On Parade 2013

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ONPARADE October 2013


Contents to be updated you will reCeive an updated version





Cover photo: Gerben van Es, Audiovisual Services of Netherlands Defence Department.

What does it mean?

UP 17 DRAWING THE FUTURE Infrastructural projects



Medical Centre


This publication is being distributed as part of the Times of Malta. Saturday, October 5, 2013.

Production Allied Newspapers Ltd Printing Progress Press Ltd Photography Official AFM photographer Bdr Justin Gatt, Lt Keith Caruana Assisting Staff Gnr Nicholas Galea, Gnr Francisco Mumford Advertising Sales Paula Bugeja. © 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior written consent of the publisher. Opinions expressed in the articles or advertisements are those of the author or advertiser and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of Malta or the Armed Forces of Malta.

Send your feedback to On Parade, HQ AFM, Luqa Barracks, VLT 2000 or via e-mail to hq.afm@gov.mt

BECOMING THE MEDIA Lieutenant Keith Caruana Editor / Public Information & Public Relations Officer HQ AFM ontrary to the cataclysmic predictions of the Mayan calendar that the year 2012 was to be our last, here we are, still standing and presenting you with this year’s ON PARADE edition. Predictions were not all erroneous since some prophecies specifically forecasted that 2013 will be an eventful year. This was somewhat correct, at least for the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM). News headlines making reference to AFM operations during the past year must have made it to your PC’s, TV, tablet or Smartphone. Surely, one must not forget that behind such operations there is a comprehensive support system within the force that makes it all possible. Logistics, training, finance and administration are a few that come to mind. Once a mission is accomplished the weight falls on the Public Information Cell of the AFM to get the news out in a timely and efficient manner. Countless hours are invested by this office improv-


ing the product turnaround as well as securing accurate news reports on local stations and news portals online. Why do we do this? One wise man once said ‘Don’t expect from the media, become the media’. Whilst retaining and sustaining our current positive relationship with the local and international press our aspiration is to have a modest yet pro-active media product that secures a direct flow of information to the general public. The most effective way this is currently being exercised, is through our presence on social media. Our official Facebook page has grown exponentially over the past year with over 4,000 likes and an average reach of 15,000 users a week. Our website (www.afm.gov.mt) is now a continuous reference point for the general public and members of the media. We have also launched our own official YouTube channel and with over 60,000 views, we now pride ourselves on having our very own modest yet effective in-house production capability to showcase operations and happenings within the force. In the months to come, followers will be presented with a few surprises as the media office is gradually reshaping and reinventing itself by keeping abreast with modern standards. We sincerely hope that the following pages do justice and encapsulate the hard work carried out by our service men and women. ★ www.afm.org.mt


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HON. MINISTER’S MESSAGE Minister Dr Emanuel Mallia Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security n the past months, several countries around the Mediterranean basin have experienced unprecedented turmoil, with their citizens suffering violence and major disruption on a daily basis. As a nation that is long accustomed to stability within its territory we should pause to appreciate the value of living in a society where democratic principles are entrenched. The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) is an essential pillar of Malta’s security infrastructure, helping to maintain our freedoms at home as well as protecting Maltese interests abroad. The operations carried out by our Armed Forces, whether on land, at sea or in the air, or indeed whether in our territory or beyond, are the epitome of military excellence. This year the AFM deployed 72 personnel abroad on 6 different missions. Locally, AFM personnel were dispatched after 525 distress calls at sea saving no less than 1689 persons during the first nine months of the year. This success is due in no small way to the dedication and motivation of soldiers who are professionally trained and equipped to accomplish such complex, and at times daring, missions. To expand the recent acquisition of high-tech air and maritime assets, the government has just re-affirmed its commitment to upgrade the ageing fleet of the AFM’s rotary wing section by signing an agreement with Agusta Westland of Italy for the procurement of a twin engine helicopter AW139 to enter into service by mid 2014. This multi-million project, co-financed by the European Union’s External Border Funds and national funding, also includes an overseas training package for helicopter pilots and aircraft engineers. We are also working towards acquiring a second such helicopter in the near future. The AFM comprise units other than the more publicized Maritime and Air squadrons. The land component is highly involved in numerous missions related to national security, and in assisting other entities such as the Malta Police Force and the Civil Protection Department. It is my duty to mention and commend the hard work and dedication of all those AFM personnel employed in airport security, key-point protection and in the dangerous job of storage and disposal of explosives. Furthermore, no AFM mission can be successfully accomplished without the support of those soldiers who work behind the scenes, such as those in administration, logistics and engineering. These soldiers are also in our plans; we are committed to improve their conditions and status.


My intention, as the Minister responsible for the AFM, is to maintain a young and energetic Force able to rise to the challenges of the modern world. At the same time we must not jeopardise the valuable experience gained during the forty years of existence of the Force. I am committed to ensure that recruitments are opened on a regular basis and that we offer excellent career progression and development opportunities to our servicemen and women. And that is not all – we have embarked on studies to identify family-friendly measures that could help alleviate the burdens of families of AFM members serving both locally and overseas; we will start implementing some innovative measures in the not too distant future. We are currently in the process of finalising the AFM Band’s participation in the prestigious Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo next year. This was made possible after the Ministry recently hosted Brigadier David Allfrey, the producer of what is, in fact, the most sought after Military Tattoo in the world. To see the AFM Band perform in this event would give us great pride and would help further promote Malta across the globe. ★


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COMMANDER’S WORD Brigadier Martin G. Xuereb Commander AFM he Armed Forces of Malta has undergone an unprecedented metamorphosis spurred these last years by our full integration in the EU Common Security and Defence Policy Community (CSDP) and access to EU funds. Today the AFM’s perspective is much wider but this does not mean that we are less committed to serve Malta’s best interest. To the contrary, we are more committed than ever; the only difference is that we do so in a more encompassing manner. A wider perspective enhances our opportunities but it also exposes us to challenges of a different nature. Challenges which, dare I say, we are facing well. One might question how the AFM has managed the transition relatively unscathed. The answer is simple. It all boils down to the investment in human capital over the years. It is its human resource that has permitted the AFM to adapt to changes rather seamlessly. The men and women of the Force are the AFM’s greatest asset and ensuring that the right people occupy key posts is crucial. This is where the AFM needs to be consistent if it is to continue to flourish. In a future with blurred security threats, one that is far more complex than the present, getting this right is imperative. In anticipation of future challenges, the AFM sought ways to assist its members rise to the test. Many have attended formation or specialisation courses abroad, and procedures encouraging members to take up sponsored private study have been instituted. More recently, a dedicated Training and Future Capabilities Branch was set up to ensure that long term projections are in place. Furthermore, an effort was made to rotate appointments in order to give individuals the chance to manage, lead and to exercise different skills. Inextricably linked to this others have deployed or are in line to deploy on operations. The question is have we done enough? Of course not, it is never enough. Tragic will be the day when we think there remains no room for improvement. We are here to serve and to do so well we need to be proactive not just reactive. The minute we stop doing so will mark the beginning of the end for the AFM. Much has been achieved over the past forty three years but we should not rest on our laurels. As in all organisations the AFM is composed of swimmers, floaters and sinkers. Luckily the swimmers are many and they are at all levels. These are the ones that populate the engine room. They are the ones that show decisiveness, are resourceful, committed and above all feel part of a team. They are


the ones that provide solutions rather than simply highlight problems and in them lies the strength of the Armed Forces of Malta. It is they, irrespective of their rank or appointment who will build on the good foundations laid by others and it is they that we need to nurture and invest in most. Swimmers are also those who need to monitor, but more importantly mentor the floaters. The latter are on the threshold; they are those who are capable but often undecided. They have what it takes to ensure an effective contribution but they are not consistent. The sinkers are a worry and we must ask them to make a choice now. If they continue to show reluctance we must make them aware that there is only one way to go and that is the right way. We need to make it clear that those that have Malta’s interest at heart have a lot of time to invest but very little time to waste. I do not want to labour a point as the ‘On Parade’ is our yearly opportunity to showcase what we have achieved over the past twelve months. A year packed with achievements and with some disappointments. Another year during which overall, we have come together to serve and deliver what is expected of us. Together we have contributed to what the AFM is today, an institution that sees it limitations as nothing but parameters within which to deliver the best possible results. I hope you enjoy this year’s publication as much as we have enjoyed preparing it for you. ★


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Away from home… THE ARMED FORCES OF MALTA’S COMMITMENTS ABROAD AFM soldiers train weapon drills onboard Dutch Navy ship Johan De Witt.

