HMS Duncan joins Cypriots in humanitarian exercise

Warship HMS Duncan showed how she can be relied upon to help with humanitarian crises during an exercise in the Mediterranean.

The Type 45 destroyer joined five other nations for Exercise Argonaut - an annual Cypriot exercise focusing on search and rescue and humanitarian aid.

Duncan's Wildcat helicopter from Yeovilton-based 815 Naval Air Squadron joined units from Cyprus, America, Greece, France and Israel, for the first phase. It was a scenario based on an airline which had crashed into the sea.

The coalition of ships and their air units were sent around 30 miles offshore to offer help where possible.

202 Flight from the Royal Navy ship flew to the scene and winched dummy "casualties" from the decks of US ship USNS Yuma and Cypriot offshore patrol vessel Ioannides - which had picked them up from the water - and took them back to Duncan for treatment.

The exercise gave pilot Lieutenant Jonny Hamlyn, flight observer Lieutenant Tom Horne and winchman Air Engineering Technician Rhys Kennedy the chance to practise search and rescue in a live-action setting.

AET Kennedy said: "We have spent some time practising winching while on deployment and had a few days at RAF Akrotiri doing search and rescue training.

Humanitarian aid is an important function for the ship and shows we can be relied upon to act when needed.

Lieutenant Commander Michael Hutchinson

"It was good to be able to use these skills in an almost real-life situation, while at sea with other ships and helicopters. It was more realistic than any training we have done so far while away.

"It shows the Wildcat's diversity in what it can be used for."

The second phase of Exercise Argonaut saw 120 of Portsmouth-based Duncan's ship's company act as evacuees of a war-torn country. They were all given different background stories and were processed by the customs team in Larnaka Port.

While some of the sailors carried UK, Canadian and USA passports, others had more complex backgrounds such as families from crisis countries or those without any passports or identification.

A range of Cyprus officials as well as customs control from different countries were involve to practise the difficult processing routine. 

The second phase of the exercise also saw casualties from a stricken ship rescued by the Cypriot navy, with medical teams ready to help once it was alongside in the port.

Air Warfare Officer Lieutenant Commander Michael Hutchinson said: "Exercise Argonaut is one of the biggest exercises of the year for the Cypriots and it was great that HMS Duncan was able to offer support.

"Humanitarian aid is an important function for the ship and shows we can be relied upon to act when needed. The exercise covered many scenarios and ensured we are ready should a situation arise in the future."