At a ceremony at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Commander Martin Shepherd has handed over the reigns of 771 Search and Rescue Naval Air Squadron to Lieutenant Commander Scott Armstrong.
Cdr Shepherd took command of 771 NAS on 29 March 2012 and has completed 150 Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. Martin’s first SAR job was back in December 2009 when as senior pilot he and his crew assisted the Spanish Trawler Trevessa, on fire 50 miles south west of the Isle of Scilly.
The rescue earned Petty Officer Aircrewman “Cags” Lacy the Queens Gallantry Medal (QGM) and the crew the prestigious Edward and Maisie Lewis Award for gallantry.
Prior to the hand-over ceremony, and thankfully in not the same weather conditions, three members of that original crew re-united to fly once again to the Trevessa; CDR Shepherd, Lt Cdr Steve Hopkins and Lt Cdr Alex Stevenson, marking a fitting conclusion to a very successful time in command of the Royal Navy’s SAR Squadron.
Lt Cdr Scott Armstrong brings with him a wealth of experience since embarking on a flying career as a Royal Navy aviator in 1991, as an anti submarine warfare (ASW) pilot with 814 NAS from Culdrose and onboard HMS Invincible.
Much of Scott’s experience has been gathered with the Green Commando “Junglie” Sea Kings at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, during which he completed several tours as a Flight Commander in Bosnia, the Balkans, Norway and the Mediterranean with 845 NAS.
Following this he was selected for a flying instructor course and became a Qualified Helicopter Instructors Course (QHI) and served on 848 NAS the “Junglie” Training Squadron.
Scott diversified further and took up a rare opportunity for Fleet Air Arm pilots when he joined RAF Odiham in Hampshire to fly the Chinook Mk 2.
This gave him a challenging tour that saw him serving in several operational areas.
After desk jobs based at RNAS Yeovilton and Navy Command Headquarters in Portsmouth, including being the Career Manager for pilots and air traffic controllers he has finally returned to the cockpit of a Sea King as he the Commanding Officer of 771 NAS.
Despite a career based predominately at RNAS Yeovilton, Scott is no stranger to the South West and the delights of Cornwall, his first ever Flying tour was with 814 NAS which lasted three years.
On his new appointment Scott said, “I’m delighted to be back at Culdrose and to take over at 771. I've inherited a fantastic squadron in very good health at an exciting time. 771 plays an important role and is the public face of the RN in the South West, I hope to continue building the community links that the Squadron has developed”.
2014 will see another busy year for 771 Sqn as it continues to provide search and rescue cover for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The squadron was the busiest SAR base in England during 2013 conducting 257 rescues. So far this year there has already been 86 call outs and by the end of April 2014 there had been more than 25 per cent extra rescues than the same time during the previous year.