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Sea Kings move

By CPO Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #90, June 21, 2000

DJ Barracks, Croatia - What is probably the longest serving unit in this Theatre of Operations has completed its mission and is finally passing the baton on to its successor. The Sea Kings of 845 Royal Naval Air Squadron (NAS,) who began peacekeeping operations with the U.N. in November of 1992, are handing their IRT (Instant Response Team) responsibilities over to Dutch helicopter units.

Over the last eight years the five flights of 845, home based in Yeovilton, England, have taken turns rotating in and out of their Balkans post at the DJ (Divulje) Barracks near Split, Croatia. Each flight is made up of two Sea King Mark IV's that have a commitment to provide one aircraft 24 hours a day for the SFOR hospital at Sipovo.

One aircraft and its crew are stationed at Sipovo for three days while the other helicopter and crew rotates back to DJ Barracks for maintenance and rest. UK Navy Pilot, Lt. Jolyon Woodard, has served on several deployments to the Balkans. He started when the mission was working with the UN, then returned for additional tours with NATO, IFOR and SFOR.

"We are involved wherever an instant pullout was required, whether that be a straight forward pickup from a HLS (helicopter landing site) or winching out of a ravine, or even winching out of a mined area using the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team," said Woodard.

Looking back at eight years of experiences provides the members of 845 NAS some interesting memories. "Certainly it does have it's negative sides as well, but there have been a number of instances where we were informed that with the use of our assets, lives were saved. It is a rewarding job," said Woodard.

The Sea Kings will slowly depart over the next few months as the Dutch phase in their helicopters for a seamless transfer of operations.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Helicopters in SFOR