AFN67 FEBRUARY 06
TWO SERVICES ONE SQUADRON
‘Stranger things have happened at sea,’ was one of my grandmother’s favourite, but more cryptic, sayings. I never knew exactly what she meant but the saying came to mind when I was considering the Air Force’s newest Squadron - Auckland- based No.6 Squadron. It straddles two Services, Navy and Air Force, that have quite different histories, cultures, structures and routines. On dry land the Squadron reports directly to the OC 485 Wing, GPCAPT Kevin Short, but when a flight embarks it comes under the command of the ship’s captain. Two masters, two cultures and two Services - that’s pretty strange. You’d expect it to have somewhat of an identity crisis.
The new Squadron is far from divided – quite the opposite, says current CO LT CDR Keith Gilchrist. Indeed, it can easily be held up as an example of joint Service in action, one of the principal aims of today’s Defence Force. Most cultural differences were well and truly ironed
out long ago and the unit – until last October 31 known as the Naval Support Flight – has effectively worked together since the late 1960s when the Navy introduced the Wasp helicopters to operate from its ships, says LT CDR Gilchrist.
That’s not to say there aren’t differences, especially when members of the unit are at sea, but it’s important not to overplay them, he says. There, under direct Navy command, Squadron members have one foot in each camp. They must be aware of the Navy way of doing things, its language, its routines and the fact that in the Navy the ship’s company is available 24 hours a day. Air Force flying routines, based around duty periods and maintenance schedules, can sometimes seem a little odd to sailors. For the uninitiated it requires a bit of education on both sides says LT CDR Gilchrist and it’s important to sort out misunderstandings, explain the