AFM Boarding Team members conducting inspections on vessels in the Gulf of Aden.

European Union Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM LIBYA)

© PI Cell AFM.

Major Christopher Xuereb Staff Officer within the HQ AFM’s Operations Branch (graduate of the 69th Senior Command and Staff Course of the Irish Defence Forces)

he deployment of AFM service members abroad is a challenge for a small force such as the AFM. Notwithstanding this, such deployments provide a wealth of experience to those involved in the deployment per se and others involved in the planning and support of these operations from home. The experienced gained during the planning and execution of such missions provides skill sets to the Maltese soldiers which can be utilised during national operations. Deployments also allow the AFM to test the interoperability of its personnel and equipment with those of other nations. On the politico-military level such involvement underlines Malta’s tangible role and commitment towards the international community.


This year the AFM contributed to seven different operations; their mission varying from in-theater monitoring and training missions to border control and security missions, as well as, serving in important posts as advisors or as Staff Officers within a European Union operational planning headquarters. In these types of operations Maltese soldiers are required to integrate with a bilateral or a multinational team. This is a testament of the professionalism and adaptability of the Maltese soldier and the contribution of niche capabilities towards the operation.

European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah (EUBAM RAFAH) The AFM continues to maintain two NonCommissioned Officers (NCOs) on standby to deploy in-theater at a 14 day notice-tomove, pending EU decision to reactivate the mission when political and security conditions allow. In an eventual deployment of Maltese soldiers, their mission in Rafah (Gaza) will be to monitor the operations of this border crossing point.

EUBAM Libya is a new Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission launched on 22 May 2013 in order to support the Libyan authorities in improving and developing the security of the country’s borders following an invitation by Libya. It is also part of the EU comprehensive approach in support of Libyan post-conflict reconstruction. Two AFM Officers were selected to deploy in-theater as part of the EU Border Mission staff as Senior Naval Coast Guard Advisor and as Naval Coast Guard Trainer; to share, with our Libyan counterparts, the knowledge and experience they acquired in the maritime law enforcement domain.

European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM GEORGIA) The AFM’s first operational deployment in support of an EU-led crisis management operation was in 2008, when it deployed two of its members in support of this monitoring mission. The objective of this CSDP operation is to contribute to stability throughout Georgia and the surrounding region, in accordance with the EU-brokered six-point agreement signed by both Georgia and Russia. Maltese soldiers in conjunction with their EU counterparts contribute towards the mission’s mandate of stabilisation, normalisation and confidence building by monitoring the ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 09

HEADQUARTERS AFM implementation of the six-point Agreement. This is done through monitoring the return of internally displaced persons and refugees and by contributing to the reduction of tensions through liaison, facilitation of contacts between parties and other confidence-building measures. The AFM’s participation to this mission ended on 17 September 2013.

European Union Training Mission Somalia (EUTM SOMALIA) EUTM Somalia is an EU military training mission which aims to strengthen the capacities of the Somali National Government (SNG) by providing military training to members of

AFM soldier deployed in Bulgaria for a border control FRONTEX mission. Photos: 1 Regiment.

C’SD’ Company soldiers recently deployed in Bulgaria.

tion AENEAS for a month long deployment. The task of the AFM MPA was to fly night border surveillance missions aimed at controlling irregular migratory flows and other illicit activity in the Ionian Sea. This mission offers AFM pilots and mission systems operators with a unique opportunity to operate at higher operational tempo in an unfamiliar Area of Operations (AoO) from which experience is gained that is easily transposed to national blue border control operations.

FRONTEX Joint Operation POSEIDON Land (JOP L) 2013

the Somali National Armed Force (SNAF). Launched in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1872 (2009), the mission is one element of the EU’s comprehensive approach to challenges in the Horn of Africa, which includes efforts to promote political progress, improve governance, strengthen the rule of law, and responses to development and humanitarian needs – ultimately to create a secure and safe environment. Over the years Malta supported this mission with the deployment of a number of training staff in Bihanga Training Camp in Uganda as well as a number of Staff Officers which deployed at the Mission Headquarters in Kampala also in Uganda. The AFM’s participation to this mission ended on 5 June 2013.

viding the safe passage of humanitarian aid to Somalia. Furthermore this Force also secures one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. Malta, being the largest shipping register in the EU, has supported this operation since its inception. In fact apart from the deployment of the current Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team (SDEBT) and two Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs) in recent years, since 2008 the AFM has deployed an intelligence officer to the EUNAVFOR Combined Joint Intelligence Cell of the Operational Headquarters which is located in Northwood in the UK. Ten officers have already been deployed, with the eleventh already chosen and undergoing pre-deployment training.


FRONTEX Joint Operation AENEAS (JOA) 2013

Operation ATALANTA was conceived by the EU to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden with the aim of stabilizing the region by pro-

A KingAir B200 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and two of its crews were deployed to Brindisi Italy in support of FRONTEX Opera-

10 ON PARADE | October 2013

Maltese soldiers also serve on FRONTEX Operation Poseidon. Four teams were deployed this year to Greece to patrol the strategic land borders between Greece and Turkey, in particular the Evros region. For the first time a team was also deployed in Bulgaria to support border security operations along the Bulgaria-Turkey border. Both JO AENEAS and POSEIDON were fully funded by FRONTEX and the AFM endeavours to deploy on such missions as it recognizes the challenges of migration and acknowledges the need to assist others in dealing with these situations. Since it recognizes the fact that migration is shared responsibility, despite its limitations the AFM always tries, within its means and capabilities, to contribute to efforts intended to assist those Member States that are passing through difficult periods. Whilst these operations provide an outstanding opportunity for the individuals’ deployed and the Force its self, one must acknowledge the fact that the deployments come at a cost – the sacrifice their loved ones endure whilst our boys and girls are away from home. ★


Green TO THE CORE hile the main role of the Armed Forces of Malta is to maintain the security and territorial integrity of the Maltese islands at all times, it also performs a wide spectrum of tasks and duties secondary or in s are saved by addition to the said main role. One Several sea turtle ing the year. AFM seamen dur such undertaking, which shall be Squadron. Photo by Maritime expounded upon in this article and mostly unbeknown to the General Public, is the positive contribution of the AFM towards the environment. Testimony to this is the ongoing collaboration of the AFM with entities such as the University of Malta International Ocean Institute Malta Operational Centre (IOI-MOC), the Physical Oceanography Unit and Even more tangible is the the Biology Department of the way the Armed Forces of Malta, University of Malta. throughout the years, have The Armed Forces of Malta, become increasingly involved in through the Conservation Biology the rescue dolphins, whales or Dr Adriana Vella Research Group (CBRG) of the Biolother sea creatures such as turtles ogy Department of the University of that needed assistance out at sea. Dr Malta, is currently collaborating towards Vella serves as the point of contact for the the Southern Central Mediterranean Cetacean AFM in these scenarios. On occasions, the and Marine Conservation research. Dr Adriana creatures found to be in difficulty are colVella, a conservation biologist who runs the lected by the crew members and, where posproject, explains the immense difficulties sible, transported to the rehabilitation centre encountered in studying cetaceans – that located within Fort San Lucian, Birzebbugia. group of sea mammals that includes whales, The Armed Forces of Malta who have also dolphins and porpoises, most due to the relaassisted in the production of environment tively rare sightings. She is quick to acknowlawareness educational programs. These were edge the sterling work of the AFM over the set up by the Biological Conservation years where AFM crew members on patrol Research Foundation (BICREF) where once boats or aircraft report every sighting of such again Dr Vella was a main contributor. An creatures, giving the exact location. Analyses AFM helicopter crew was used for filming of of data on marine species and their populathe breathtaking, rugged coastline of the Maltions obtained through the dedicated efforts tese Island. Such aerial footage was used in of Dr A. Vella, allows population profiling for both the latest Waves of Life, an International each species together with its conservation Award Winning Documentary and the BICREF status in Maltese waters. This in turn allows EcoMalta documentaries produced in 2002, the implementation of the best local conserwhich were selected for the award of best vation strategies. Dr Vella argues that this NGO project for the International Ecotourism holistic and long term research program has Year. Dr A Vella has no reservations in found kind long-term partnerships, such as, acknowledging the AFM for its enthusiastic the Armed Forces of Malta. assistance in these unique productions.


