820 NAS learn jungle survival in Guam

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm Storyline: 820 NAS

The navy aviators of 820 Naval Air Squadron are relishing another jam-packed year after eight months of intensive operations on the UK Carrier Strike Group in 2021.

The Culdrose-based Merlin squadron are gearing up for more missions, building on their successful global deployment to the Indo-Pacific and back.

Based on UK flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, the specialist Mk2 helicopters proved their ability to support the aircraft carrier during a range of tasks from international training to defence engagement.

And the Carrier Strike Group’s journey to the Pacific and back also gave the men and women of 820 NAS the chance to learn some crucial skills, including how to survive if their helicopters were forced to make an unexpected landing.

During a stop in Guam, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Survival Team put together a bespoke jungle survival course.

Survival is a crucial part of aircrew training and the port stop allowed 820 NAS to get hands on and learn new skills in the hot, humid conditions of a jungle. Across two days, the crew put up with regular rainfall, insects, dense undergrowth and a myriad of wildlife.

The training was split across two days – day one covering important areas of survival (protection, location, food and water) while day two covered jungle techniques.

Lieutenant Andy Miller, a pilot in 820 NAS, was on the survival course. He said: “We learned how to build jungle shelters, how to locate, purify and store water, and were given a veritable smorgasbord of jungle scran. This included insects (high in protein), heart of palm (high in carbohydrate), and coconuts.

“In the evening, we built a fire and cooked a delicious meal of steak carpaccio with coconut shavings, roasted purple yam with a sprinkling of grasshopper, all washed down with tepid jungle water.”

During their overnight stay in the jungle, the team were faced with a wild boar, along with the constant hum of insects and pattering of rain on their hammocks. 

Day two saw the team learn jungle-specific survival techniques and put their skills from the day before to the test. And all four teams were able to safely navigate their way back to base where they were greeted with cold refreshments.

Lt Miller added: “Everyone was tired but had thoroughly enjoyed the experience of surviving in the jungle for a few days.”

Everyone was tired but had thoroughly enjoyed the experience of surviving in the jungle for a few days.

Lieutenant Andy Miller, a pilot in 820 NAS