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The Support Helicopter Force of DJ Barracks

By Cpl. Nicolas Marut
First published in
SFOR Informer #87, May 10, 2000

Trogir, Croatia - Drowned in a sea of greenery, Divulje Barracks is not a camp like the others. Situated close to Trogir, 20 kilometers to the west of Split, Croatia, this seaside installation is rented by SFOR from the Croatian Army. More precisely, a part of the base is rented, the remainder is occupied by a Croatian garrison. This is where the English Support Helicopter Force (SHF) of Multinational Division south West (MND-SW) is posted. They are commanded by Wing Commander Barrie Simmonds and are composed of elements of the Royal Air Forces and the Royal Navy. The Air Force has three CH-47 Chinooks. Crewmembers and engineers come from the 27th Air Squadron, originally based in Odinham, Hampshire.

The 845th Naval Squadron of Summerset has two Sea Kings. Their job is to go everywhere in MDN-SW, by direct order of the HQ in Banja Luka. "They tell us when and where they want helicopters, and we send them," explained Sq. Ldr. Alan Campbell, deputy commander of the Royal Air Forces of the camp.

MEDEVACS are the first priority of the SHF. The second important task consists of providing air mobility at the divisional level. To perform this mission, Chinooks are used first, because of their load capacity. The aircraft can carry 40 people or lift up to 10 tons of cargo. MND-SW has other helicopters as well, notably, the Lynx and Gazelles at Gorjni Vakuf, two hours by road to the west of Sarajevo. "But we are the only lift and troop carrying support helicopters of the whole division," explained Campbell. In total, 190 British soldiers of the 250 at Divulje Barracks work for the SHF.

Helicopters, when they are not mobilised, are participating in exercises such as "Blue Light", which unfolded April 3. The scenario consisted of a fictional bus accident close to Velika Kladusa, which caused a mass casualty (25 injured personnel) situation among the staff of the SFOR. A Chinook and a Sea King participated in this exercise.

The British helicopters are not newcomers at Divulje Barracks. "The Royal Air Force has been present for six years, and the Navy even more," explained Campbell. But the British contingent is going to leave Divulje Barracks at the end of the year, and the SHF will then be transferred to another contingent.