An AFM seaman on patrol notices a dolphin close to an AFM Maritime asset. Photo by Sgt Mark Tabone.

The AFM has proved to be a worthy and enthusiastic collaborator in these CBRG-UoM wide-reaching marine conservation research projects. It is not surprising therefore that this longstanding cooperation has been recently renewed through an agreement of collaboration between the University of Malta and the AFM. Another project where the Armed Forces of Malta has been collaborating with the University of Malta is the assessment of the water quality around the Maltese Islands through operational monitoring of phytoplankton. Dr Alan Deidun, a Senior Lecturer at the Physical Oceanography Unit, says that the monitoring of these microscopic plants in the water column is one of the cornerstones for testing of the quality of seawater around the Maltese Islands, and serves also to assess the productivity of the marine area in question. These tests are carried out as stipulated in related EU Directives. Satellites are proving to be an indispensable tool for marine scientists as they are able to examine the Chlorophyll content in the sea through the emission of radiation. But these methods are not always easily available being affected by weather and other natural conditions. This results in gaps in the dataset being collected. The data has to be validated on the field often collected by means of a hand-held fluorimeter. Between May 2012 and May 2013, the AFM Maritime Squadron assisted the IOI-Malta Operational Centre (IOI-MOC) at the University of Malta through the collection of an annual dataset of surface chlorophyll readings using one of the Maritime Squadron’s vessels to collect such data. The initiation ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 07

AFM & THE ENVIRONMENT of the data collection exercise was preceded by an intensive training session with the crew of the vessel in question. It is envisaged that results from such collaboration will be presented to the scientific community next year. The IOI-MOC is grateful to the AFM Maritime Squadron for its participation in such a collaboration, which should hopefully shed more light on seasonal trends in chlorophyll concentration in Maltese coastal waters. Without such participation, the research conducted would not have been possible in view of the prohibitive costs associated with the commissioning of research vessels. Over the last couple of years, the Armed Forces of Malta have also participated in the CALYPSO HF Radar Monitoring system and Response mainly dealing with Marine Oil Spills, as part of the programme Italia – Malta 2007-2013. The Malta channel between Malta and Sicily cannot be ignored as 20% of the World’s Maritime Traffic passes through it, posing risks such as a major oil spill, which could have devastating effects on the Maltese Islands. This project brings together eight partners, four Sicilian and four Maltese, with the University of Malta Physical Oceanography Unit (part of the IOI Malta Operational Centre) headed

A loggerhead sea turtle brought ashore by a search and rescue launch was handed over to Nature Trust. Photo by Nicky Aquilina.

by Professor Aldo Drago as the lead partner. Also a partner is the Armed Forces of Malta, which houses at the Qortin Base at Nadur, one of the permanent and fully operational HF radar observing system, capable of recording in real-time with hourly updates the surface currents in the Malta channel. The system consists of two HF radar installations on the Northern Coast of Malta, including the AFM installation mentioned, and one radar in the Southern Sicilian shores. The system provides real-time measurement of sea surface currents and waves in the strip of sea between Malta and Sicily, delivering to the nation another building block towards the acquisition of essential routine marine data at the service of a number of stakeholders and local users.

The ultimate goal is to support an efficient and effective response against the threat of marine oil spills on Maltese and Sicilian shores by providing information regularly and in real time on sea surface currents and sea state conditions in the form of web-disseminated maps. This data is monitored from the Armed Forces of Malta Operations Centre, and in case of an oil spill, it serves to give in real time the location of the oil spill and a projection of its movement over the surface, thus being able to give a faster and more efficient response if needed. The data can also be used for Search and Rescue purposes. Profs Aldo Drago strongly believes that through collaboration there will be better control of the trans-boundary maritime space and greater efficiency for security and safety at sea. Through these collaborative programmes and projects, the Armed Forces of Malta perseveres in its commitment and support towards a safer and healthier environment in general, for the Maltese Islands, and ultimately for the benefit of the Maltese citizens. ★

A YEAR ON… • Puttinu Cares story Last April AFM soldiers from 3 Regiment were busy at the Marsa Sports complex helping out in the efforts to raise money for Puttinu Cares. AFM soldiers from the Field Troop and the Combat Engineers organized an Aerial Ropeway activity that saw over 350 children experience the Aerial Ropeway. During the Puttinu Marathon €1.3 million were raised and the AFM is proud to have been part of this success.

➔ Memorial dedicated to the Fallen In February, the first Regiment of the AFM enacted a monument in its Barracks at Hal Far. The memorial is made out of hard stone imported all the way from Syria and crafted by a local artist. The memorial is dedicated to those who passed away whilst performing their tour of duty. 1 Regt shall always remember and be grateful for the loyal and dedicated service of: Civilian Mr Seguna M. – 12 Jun 1993 85427 Gnr Cassar E. – 04 Feb 1998 87105 Gnr Psaila Matthew – 16 Feb 2009

• Maritime Law Enforcement On the 1st of July an AFM Islander Aircraft on a routine patrol observed the Maltese registered vessel MV ‘ALICE’ sailing 30NM South of Malta trailing what appeared to be an illegal discharge of some form of fuel. Patrol Vessel P24 and P52 were also dispatched to monitor the situation. The oil spill was reported to the Malta Police Authorities as maritime pollution of this nature is regarded as a criminal offence and at 8p.m. the MV ALICE was placed under arrest and ordered to proceed to Grand Harbour. Three other locallyregistered vessels suspected of being engaged in fuel transfers with the ALICE were also ordered to stop any fuel transfer activities and proceed towards Malta for further investigations.

• AFM Personnel Visit Rescued Puppy at Centru San Frangisk Animal Welfare Centre Seen here Bombardier Simon Saliba and Lance Bombardier Antoine Dalli fondling the puppy they helped rescue from beneath concrete pylons in Ta’ Qali on Wednesday 7th August. The soldiers, from AFM’s Plant and Field Troop 3rd Regiment, were sent to help Animal Welfare Officers free the trapped dog. Through cooperation between soldiers, animal welfare officers and civilians, four pylons were each carefully lifted, taking care the puppy was not injured any further. The puppy was successfully freed from its concrete trap without serious injury amid the scorching heat at 3p.m.

➔ Operation Aenas (Frontex) During the month of August the AFM’s King Air maritime patrol aircraft, were deployed to Brindisi, Italy to participate in the Frontex sponsored Operation Aeneas. The aim of the mission was to control EU borders in an effort to monitor illegal activities such as irregular migration and the trafficking of contraband. Operation Aeneas covered the Adriatic and Ionian Sea between the coasts of Italy, Greece, and Albania. Two AFM Air Crews onboard the AFM Maritime Patrol Aircraft the King Air B200 participated in the mission.

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• AFM solider saves King Fisher An AFM soldier from the Maritime Squadron (Gunner Roderick Vassallo) was jogging on the Msida front as part of his routine physical training when he noticed an injured bird (Kingfisher). The injured bird was gently picked up and returned to Hay Wharf where it was handed over to the Berthing Master. Bird Life Malta was immediately informed of the find and in around an hour the bird was handed over to Bird Life Malta representatives.


• EOD Team trains with US NAVY EOD Operators

• Assistance to the Malta Police

On 11 and 12 August, the Explosives Ordinance Disposal-trained sailors met with AFM diving and Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) counterparts in Fort Mosta to share best practices in EOD capabilities and techniques. The AFM’s EOD section is on call 24 hours a day and members are the sole professional EOD technicians on the Island.

On the 20th August the Armed Forces of Malta assisted the Malta Police in apprehending an escapee following a chase by police. The crew of the Melita II vessel, were deployed close to Manoel Island and apprehended the foreign suspect who was later on handed over to the Malta Police.

• AFM’s Plant Troop Assists Pembroke Local Council in Cleanup Seen here are personnel from the AFM Combat Engineers Plant Troop 3rd Regiment clearing an area designated for cleaning up by the Pembroke Local Council. The area cleanup involved the use of heavy plant and the Local Council requested the Plant Troop’s assistance which in turn turned up with an JCB 3CX Buckactor and an ASTRA HD6 Truck to complete the job last Saturday 29th June. This civil-military initiative is yet another opportunity where the AFM contributes towards a cleaner environment to be enjoyed by the Maltese public.

