Even in these uncertain times, celebrating the Helis 50th was too important an anniversary simply to be cancelled or postponed….
It was certainly not what anyone had in mind originally, but Helis are used to improvising and it converted instead to a ‘virtual’ Curry Lunch, held - on schedule - on 5th September. A fuller account will appear in the Journal, but – under ingenious direction of a ZoomMeister – it became a light-hearted gathering of around 25 including sign-ons from USA, Tenerife, Cyprus and Oman itself. There were even a few soldiers, otherwise known as the ‘talking freight’, who added to the banter – and were very generous in their tributes.
Recipes had been circulated for curries and Um Ali, and the outline plan was:
1230 Charge glasses/Toast – Welcome
1240 Ground rules
1245 Heart Starter – Bloody Mary (a la Watson)
1300 Main Course – Curry (each course in smaller groups - break out rooms)
1330 Building the Hornbeam Line
1350 Dessert – Um Ali
1500 SOAF Quiz (in teams)
1530 SOAF Song Sheet
CRAFO, Air Vice Marshal Matar bin Ali Al Obaidani, had sent a very generous message of greetings which included:
“In August 1970, an AB 206 Jet Ranger arrived at the Bait Al Falaj Airport as the first helicopter to join the Sultans Armed Forces and was flown to Salalah. That was the beginning of the establishment of No.3 Squadron within SOAF.
The introduction was incredibly challenging due to all-around difficulties facing the country during that period.
I was not present then, but I am informed that it was a lot of fun and the best time someone can imagine to be at, with the enthusiasm, teamwork, and a lot of hard work. But there were sad moments too and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to those we lost. I also take this opportunity to remember the founder of the helicopter force, Wing Commander Neville Baker, who worked tirelessly and played a very big part in the success of the formation of No.3 sqn and the end success about the Dhofar rebellion.
In turn, No.3 Sqn’s formation led to the birth of No.14 Sqn at Seeb, followed by a VIP Flight at Seeb, SAR at Masirah and Khasab detachment flight. Today RAFO is a more modernized force and continues all round with a firm confidence.
I wish you and your families all the very best and your contribution to the setting up of the Helicopter Sqns in RAFO is most appreciated, and is part of history which we all have to be proud of.”
This led us perfectly into a concluding toast to ‘The Helis’.