Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The 195 Sqn vs. Bad Weather

The 195 Sqn of the Republic of Singapore Navy (see here) is the outfit that runs all the FCU (Fast Craft, Utility) and FCEP (Fast Craft, Equipment and Personnel). These are the ones in sole charge of transferring men and equipment from the LSTs to shore at Meulaboh. As the report concludes: "although they have made countless trips to Meulaboh, the men from 195 Squadron have yet to step ashore." Kudos!


The 195 at work

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Bad weather delays relief operations in Meulaboh (Jan 10, 2005)
By Channel NewsAsia's Dominique Loh on Board RSS Endurance


MEULABOH, Indonesia: Bad weather and rough seas have hampered relief operations off the coast of Meulaboh, forcing shore landing operations to be cancelled. But relief work still carried on with the intensive use of Super Pumas launched from Singapore's two Landing Ship Tanks.

It has been the worst weather in Meulaboh since the tsunami hit its shores more than two weeks ago. Strong waves started pounding the Meulaboh shoreline in the early morning. The 195 Squadron responsible for ferrying most of the heavy equipment, relief supplies and personnel, tried to launch their fast landing crafts. But bad sea conditions and strong winds forced them to abort the entire landing operation for the day.

Captain Toh Keng Hoe, Officer Commanding of 195 Squadron, said: "Today, the weather was pretty bad. We experienced very bad sea conditions, the swells were very high. So we were concerned with launching the crafts and getting the crafts off the welldock, which would be a huge safety issue which would compromise the safety of the craft and crew, as well as the people on board going to the beach. And the beach is giving us problems. There are a lot of debris and the coastal conditions are different than what was stated in the charts, so we are not sure where we are heading. We are really going into the unknown, actually."

Staff Sergeant Max Yeo, Fast Craft Utility Coxswain of 195 Squadron, said: "For the first beaching I have done, my main concern is the gradient, and what is below me, and will I get choked, because it was running by water checks so it is quite easy to get choked for this graph. The weather has not been helpful to me."

Without the use of the sea vessels, the only way relief operations could continue was by air. Before lunch time, the number of flights taking off from the RSS Endurance jumped to at least half a dozen as medical teams and combat engineers were transferred to land by Super Puma helicopters.

With the bad weather, it may seem as though the men of Squadron 195 had a rest day, but it is far from it. There is also maintenance to be done on their vessels in preparation for Tuesday's long haul. Sea transfers from the LSTs are handled by the 195 Squadron alone. On average, each fast craft make an average of five round trips from the LSTs to Meulaboh daily. Often the men work at least 12 hours before calling it a day.

Although they have made countless trips to Meulaboh, the men from 195 Squadron have yet to step ashore. - CNA

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