• AFM Reservist excels in International Wrestling Open ➔ AFM assists Bird Life Since 1982, the Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Malta has been assisting Birdlife Malta in monitoring the population of the Yellow-legged Gull, Larus Michahellis, on the Island of Filfla. Every year during the early spring, licensed bird ringers are transported by helicopter to Filfla in order to place marking rings on the young birds before they fledge. Operating from Filfla can be quite challenging due to the island’s shape, small size, and untouched topography. Very few level areas exist on the island and its plateau shape means that surface air conditions can be very turbulent at times.

Bombardier Vassallo together with five wrestlers from Malta participated in the 84kilos category. The Maltese team won the Welsh Open for the second consecutive year and Bombardier Vassallo obtained a bronze medal. After losing the first bout with gold medallist British team wrestler G. Badesha Vassallo went on to beat Mohammadbadi of Iran. Vassallo had to beat Welsh and North Ireland wrestlers to secure the bronze. The Maltese team was trained by national coach and AFM ex-reservist Jesmond Giordimaina. Bombardier Vassallo acted as assistant coach.

➔ AFM Soldier Serves at Frontex Situation Centre Bombardier Christopher Spiteri, stationed at the Armed Forces of Malta Headquarters, has returned to Malta from a four month deployment period at the Frontex Situation Centre (FSC) in Warsaw, Poland. His role abroad was the validation of reports concerning Irregular Migration and Cross-Border Crime received by the FSC on daily basis from the eighteen different Member States through Frontex dedicated Joint Operations Reporting Application. Such reports, coming from air, land and sea operations are related to incidents occurring at the European Union external borders. During this period, he worked in an international team, with other colleagues coming from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and The Netherlands.

October 2013  | ON PARADE 07



Support Staff at Maritime Squadron Daily maintenance – order of the day. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Mallia Acting Commanding Officer Maritime Squadron he Maritime Squadron is one of the AFM Units that appears in the media relatively often. Be it a high profile rescue event, the disembarkation of rescued irregular migrants, a multi-national exercise or a deployment overseas, the grey hulls of the Squadron’s patrol craft have become a familiar sight in our local media. The boats at sea are, however, are only half of the story. In military parlance, they are described as ‘the tip of the spear’ and that description is extremely apt. Although it is the point and the blade of a spear that delivers the effect, it would be useless in isolation. The shaft of the spear provides the reach, the support and transmits the strength that makes this weapon so effective. In the same way, it is the supporting staff at Maritime Squadron, the back-room boys, that make it possible for our boats to go to sea and deliver effective capabilities. These easily-forgotten personnel make a vital contribution to ensuring that the AFM can act efficiently at sea. Another rather hackneyed military expression is the so-called ‘tooth-to-tail ratio’. This


is a comparison of how many personnel are actually deployed at sea compared with the amount of personnel Personnel of the Support Command carry out works at the Squadron’s workshops. ashore required to support Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt. their operational activities. Modern navies and coastguards usually have around 2-3 persons workwhich requires skills such as welders, engine ing ashore for every person afloat. and mechanical fitters, carpenters, electronics Maritime Squadron is far leaner, with less technicians and electricians. The Squadron than one person assigned to shore duties for maintains a significant cadre of such tradeseach person conducting duties at sea. This is men and these support embarked personnel partly due to the fact that some administrative in rectifying technical faults that are beyond functions are fulfilled centrally by the AFM for their capabilities. This could involve removing all the subordinate duties but it also reflects units from aboard to conduct works in the the fact that the Squadron is sharply focused workshops ashore or repairing units in place. on delivering operational capabilities at sea in On any given day, Support Command Technia relatively restricted local setting. cians will be working aboard two or three of Any boat is only as good as its maintenance. the patrol craft moored at base or at sea conDeficiencies in the maintenance of any craft ducting trials or running repairs. will inevitably result in a poor operational The final level of maintenance, Depot Level showing. The first level of maintenance, Maintenance, includes those works that are known as Operational Level Maintenance, is conducted with the assistance of outside conthe responsibility of the crew assigned to the tractors and include major engine overhauls and periodical dockings. Here Support Comcraft and consists mostly of preventative mand again takes the lead, drawing up the list maintenance conducted on a periodical basis. of works that need to be completed, verifying Anything more complex immediately involves the technical arrangements that need to be the personnel of the Support Command. put into to place and certifying that works are These include personnel capable of supportconducted to the required standard. When ing so-called Intermediate Level Maintenance October 2013 | ON PARADE 07


Smooth running of marine engines is a top priority for the Squadron. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

one of the patrol craft is on the hard in a yard facility, daily monitoring of the conduct of works is required to ensure that the contractor is delivering value for money and to the contractual standards. Logistics is another critical element of ensuring smooth operations. Bluntly put, operations would be impossible without ensuring that enough fuel, food, cleaning materials, consumable supplies, safety and protective equipment, ammunition, lubricants and a vast array of other items ranging from tools to toilet paper are available aboard. The Squadron Quartermaster is the person responsible for this rather unglamorous yet vital task. This includes maintaining stores of

on-the-shelf items, ensuring their proper administration, maintaining the accounts and ledgers of the Squadron’s operational budget and purchasing items on demand as required. Supporting logistics is a task that also requires Quartermaster personnel to work closely with the Logistics and Procurement Branch at Headquarters. Much of what the Squadron requires to function, such as fuel and lubricants, uniforms, food and other consumables, is purchased on a central basis. This requires close liaison to ensure that the Squadron’s requirements are clearly known and taken into account. The final support elements are the Squadron Headquarters and Base Party. The former is responsible for all aspects of administration which range from organizing and conducting training to ensuring discipline and maintaining the personal and leave records of each individual. This administrative support is key to ensuring the smooth functioning of an organization of over 300 people and making sure that the correct individuals with the appropriate training are available in the right place at the right time. The Squadron Headquarters is also responsible for overall management and synchronization of all the Unit’s activities. Making

sure that assigned tasks are fulfilled in the most efficient and cost-effective manner is critical in ensuring that the Squadron can deliver on its mission and that, when the call comes, boats head to sea ready for duty. Maritime Squadron Base at Haywharf is the home of the major part of the Squadron’s personnel and assets, although a small component is forward-deployed in Mgarr, Gozo. Supporting all activities at Haywharf is the Base Party. This handles issues such as maintenance of mooring facilities, cleaning of base facilities, base maintenance, base security and catering services. This invaluable work contributes to ensuring that Squadron personnel have a safe and pleasant working environment. The precise value of this work is difficult to estimate but there can be no doubt that it makes a significant contribution to the morale and welfare of the persons serving at Maritime Squadron and, in turn, has an impact on overall productivity. Even this brief look at the roles of the supporting staff at Maritime Squadron reveals that they play a critical, if unsung role in the AFM’s maritime missions. Perhaps the next time that you see the ‘tip of the spear’ on television or in a newspaper article, you can spare a thought for the Back-Room Boys who make it all possible. ★


Central Role T

he following stories highlight the military career path of three very promising young ladies within the AFM that play a central role in our organization. After reading the below lines you will surely agree that the excellence of female Maltese soldiers is the envy of many and an inspiration to teenagers who are considering a military career. Back in July of 2006, I was one of three females in a group of 60 recruits that joined the Armed Forces of Malta. After 5 months of training I was awarded Best Recruit. This was definitely not a walk in the park and the breathtaking struggle was a continuous till the very last minute!


Lucienne Desira 1 Regiment am currently posted at C (Special Duties) Company and I have served there for the past 7 years. After spending 4 years in a platoon during which I was appointed second in command of company stores, I was promoted to Lance Bombardier. All personnel serving in this company must perform morning training in order to ensure high physical fitness standards. Infantry courses take place regularly in our company and it is fun being surrounded by this sort of activity, after all few are the workplaces where you see young men and women training hard rain or shine, from your window at the workplace. I have attained several skills during my service both locally and abroad. Locally I have undergone several specialized training modules such as Internal Security, Close Quarter Battle, Life Support & Resuscitation Skills (Bronze Medallion), Sea-

LBdr Desira abseils as part of routine training at 1 Regiment. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt. Left: Desira in sub-zero temperatures during her course in the Czech Republic. Photo by 1 Regiment.


manship, Abseiling and Physical training instructor courses to mention a few. I was also privileged to have had the change to attend courses abroad. In Italy I have trained with Italian military counterparts in mountaineering. I was also selected to attend crisis Response Operation Training with Italian forces. The last course I attended was in February 2013 internally referred to as JCLC – Junior Commanders Leadership organised by British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) in the Czech Republic. The aim of this course was to develop the command and leadership skills of Junior Commanders. A variety of techniques, tactics and procedures applicable to Peace Support Operations are thought and

practised as part of the syllabus. The course is very physical demanding and participants must be physically prepared to deal with the gruelling conditions. The module is primarily intended for Junior Commanders who may eventually deploy on PSOs (Peace Support Operations). I was the only female participant in the course, since British Army females do not form part of Infantry companies. I managed to complete all physical training at par with my male counterparts. I was proud to fly the Maltese flag high throughout the course and on the certificate awarding ceremony I was decorated as Joint Top Student of the course. Being half a meter shorter than the shortest competitor coupled with the fact that I was a foreigner and a female from a Mediterranean island did not stop me from attaining the result I always aspired then again it never will… ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 07

PINK CORNER for those women who seek an active and disciplined lifestyle.


