The “Defenders of the West” Squadron is qualified to perform marine patrol, but what happens when a simple mission goes wrong? In a unique exercise, the AS-565 Panther aerial teams learn how to deal with aerial changes on land and in the water
On a daily basis, the “Defenders of theWest” squadron, located in Ramat David is tasked with marine patrol: It flies above the Israeli Navy ships and helps them create a larger aerial picture of their surroundings. Regardless of the squadron’s experience, IAF helicopters have taken off and have had to change a formal order as the mission went along. “Usually, our work is very routine and so we decided to create a seminar where the teams can learn how to deal with different changes that could surprise them while aviating and that their ability to face unexpected incidents won’t wear out”, explains Major G, vice commander of the squadron who’s responsible for the seminar. “Our goal was for them to see how they react to changing situations”.
In order to prepare the teams as much as possible for any surprise, the seminar of the season was created under the name “Unexpected Incident”, an initiative of the Deputy Commander and the Commander of the squadron. The seminar consists of four sessions spread out over six months, and only at the last session did the teams go up in the air: The participants left for a mission, during which they received a message that they were to change directions and fly towards a terrorist ship. “The only thing that didn’t surprise me was the fact that there would be surprises”, Lieutenant Colonel T’ (res.), who took part in the training, says smiling. “We went up in the air with relatively normal missions, and during the flight, we encountered more and more changes. At the end of the day we succeeded in coping with the surprises thanks to the seminar that we attended: One of the tools that I take with me going forward is my self-awareness and my familiarity with the helicopter team in extreme situations”.