Army Lynx helicopter crews based at Dishforth, North Yorkshire, returning from Philippines disaster relief effort

The Northern Echo: Army Lynx helicopter crews take part in Philippines relief effort. Army Lynx helicopter crews take part in Philippines relief effort.

ARMY Lynx helicopter crews from North Yorkshire have begun their journey home after helping in the international disaster relief effort in the Philippines.

659 Squadron of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC), normally based at Dishforth, have been embarked in HMS Illustrious, the Royal Navy's amphibious helicopter carrier, delivering humanitarian relief in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

The three Lynx helicopters played a crucial role in assessing the damage to allow focused aid distribution.

They were used to survey the damage sustained, and deliver supplies of food and reconstruction material as well as teams of engineers and medics to remote island communities who were in dire need of assistance.

This was the first Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operation that any of the men and women in the North Yorkshire-based squadron had been involved in.

The 49-strong detachment includes a mix of AAC personnel and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. They worked around the clock alongside Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel during the four week operation for which helicopters played an important role. A vital element of Operation Patwin were advanced teams placed on the ground to clear sites to allow the aircraft to land.

Sergeant Matt Jones, 32, from North Yorkshire is one of 659 Squadron's Helicopter Handling Instructors and he went ashore as part of an advanced team.

"Operation Patwin was a challenging area of operations for us, given the nature of the terrain and the condition of the villages," he said.

"The aircrew had to be very careful where they could land due to the amount of debris on the ground and the vulnerability of those houses still standing to the aircraft's downwash.

"Fortunately, the size of the Lynx helicopter allowed us to reach areas and communities that other aircraft could not access, and therefore may have otherwise been left without assistance. The relief and thanks on the faces of the locals when we arrived to help, was absolutely amazing to see and worth every effort of ours."

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