Jessica Galea t has been almost 3 years since my enlistment with the Armed Forces of Malta and each passing day is a learning experience. Prior to joining the AFM I read for a Diploma in Sports, Exercise and Fitness and worked as a fitness instructor in the private sector for 2 years. I found these experiences to be of great help during my military career, especially during the recruitment period and other courses that I attended locally. The BIII Infantry course run by 1 Regiment AFM was the first course I participated in right after recruitment. The training during this course is one of the most physically demanding and stressful courses the AFM offers. It was mostly geared on discipline, physical fitness and psychological endurance. The Infantry course was different from everything I have ever done, however, with incessant determination I managed to overcome all the challenges that came my way. At the end of it all and looking back I do think that overcoming such a hurdle improved my general attitude and I am now more eager to take upon challenges that initially seem unattainable. Early this year, I completed the BIII Clerk course, which although totally different in nature still proved to be useful since I have been doing clerical work for the past 2 years. This course provides a theoretical background to the candidate in various clerical and administrative functions, such as, instructions in filing systems, registry, maintaining internal military correspondence and time management skills. Another course I chose to partake in 2013 was the abseiling special skill course. Unlike other candidates, I do fear heights (acrophobia) and overcoming this phobia was surely no easy task. Thanks to professional instructors, and training I learned to trust in all the safety equipment and pushed myself to tackle bigger drops. The course emphasis was placed on abseiling safety precautions, handling of equipment, correct abseiling techniques and knots. For me as a beginner this was one of the most thrilling courses that boosted my self confidence whilst learning new skills. I am very proud of my current career and potential future openings. Joining the AFM was one of the best decisions I ever made. Even though just like all other jobs, we have our ups and downs I must state that I have no regrets and I highly recommend this career



Christine Gauci first applied to join the Maltese Armed Forces in 2005 and was the only female to be accepted in a recruitment targeted for enlistment with C ‘SD’ (Special Duties) Company. Unfortunately, I injured my knee and all my aspirations came to a halt since I was not allowed to carry on with the recruitment. As a result, I was posted to serve with another company during the recovery period.


Gnr Galea helps out a colleague at the AFM’s gym. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

Gnr Gauci being air lifted by an AFM rescuer during the B3 Diver course. Photo by Gnr Mifsud/ 3 Regiment.

Once fully recovered, I decided to give it another go, hoping that this time round I will be able to realize my dream. I successfully completed the recruitment, and following the passing off the square ceremony, I was soon posted with C ‘SD’ Company. Without further ado I soon found myself in the Basic Infantry Course organized by my regiment. By the end of the course my innate sense of challenge together with a keen interest in serving with a foreign Armed Force specifically the British Army was too tempting and I have decided to embark on yet another seemingly impossible challenge now oversees. After a 6 month selection process in the UK, I started basic training with the British Army and subsequently specialized in Air Defence. Following 24 weeks of continuous training, I was posted to 12 Minden Battery, 12 Regiment, ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 08


Gnr Gauci underwater. Photo by 3 Regiment.

(Royal Artillery). In 2010 I completed a PNCO course and I was promoted to Lance Bombardier (British Army) and in 2011, I deployed to Afghanistan. Operational reality in such a war thorn country is a different animal altogether but this growing experience ended on very good notes. As a female soldier operating in such a terrain with a renowned international Armed Force was incredibly rewarding. To top it all up I was honoured to receive the Afghanistan medal on my return from the tour of duty. After serving for 4 years with the British Army I decided to return to Malta and rejoin the AFM. I re-enlisted into the service in 2012 and am currently serving at A Coy, 1 Regiment. The company is responsible for access control

Gnr Gauci performs security duties at the Malta International Airport. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

and quick reaction to any situation arising within the Malta International Airport. As soon as I joined A Coy, I underwent training related to searches on female personnel and vehicles at certain gates within the MIA, VIP Protection and quick reaction to aircraft accidents. Earlier this year, my career took yet another twist as I started a B3 Diver course with EOD (Explosive and Ordinance Depot) unit which was always one of my ambitions within the

AFM. The kick of operating under water yet still carrying out sensitive military duties always grasped me. Although I am still in the process of completing this course I can’t wait to attain yet another qualification this time in such a particular field. My biggest aspiration and upcoming challenge (in a list of never ending ones) is to be the first female to join the EOD Unit where I get to serve my country beneath the surface of Maltese waters. ★


Getting theTools to do the


Lieutenant Colonel Michael Cardona Logistics and Procurement Branch HQ AFM

What is Military Logistics Military Logistics is that function which attends to the requirements of an armed force. Military logistics is defined as, “The science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces. In its most comprehensive sense, the aspects of military operations which deal with: • design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation, and disposal of materiel; • transport of personnel; • acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition of facilities; • acquisition or furnishing of services; and • medical and health service support.”

Night vision goggles where recently purchased with EU funds. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

Military Logistics in Application Addressing such diverse tasks, military logistics becomes a balancing act. Depending on the situation, the continuous effort lies with finding equilibrium between emergent operational exigencies “just-in-time” and attending to projected requirements by stockpiling “just-in-case”. Within this ambit, logistical planning and support is paramount particularly upon consideration that as situations and scenarios continuously emerge and develop, the Armed Forces of Malta has to keep pace and adapt to its evolving operational exigencies. It thus follows, that logistical planning is the overriding proactive process which ensures that current logistical necessities are sustained whilst projected operations and potential challenges are attended to and provided for efficiently and effectively. Grasping this very essence, perhaps that is why Alexander the Great purportedly claimed that, “My logisticians are a humourless lot… they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.”

AFM Interceptor vessel speeding off to a target during Maritime Law Enforcement. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

The AFM’s Procurement and Logistics Branch attending to the AFM’s Requirements The Armed Forces of Malta’s Procurement and Logistics Branch is a relatively small military section within the Headquarters, which attends to the diverse logistical requirements of the force. The tasks it routinely fulfils vary between providing the requisite individual clothing and equipment for the soldiers to major procurement and subsequent maintenance requirements and schedules of the force’s major operational equipment such as its fleets of aircraft, patrol vessels and vehicles. For a small force such as the AFM with such a wide array of responsibilities, the Logistics Branch focuses not only on satisfying the specific requirements to meets operational necessities but also on ensuring that its

resources are procured, supplied and eventually used effectively, efficiently and economically or in simpler terms that its resources are used and applied in the just amounts required to achieve the desired outcome. Away from the limelight, personnel at this branch, commence and laboriously finalise highly technical and intensive procedures. Different sections at this branch efficiently attend to the procurement processes. This involves market surveys, tendering and overseeing eventual adjudication outcomes and ordering of equipment. Alternatively these attend to direct orders and negotiations with suppliers of services or goods, as well as freight arrangements to ship in or out new equipment or items for repairs overseas. The tasks of this branch also include liaison with other local and foreign government entities and departments.

Enhancing the Forces Capability to Address Emerging Scenarios The AFM continuously seeks to meet its obligations through the acquisition of modern equipment which improves its capabilities at all levels of operation; at sea, on land and in the air. There are various sources such as local funding, European Border funds as well as donations by foreign states which enable the acquisition of the required equipment.

