Drivers from Royal Air Force Wittering braved the bitter cold to assist the emergency services and get key nursing, medical and emergency service personnel to where they were most needed, as ‘the Beast from the East’ deluged roads in deep snow.
Sergeant Marc Jeffreys is a driver with 1 EL Squadron and works in the Station's Transport Section. With 22 years in the RAF, he knew that facing the atrocious weather was not just a matter of drivers and vehicles.
Sgt Jeffreys said: "As soon as we got the call, we got the 4x4’s together and the kit for the guys squared away. We made sure they had sleeping bags, sat-navs and that each wagon had shovels and grit in case they got stuck."
Each 4x4 was ready for the task, having been rigorously checked from bumper to bumper. Sgt Jeffreys continued: "You don't take any chances. Fuel, oil, water, brake fluid, tyre pressure, heaters, seat belts and lights all need checking. Doesn't matter if you're the best driver in the world, it's no good if the vehicle isn't ready for the job."
The brutally cold storm buried Lincolnshire’s roads under deep snow; closing many and making others impassable. Issy Noon, a care worker from Minting was collected by SAC Tom North of No 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron.
Tom knows Lincolnshire well and comes from the town of Brigg. He has been a driver with 2 MT Squadron for two and a half years and understands the difficulties of this task. He said: "We're finding that a half hour journey can take up to two and a half hours, anywhere up to three hours. It's not just fresh snowfall, it's how the winds are blowing snow onto the roads."
The pace was unrelenting with 47 completed tasks on the first day and still more on Friday. The operation to assist Lincolnshire's Emergency Services is a reflection of 1 EL Squadron and 2 MT Squadron's military roles. Logistic support is needed wherever the Royal Air Force is deployed, these Squadrons make sure that the right equipment and supplies are in the right place at the right time.
After an intense few days, Wittering’s drivers returned to base on Saturday afternoon but, at the time of writing, remain on standby should they be needed again.
Group Captain Tony Keeling is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering. He said: "It is great to see the people of this Station helping the emergency services in Lincolnshire. We have highly skilled and dedicated personnel at Wittering, and they are pleased to assist wherever they can."
The Commanding Officer continued: “Two squadrons, one team. It’s been an exceptional effort from the drivers of 1 EL and 2 MT. But more than that, we have to recognise how the people of RAF Wittering have supported this operation and also kept the Station going so that it remained productive despite the Beast from the East.”