Dishforth squadron helps with typhoon relief

A Lynx helicopter delivers an underslung load of relief aid to an isolated island
A Lynx helicopter delivers an underslung load of relief aid to an isolated island

Army air crews based at Dishforth Airfield have been carrying out heroic relief flights to the dozens of islands flattened by the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The members of 659 Squadron, 9 Regiment Army Air Corps, joined the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in Singapore as she raced to assist with the international relief effort following the typhoon.

The 22,000-ton aircraft carrier was re-deployed from counter-piracy patrols around the Horn of Africa to assist in the international humanitarian aid effort in the Philippines by Prime Minister David Cameron on Operation Patwin – the Government’s action to support the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan last month.

It is unusual for an Army squadron to be embarked on a warship. Therefore the men and women of 659 Squadron have been operating in a completely new and unfamiliar environment –being at sea.

Staff Sgt Ian Rand, 38, from Thirsk, of 659 Squadron Army Air Corps is currently deployed onboard aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious as part of the annual deployment of the Response Force Task Group.

As a Lynx helicopter commander, he is playing a central role in the aid effort and said: “Throughout Operation Patwin, Lynx helicopters have been used to fulfil a variety of roles. From moving personnel, including doctors, nurses and aid workers around the various islands, to 
carrying supplies of blankets, food, water and medical stores.

“We have also been used as a command and control platform, providing the accurate picture required in order to move resources where they are most needed.”

S/Sgt Rand attended Thirsk Comprehensive School from 1985-1992 and joined the Army in June 1994.

He has served on operations all over the world including Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ian said: “Although we will be away from our loved ones for longer than anticipated, everyone onboard is enthusiastic about our mission.

“We are concentrating on some of the more isolated islands of the Philippines, many of which had either been cut off from the outside world since Typhoon Haiyan or received little aid prior to our arrival.

“Missing Christmas is regrettable, but we are in the Philippines providing help to those in need.”

The United Kingdom has committed £55m worth of aid, a team of medical experts, as well as sending HMS Daring, HMS Illustrious and RAF transport aircraft to assist the effort.