At Sea During the past year, the AFM acquired three Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB’s) equipped with sophisticated surveillance and communication equipment through grants under the 2011 European Border Fund (EBF). The acquistion of these crafts has enhanced the AFM’s Border Control capabilities geared primarily to address specific sensitive tasks ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 07

LOGISTICS & PROCUREMENT BRANCH such as the irregular immigration issue where timely response, controls, checks and surveillance of maritime vessels in an expedient, decisive and rapid manner are critical. To the same ends, the AFM undertook a further project to upgrade its Protector Class patrol vessels P51 and P52 which serve as the force’s Fast Response Maritime Craft. The project included the procurement of advanced communication and surveillance equipment as well as significant upgrades to their onboard RHIB’s. Furthermore, the United States Government recently donated two Defender boats to the AFM. These vessels will shortly be deployed on short range operations enhancing the force’s capabilities within coastal waters.

On Land With an emphasis on securing Malta’s borders, parallel projects have also been undertaken to enhance the force’s land component surveillance potential. Thus, land based units are benefitting from observation, monitoring and communication equipment which has been procured to enhance their surveillance and communication capabilities during land based surveillance operations both locally and overseas. Moreover, a long-term upgrade

Thanks to EU co-financing the AFM purchased ElectroOptical/Infrared cameras. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

In the Air The AFM has also been addressing the same border control issues at its Air Squadron by undertaking a project for the acquisition of a twin-engine helicopter fully equipped to undertake a wide range of operations. This project is co-financed by the European External Borders Fund (EBF), and through this acquisition, the AFM will in the coming year be in a much better position to attend to its border control tasks and SAR missions.

Getting the Tools to do the Job

AFM’s vehicle fleet upgrade is in progress. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

of the AFM’s vehicle fleet is underway and which will eventually result in an overall standardisation of the vehicle models in service with the force. Additionally, individual basic equipment has been reviewed and procurement of modern equipment is being undertaken accordingly in phases which will attend to the individual soldier requirements based on the potential fields of operation.

Getting the tools to do the job is a long technical process which requires the various inputs of equally technical logistics staff who know the applicable procedures and processes. More often than not, praise is justifiably heaped on those sections contributing in the operational field. None should however discount the invaluable contribution of the Procurement and Logistics Branch and its corresponding sections within the various units. It is through the continuous and coordinated efforts of these relatively few individuals working in support and then far away from the limelight, that operational success is achieved. ★


SHOWING THE FLAG FLYING THE PLANE y early morning routine was slowly taking a turn when I kept hearing the word ‘Marrakech’ echoing in the corridor. I crept closer to the source of the discussion and asked “What about Marrakech?” I soon found out that the Air Wing was invited to send the B200 King Air, AS1126, to the Marrakech Air Show 2012 and that HQ AFM had just authorised this participation. This was not a first, since AFM airplanes did participate in other Air Shows in the UK, France and Holland in previous years. Such long range flights involve a lot of planning. Being a military aircraft, Diplomatic Clearances are required every time foreign airspace is penetrated. Airspace entry and exit points plus expected times are requested when applying for such clearances. This makes last minute route modification difficult, hence the importance of a rock solid flight plan. The longest flight to date was going to the Marrakech Air Show. This involved seven and a half hours flying one-way with a refuelling stop at Palma Di Mallorca and Diplomatic Clearances for Italy, France, Spain and Morocco.


The crew usually consists of two pilots and two technicians. The latter two do not join just for fun. They have to plan what tools and spares are needed, such as a spare tyre and engine oil, just to mention a few. They also deal with aircraft care, refuelling and handling once at the destination airport. A high level of team spirit is paramount during such deployments. Belonging to a relatively small unit, we all know each other very

Major George Abela Senior Air Wing Pilot and Unit Adjutant

most common question “Where is Malta?” we do interact with inquisitive and professional persons like pilots, engineers and last but not least, keen airplane spotters that have a habit of knowing

In the evening the crowdn dwindles, and at the day’s end we secure the aircraft and return back to the hotel. Eager for some peace and quiet, we meet about an hour later after freshening up and we hit the town. Somewhat tired and hungry, we invade the first restaurant in the vicinity and later explore the different culture. Talking about airplanes will be strictly forbidden. Preparing for another day at the air show or for the return flight back to Malta, as the case may be, we hit the sack early. The AFM has been the proud owner of the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), the missionised Hawker Beechcraft King Air B200 for more than two years. During this period the first of the two King Airs, AS1126, have been to three major Air Shows – Le Bourget ‘Paris Air Show’, Farnborough in the UK and in Marrakech, Morocco. During these Air Shows, the AFM King Air was always displayed as a showpiece in the prestigious Hawker Beechcraft spotlight and does attract a lot of attention from other nations. Delivered brand new to the German aeronautical company Aerodata from the Hawker Beechcraft facility in Wichita, these King Airs were transformed into Maritime Patrol Aircrafts, fitted with one underbelly 360 degree radar and, optical/thermal camera, a state-

everything there is to know about our humble Air Wing. By far my favourites remain the tiny children, mostly boys, urged forward by their parents to get that coveted autograph on their air show brochure, or to ask for a picture with us next to the airplane. The sparkle in their eyes is priceless.

of-the-art mission system and sprayed in the new AFM livery. During the Marrakech Air Show, we (together with the Aerodata representative) were told that a High Level visit was being organised. As it turned out, the Royal Moroccan Air Force General together with his entourage boarded AS1126 and expressed keen interest in such an MPA. The same can ➔

well and ending up abroad for about three days unites us even more. A typical air show day for participating aircrews on static displays lasts about ten hours straight, exposed to the elements, rain or shine. The crew needs to maintain a high level of awareness, good turn-out and a good sense of responsibility. Representing not just the AFM Air Wing but also the Maltese Nation, makes us feel proud. The air show crowd obviously consists of people from all walks of life. Some just wonder around, others take the odd picture, but many do stop and ask questions. Apart from the


October 2013 | ON PARADE 07


be said during the Paris Air Show, where countries like South Africa set their eyes on the AFM King Air. Much larger nations are eager to be flying what we are flying now, and this is a wonderful feeling. Yes, the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing has come a long way. I have witnessed this change first-hand since I have been serving as a pilot for more than twenty five years.

Qualifying as a helicopter pilot in 1987 on the Bell 47G2, I remember too well the times when, during routine patrols our navigational equipment consisted solely of a simple magnetic compass and a stopwatch, and losing sight of land also meant losing a lot of heartbeats. The arrival of the first of two Britten-Norman BN-2B Islander in 1995 saw us venture

further out at sea and this was the true birth of our Maritime Patrol role. A humble aircraft, one Islander still soldiers on and has an important role in our inventory. Times change and so do exigencies. Malta has a vast Search and Rescue Region and being located in the southern tip of the European Union does carry a lot of weight and responsibility. More modern and faster airplanes were needed to fulfil this role, hence the two King Airs and soon, new helicopters are to follow. The King Air changed everything. Pressurized and capable of climbing to 28,000 feet, a Flight Management System and a glass cockpit, a direct flight to the Aerodata mother company in northern Germany is made in less than four hours. Air shows, delegation flights and Frontex Operations abroad all add to good pilot navigation training. As I write I just heard the news that AS1227 will be returning back from Brindisi tomorrow after a one month Frontex deployment, similar to last year’s deployment to Malaga, Spain. I am now a veteran Air Wing pilot and can retire any time I choose. What keeps me going? …Well, that’s anyone’s guess!! ★



GETTING READY Lieutenant Colonel Ian Ruggier psc( j) National Contingent Commander Maltese Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team UNAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta is a counter piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean with specific interest in the Somali basin. The scope of the operation is to determine military activity in order to counter acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea. During the initial two deployments on EUNAVFOR operations, Malta’s force contribution was focused on delivering effect in the protection of shipping. This required delivering a group of AFM soldiers to embark vessels carrying Humanitarian Assistance between ports. AFM Vessel Protection Detachments (VPD) protected ships by maintaining vigilance and readiness to disrupt pirate action groups. An operational requirement saw the EU request enhanced boarding teams and Malta embarked on a challenging path to develop a niche national capability in specialist maritime interdiction operations. This drove the Armed Forces of Malta towards developing Malta’s first ever Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team (SDEBT) able to deploy and operate overseas. The bar had been raised. It was the Dutch receptiveness to Malta’s determined request for a dependable partner to support joint deployment on EUNAVFOR operations that gave birth to a lasting and robust military partnership that has been mutually beneficial.


