IX Bomber Squadron Homecoming Parade

Last month personnel from IX (Bomber) Squadron marched through the streets of Downham Market for their homecoming parade. Marching behind the College Band of RAF Cranwell the parade made its way up the road to a fantastic reception from the crowd who had gathered to watch the event.

The Squadron returned back from Afghanistan on 13th March 2013 after serving a four month deployment in support of Operation HERRICK providing Close Air Support and Tactical Reconnaissance to UK and Coalition Forces.

The responsibility taken on by the Squadron was no small task when you consider the size of the area of operations. Afghanistan has a landmass of 647,500 square kilometres, slightly larger than Spain and Portugal combined. The terrain is just as impressive; ranging from vast open deserts to mountain peaks of up to 7,485m. Over IX(B) Squadron’s tour of duty they also had to battle thick wet mud, sandstorms, extreme thunderstorms and deep freezing conditions while at the same time maintaining morale over the Christmas period. This was done thanks in no small part to the care packages and best wishes sent from home – friends, family and well-wishers all played a big part in keeping up spirits.

A typical sortie could consist of searching for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), route sweeping ahead of friendly convoys or providing over-watch of helicopter landing sites, ground forces and tracking suspicious vehicles. In addition to this pre-planned tasking IX(B) Squadron provided over 1400 hours of ground alert in order to scramble in support of friendly forces ‘in contact’ with enemy forces. Once in the overhead crews would use various escalatory levels of force in order to deter insurgent forces. The tactics include flying low and fast over the insurgents; conveying the message, that overwhelming force is in the area and convincing the enemy to withdraw. If the enemy fail to take heed then escalatory measures may be required. Using force is a last resort, but if force is required the Tornado is well equipped with precision weapons such as the Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone missile, the Paveway IV bomb or the 27mm Mauser Cannon.

Of course none of the sorties could even have left the ground without support from all the other trades that combine to make IX(B) Squadron so successful on operations. The engineers fixed and readied jets, working 12-hour shifts in the face of a challenging Afghan winter. Safety Equipment personnel ensured the crews’ flying equipment worked in spite of all the dust. The administrative staff provided welfare support to Squadron members and family alike, whilst intelligence and operations staff provided timely support information. On top of their primary duties, all personnel were responsible for force protection and ensuring the base remained safe.

Officer Commanding No IX(B) Squadron, Wing Commander Andy Turk said “All personnel on parade today have served their country with boundless energy and immense professionalism in order to ensure a better life for the people of Afghanistan. This would not have been possible without the fantastic support that we have received from our families, friends and the people of Downham Market and West Norfolk. It has been an absolute honour to parade in Downham Market today and receive such a warm welcome from the people that have braved the cold to come and support us.”

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