  Away went the black and orange of Inzpire, and out came the Multi Terrain Pattern (MTS) Personal Clothing System (PCS) – ‘combats’ to you and me; only the military could make something labelled ‘personal’ so impersonal!  I was fortunate to have enjoyed 26 wonderful years as a Regular, and with the start of my new career as part of Inzpire’s Revolution in Defence I was very keen to continue to serve the RAF as a Reservist.  Fortunately, this aspiration was easily satisfied, as Inzpire has a very supportive approach to Reserve service, reinforced by the Company’s extremely positive Reservist Policy.

So, why the switch from black and orange to various shades of green and brown?  As a Command and Control Subject Matter Expert on Lincolnshire Flight, 602 Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron, I was deploying to RAF Leeming to join up with the Operational Training Centre (OTC) for Exercise AGILE EAGLE.  Here my previous experience contributed to the final stages of developing some of the exercise’s complex training events, followed by supporting 2 weeks of delivering the Exercise.  Ex AGILE EAGLE saw 121 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) from RAF Coningsby, followed by 135 EAW from RAF Leeming, deploy to the OTCs training area for a week of intensive training respectively.

Image from a previous Exercise AGILE EAGLE (2016). MoD Crown Copyright 2016, Cpl Alex Scott

Ex AGILE EAGLE itself is a 5-day Command and Staff Training (CAST) scenario-based exercise focused on the EAW Command Node and Command Support elements.  Supported by a number of RAF and Army units,  the EAW is presented with a scenario where they are responsible for the running of a simulated Deployed Operating Base supporting a squadron deployment of Typhoon FGR4 aircraft.  AGILE EAGLE provides a combination of simulated and live training environments, which provide realistic challenges such as liaison with host nation, deployed coalition allies, and dealing with aircraft and personnel incidents through the use role players.  The myriad of challenges presented within AGILE EAGLE affords each EAW an opportunity to develop their working practices and relationships.

Exercise AGILE EAGLE 2016. MoD Crown Copyright 2016, Cpl Alex Scott

To enable this virtual world to exist, the 8 Operational Training Centre staff are reinforced by a combination of regular and reservist experts from across the RAF, to form Exercise Control, known as EXCON.  Numbering 30+ people, EXCON represents all the other units, HQs, personnel, government departments, Host Nation units and personnel, and coalition allies, which form the  simulated  element of AGILE EAGLE.  Notably, elements of AGILE EAGLE  were also supported by personnel from the United States Air Force (USAF) 621st Contingency Response Wing (CRW).

Within EXCON, my personal function was Higher Control, known as HICON.  HICON  plays the role of all the higher command level entities in the exercise, notably the Command element of the Joint Forward Air Component (JFAC), including the commander; the JFAC Chief of Combat Operations; the Host Nation Base Commander; UK Embassy staff, such as the Defence Attaché and the Ambassador; as well as Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff in the UK.  While membership of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art is not essential, keeping track of what you have said to whom, when you said it, and in what role you said it, most definitely is.  However, perhaps the most challenging aspect to this role is not inadvertently falling into a best Oxbridge or General Melchett style accent, depending on which you are role playing!

After two and a half weeks deployed tantalisingly close to the home of the Black Sheep brewery, AGILE EAGLE was successfully delivered.  Now it was time to return to the day job as the Inzpire Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance SME on the Qualified Weapons Instructor Staff at 29 (R) Squadron – “Alexa, play AC/DC, Back in Black”