Ongoing military cooperation has ensured that Maltese and Dutch forces are able to operate together in the highly demanding environment of joint and multinational maritime interdiction operations. In the final quarter of 2012 it was this effective military cooperation that was called into play to support Malta’s decision to develop its own Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team. An initial assessment by AFM and Dutch Ministry of Defence staff officers conducted at about the same period determined that the standard of the AFM Vessel Protection Detachment team was sufficient to develop the current team into a Specialised Boarding Team. During military staff talks between Dutch and Maltese staff officers the new capability was defined, identifying the level of operations to be expected from the Maltese Boarding Team. At this stage, with the new capability defined, it was evident that the team had to be augmented with additional personnel to ensure that the skill sets required and team capabilities were of the highest order. Furthermore equipment scales had to be augmented to cater for a larger team and to fill equipment gaps that had been identified after previous deployments. Concurrently training programmes were modified to ensure that

selected personnel were able to execute tasks during enhanced boarding operations. On the procurement side of things, the AFM identified, sourced and procured equipment for use by the personnel to be deployed, in a timely manner. Time scales were always going to be challenging given the short time available until deployment in July 2013. However, all the core equipment was delivered in time prior to the team’s departure from Malta. On the other hand training objectives had to be redefined to include skill sets that would ensure that team operators delivered the required effect when executing tasks during enhanced boarding operations. This included but was not limited to physical training, enhanced dynamic shooting, tactical movement, medical and communications training, airborne sniping, small boat tactics and methods of insertion using small boats and helicopters. Once training objectives were set, daily programme commenced in earnest under the guidance of AFM officers and senior non – commissioned officers. In some cases normal AFM training practices had to be modified extensively in order to cater for the special operations driven skill set requirement. This involved continuous assessment and reassessment of risk to personnel undergoing ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 07

1 REGIMENT training and ensuring that training was as realistic as possible within permissible safety parameters. The axiom train as you fight and fight as you train springs to mind here. Instructors were conscious of the higher demands of enhanced boarding operations and the relatively short time to deliver a prepared Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team. One has to mention that training coordination, planning and execution would not have been possible without direct support from HQ AFM’s senior command and respective branches.

In April 2013, a Dutch Mobile Training Team (DMTT) composed of trainers with extensive specialist experience in the field of Vessel Board Seize and Secure operations landed in Malta to take on the task of bringing the Maltese Boarding Team up to speed. Training under the guidance of Dutch instructors, was to last for a number of weeks spread over three phases, with phases one and three held in Malta and phase two held in Holland. The primary task was to hone Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team skills to the next level, especially in the areas of medical training, tactical movement, shooting, and small boat tactics. The training format followed was based on demonstration and practice, evolving scenarios to more demanding ones to put operators under pressure. Operators were encouraged to take on a greater freedom of manoeuvre, generate sound tactical options and assume greater responsibility of action. Daily debriefing sessions were conducted with the team coming in for some direct and pungent criticism. The Dutch Mobile Training Team did not miss much and as a result the Maltese team improved consistently overtime. Phase one – training in Malta focused on core skills for boarding operations in a benign environment, utilizing AFM assets and training facilities. Despite placing huge demands on the available resources and assets training objectives were met by the end of the phase. Phase two training saw the team relocated to Holland for four weeks to focus on opposed

boarding scenarios including citadel cases. Citadel cases are scenarios when the crew of a ship under pirate attack manage to secure themselves in a purpose built citadel that affords the crew safety from pirate attacks. Training in Holland also included a week of integration training for the team’s command group aboard the JOHAN DE WITT, the host national warship that eventually hosted the Maltese Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team on operations. This allowed the command group to establish a working relationship with key players onboard the ship that would come in handy later on deployment. Following recovery from Holland local training continued under the guidance of the team’s officers and non commissioned officers. The focus of this part of training was to maintain skill standards achieve and improve on other areas. This period included the attachment of the team’s medic to Mater Dei Hospital’s Emergency Department, to allow him to practice skills and gain further experience in the handling of trauma cases. In July this year Dutch Mobile Training Team were back in Malta for phase three of the training programme. Whilst still in Malta the team was put through its paces exercising on a number of vessels provided by the Armed Forces of Malta, Cassar Shipyards, Gozo Channel, Miggiani Offshore and Virtu Ferries. Vessels provided by third parties ensured that the Maltese contingent was presented with different vessels of interest requiring different solutions and thus offering great training opportunities. On the 24th July 2013 the Maltese Team, embarked on the Dutch navy ship to start its deployment on EUNAVFOR operations. However, training for operations was not over; and realistically training never really stops especially in the special operations environment. Practice and repetition allow operators to react correctly instinctively, in scenarios that are often very situation dependant and

where speed and accuracy of execution are paramount. Once onboard the mother-ship, training pace picked up considerably as the ship was going through its own training processes. Given that the Maltese Boarding Team was to be the ship’s main boarding element, the AFM team had to be put through its paces to ensure that interoperability with other enablers such as the small boat company, fire support element, helicopter squadron and the amphibious department was flawless. The Dutch navy trainers continued to support the Maltese soldiers throughout. The pace eased with the successful conclusion of a final exercise centred on a citadel case held at the Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Centre in Crete. Throughout the deployment weeks, training activities were organized daily, when not on actual operations. Such training activities ensured that Maltese Boarding element was maintained at high readiness. Whilst embarking on this challenging journey to deliver an unprecedented Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team, ensuring that Malta has a capability to be proud of, it must be taken into account that operators involved have invested considerable time, personal sacrifice and hours of hard graft often in demanding environments, and requiring a shift in mindset. Long hours on training, often beyond the normal timings, in challenging climatic conditions, away from loved ones on successive weekends were the norm. Writing this article as the deployed National Contingent Commander, I have had the privilege of leading operators driven by pride to serve to the best of their abilities and deliver an effective boarding capability to the Dutch navy ship’s Commanding Officer. The Maltese Special Duties Enhanced Boarding Team is Malta’s tip of the spear in maritime interdiction operations. Undoubtedly the creation of this team would not have been possible without the support of many stakeholders, including HQ AFM Branches, respective supporting Units, local authorities and third party shipping companies. Lastly, one has to commend the commitment of the Dutch military and political masters who have been unwavering in their resolve to ensure that Maltese – Dutch military cooperation is maintained and continues to grow from strength to strength. The final part has to be dedicated to the families and loved ones of the twenty two men who have deployed on operations, for without their ongoing support such a deployment would not have been possible. Bellator et Fortis! ★ October 2013 | ON PARADE 08



and their loved ones Lieutenant Richard Vassallo Acting Officer in Command of the AFM’s Training School he reasons why someone joins the military may vary; some decide to join the Armed Forces out of a sense of adventure, others decide to join because they are attracted by a particular aspect of the military or to proof themselves. Some join hoping to lead as officers of a relatively large organization. What are the implications of such a career path on family members? We met some relatives of serving members in order to get a first-hand account of what is it like to have a soldier in the house. What is their opinion? How do they adapt to such a particular lifestyle?


was not all that surprised that he came up with the idea to join the force. When officer cadet Scerri joined the army, she noticed is that her 20 year old was passing through considerable character transformation and this was even more visible once Scerri left his recruitment and embarked on a commissioning course leading to officer status. With a big smile on her face, Mrs Scerri told us that once her son joined the army, she felt that her ironing abilities were being gradually challenged and rendered inferior, compared to the detail by which the military uniforms were being ironed day in day out by her son.

Officer Cadet Scerri making tea for his beloved mum. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

Officer Cadet Scerri during a local map reading exercise. Photo by Training School.

