Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sergeant Alan Winchester – Air Traffic Control Camp Bastion

A ‘crow’s nest’ view of D Day – Operation Moshtarak

The helicopter flight line had been a hive of activity for days with troops practicing their loading drills and engineers carrying out last minute serviceability checks on the airframes. The pilots; British, Canadian and American, all attended detailed briefs. This was vital considering the scale and complexity of the task.

When I attended the initial briefing for the operation it looked as though there some potential ‘pinch points’ within the timescale envisaged. We needed to be switched on in the tower if anything unplanned happened to the Air Traffic plan because we were dealing with so many different aircraft types – Chinook, Merlin, Apache, Lynx, Canadian Griffin, Blackhawk and Sea King.

D-1: My night started off as normal at 1900 hours and without incident, setting the scene for the embarkation phase of the operation. As the sun set in Camp Bastion, my view from the tower showed row after row of helicopters on the tarmac primed and ready to go. At 0330 hours the Joint Helicopter Force Lines started to gear up in darkness.
D Day at last!

Below me muted lights on the runway and blinking lights from the helicopters created a weird pattern as the dust kicked up from the ground created a hazy effect.

At the sound of over thirty rotors running I could feel the rush of excitement kick in. Finally, I was able to feel directly linked to the frontline and I knew that I would be supporting, as closely as I could, the troops on the ground.

However, when the first aircraft launched calm descended and despite a few unexpected moves all traffic departed on time and landed safely to ensure that troops reached the drop off zones at the correct time. Wave after wave were talked out and back in to Bastion as hundreds of troops and then their additional kit were ferried out into Nad e Ali.

I felt a distinct pride when the op launch was complete at 0600 hours and learnt that every aspect had gone to plan and had been a complete success. I left work at 0700 hours exhausted but content.


  1. Excellent, it's good to get an insight into the logistics behind this kind of op. Something civilians rarely get to know about.

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/17/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.