Typhoon relief mission soldiers returning home

Capt Mike Utley, centre, after giving commendations to Sgt Philip Marangon and Staff Sgt Richard Burchell. (S)
Capt Mike Utley, centre, after giving commendations to Sgt Philip Marangon and Staff Sgt Richard Burchell. (S)
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Army Lynx helicopter crews from Dishforth have begun their journey home after helping in the international disaster relief effort in the Philippines.

659 Squadron of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC) has been embarked on HMS Illustrious, the Royal Navy’s amphibious helicopter carrier, delivering humanitarian relief in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan which happened in November.

The three Lynx helicopters played a crucial role in assessing the damage to allow focused aid distribution. The helicopters were used to survey the damage sustained and subsequently deliver supplies of food and reconstruction material as well as teams of engineers and medics to remote island communities who were in dire need of assistance.

This was the first Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operation that any of the men and women in the North Yorkshire-based squadron had been involved in.

The 49-strong detachment includeda mix of AAC personnel and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers who have worked around the clock alongside Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel during the four-week operation

HMS Illustrious, along with three Lynx helicopters from 659 Squadron, 9 Regiment AAC and other elements of Response Force Task Group (RFTG), left the UK in August to begin Exercise Cougar 13 – a four-month deployment operating in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, and Horn of Africa – before she was re-tasked to sail to assist in the Philippines.

During Exercise Albanian Lion in August, an engine oil pressure failure grounded one of the Lynx aircraft ashore while conducting troop movements of elements of 42 Commando Royal Marines. This resulted in the need to conduct an engine change at a very basic forward operating base. 

Staff Sgt Richard Burchell, 35,and Sgt Philip Marangon, 32,of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers attached to 659 Squadron based at Dishforth, were flown ashore as part of a four-man “down bird” team.

They worked for 12 hours through the night with little support, limited resources and only head-torches for light to ensure the aircraft was ready for a flight-test by dawn.

For their exceptional performances, the pair were awarded a Master General REME Commendation presented by Capt Mike Utley, Royal Navy, the Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious, once the ship had completed its duties on Operation Patwin.