Mrs Helen Scerri MOTHER OF OFFICER CADET MAVERICK SCERRI, WHO IS UNDERGOING THE ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY SANDHURST COURSE IN THE UK. hen we met Mrs Scerri, she did not seem particularly uneasy of having military personnel around her after all she must have gotten used to have her son in fatigues for over a year now. Mrs Scerri, told us that initially she was not so convinced about her


son joining the army as she was very protective but her husband was very supportive and always opened doors for his son to join. Once her son received his commission she admitted of feeling a certain degree of pride that nearly made her blush. She continued by saying that ‘managing to endure and excel in local and overseas training institutions comes only after hard work and sacrifice.’ Maverick’s mum recalled that from a very early age Maverick transformed, all type of toys to imaginary weapons and therefore she

She confessed to us that sometimes she would go near her son and tell him that the ironing is perfect, but the answer would be, “it might be perfect for you, but not for the instructors’ standards!” When Mrs Scerri was asked about her perspective of the military prior her son joining the military, she considered the army as people doing guard duties with gates. This perspective changed drastically as she started to realize that a soldier’s job is far more complex and the tasks assigned to them vary a lot. This growing experience helped her encourage other mothers whose children were considering to join. The pride of having a member of your family in the military is unimaginable. Mrs Scerri also told us that now that their son is in the military, he became somewhat the centre of attention as a lot of family members are so looking forward to see him in his uniform once he completes his current one year course in the United Kingdom. Before we left, Mrs Scerri told us that the major changes she saw in her son were that he matured a lot, became more independent and assertive. She would highly recommend anyone who is interested to join to undergo this training as not only it opens a career path but also completes a person in his/her social development. ➔ October 2013 | ON PARADE 07


Mrs Stephanie Chetcuti WIFE OF GUNNER WILLIAM CHETCUTI, A PROFESSIONAL SHOOTER AND A SOLDIER ON THE ATHLETES SCHEME OF THE AFM. his young couple married one month before Gunner William Chetcuti started off his military career. Mrs Chetcuti confessed that marrying William one would expect him Gunner William Chetcuti during his routine to make big sacrifices for his training. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt. sports career but she couldn’t foresee the long hours of boots polishing and physical and satisfaction in that her daughter was becoming more indetraining that were to follow. what they do. Mrs pendent and put more effort into the things. Instead of sipping a cocktail Chetcuti told us She also noticed that she became more and celebrating a proper honeymoon Mrs that she also tells these youngsters that the organized and chores were being done more Chetcuti was supportive of her husband as he AFM will help them build a solid character and accurately. In particular, Mrs Micallef noticed now faced a recruitment that was very differthis will help them throughout their whole life. that her daughter’s ironing was done really ent from his professional sport. good and she started ironing laundry of the Mrs Chetcuti remarked that once her huswhole household! Also, Gnr Micallef became Mrs Rita Micallef band started the recruitment, she saw a drasmore focused on training and started to conMOTHER OF GUNNER MICALLEF MARILYN, tic change especially in respect towards his trol better her eating habits. A FEMALE IN THE AFM, WHO ENDED HER daily work. He became more organized and Mrs Micallef recalls how overjoyed she was RECRUITMENT EARLIER THIS YEAR was able to maintain a good balance between to see her daughter march proudly during the the recruitment and his professional training. eeting the mother of a female Gunner Pass Out Parade. Her daughter’s enlistment The recruitment also made her husband was going to be interesting to say the in the military revived a continuation of a fammore of a perfectionist with regards to schedleast; I was not sure whether her daughter had ily tradition since Gnr Micallef’s grandfather ules and training and that he also started to her blessing to join the military. As she opened was a Navy engineer with the British Army. give much more importance to physical trainthe front door, her smile assured me that she Mrs Micallef remarked that before her ing. She also noticed that he became more was proud that her daughter formed part of daughter joined the force, she didn’t know detailed on ironing his uniform. Mrs Chetcuti the AFM. After introducing herself and Peggy much about army roles and activities. Now said that even if they were going for a casual (the “security” cat) Mrs Micallef told us that she wouldn’t miss an open day or an opporswim; her husband would iron his t-shirt even her daughter always wanted to join the army. tunity to know more about the force. Also, though this was going to end up crumpled in She explained that although Gnr Micallef was now that she knows what the military offers, her bag later on. studying ACCA (Association of Chartered Cershe would encourage anyone who is interGnr Chetcuti is the first person in the family tified Accountants) as soon as a call for ested in joining the force as the AFM “gives who chose to join the army and this makes her recruits was out, she immediately submitted our sons and daughters an opportunity to very proud. Mrs Chetcuti recalled that during her application. Mrs Micallef was a initially grow up in a disciplined manner, to become the Passing-out parade she was almost as mature and more independent, while providshocked but when she saw that her daughter excited as when she was going up the altar to ing a sense of belonging and pride by being a was so determined and that her father was get married. Asked whether she was always member of a military force”. ★ encouraging her, she supported her as well. interested in the military, Mrs Chetcuti told us Soon after her that only since her husband joined she could daughter joined Battling her inbox at the logistics office. understand better what the army really the army, Mrs Photos by Bdr Justin Gatt. means and the important tasks related to it. Micallef noticed Also, when there is news regarding the AFM, Mrs Chetcuti has become more interested on ongoing matters involving the AFM. Being a hairdresser, Mrs Chetcuti told us that a lot of young people come to her shop. She encourages them to Gunner Marilyn Micallef join the AFM as this will give helping out her mum. them a sense of personal pride



08 ON PARADE | October 2013


AT YOUR SERVICE ...UNDER THE SEA A narrative account of an EOD Operation by a young newly trained diver. Contribution by 3 Regiment shivered as I put on my wet suit. It was February. The clouds hung grey and low in the sky and the sea was choppy and dark. Not many divers would have been encouraged to dive in these conditions, but one had and he had already been missing for a number of hours. Hope was fading fast and the reality was that we were probably searching for a dead body. I looked over my shoulder as the police spoke kindly to the family, but their somber faces and tears only added to the depressing task that lay ahead. Our team leader started his brief, instructing each pair of swim buddies about the search patterns each would take, the time we were allocated under the water and all the standing operational procedures that go hand in hand with low visibility dives. I watched him as a bead of sweat appeared on his forehead, on this cold day as he repeated the importance of safety especially since the sea conditions were picking up and the ledge that we would be conducting the search dropped from 40m to about 120m. Responsibility lay heavy on his shoulders, but we knew his risk assessment of the situation would be spot on. The team leader had been diving for 20 years, his past was filled with chapters upon chapters of operations, each one different from the other and he knew the sea like the back of his hand. In this profession, his experience was worth a gold mine and any young and upcoming diver like myself, could never laugh him off as being outdated or old, you would be a fool to do so and the unit could not afford fools. The team leader had also thought us that the worst part of the job is recovering the


AFM divers during pre-dive checks. Photo by Bdr Justin Gatt.

dead. Time had taught him that even this had one single positive light, in that the families will find solace to put their loved ones to rest. The torment of having someone never found remains an open wound for families and that by doing our job, we could help these families in the very long healing process. My heart started beating a little faster as we started checking equipment, I wondered if this feeling of anxiety would always be there, as a constant companion before each operation. I suppose the feeling was positive since it had, till now, always kept me focused and always cramped any feeling of overconfidence in my dive techniques. Overconfidence is a killer and my heart wasn’t about to make me a victim. We had been trained for a solid 6 weeks the previous summer, but nothing could compare to actually being operational. Being on the job

EOD STATISTICS FOR 2013 This year alone, the EOD Diving section was called on for: 7 Underwater Jetty EOD Searches, 28 cases of ship husbandry and maintenance, 8 operations involving missing or drowned persons, and conducted 37 diving training operations. Apart from facing the dangers of operating below the sea surface, these same soldiers have other skill sets and have been trained in trades which involve other dangerous EOD operations on land, such as: dealing with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), partially exploded/unexploded pyrotechnics, firework factory explosions, as well as the disposal and handling of Conventional Munitions (CMD).

and literally expecting the unexpected. The course had taught us all the diving skills necessary, as well as how to dive safely up to a depth of 40 meters. AFM training had been thorough and we had covered the main diving hazards together with diving physics and diving medicine. Learnt how to tie a variety of knots with their respective uses in addition to extensive safety procedures, safety checks and flag markings. Different types of searching patterns and procedures were taught and practiced underwater accompanied by the recovery of conscious and unconscious casualties. Diving exercises went on laboriously, throughout the length of the course on a daily basis where we were pushed to the limits of our physical ability in the water. Through practice we had learnt how to navigate through underwater wrecks and caves as well as conducted night dives with close to no reference points. We had also to complete a set of tasks as buddy teams where we had to search, locate, navigate and recover objects in very murky waters with close to zero visibility just like today. No wonder the course had been so difficult! They had trained us up to a professional standard whereby we had been drilled with the rules of the game, yet allowed enough space to think on our feet and access situations within the parameters of what we had been taught. This is one of the most demanding and difficult jobs there is and a mistake could mean not only my own life, but those of the team. My commitment to the job gives me a sense of pride. Proud to be here, as a member of such a specialised and professional team. I looked at my buddy and gave him the thumbs up as we descended into the water. ★ October 2013 | ON PARADE 07

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