Royal Air Force teams are being tested to the extreme on a global expedition taking them across some of the world’s toughest terrains by foot, bike and ocean sailing to mark the 75th anniversary of their Corps.
More than 200 regulars, reservists and veterans of the RAF Regiment are facing a series of tough challenges – from some of the highest mountain peaks to the wildest of landscapes – after starting at Mount McKinley in Alaska, before heading through the USA, Central and South America to Mount Aconcagua in the Andes.
The trip has so far included ocean sailing – billed as one of the biggest challenges of the natural world and an endurance test like no other – with an 18,000 nautical-mile, six-month adventure that crossed the North and South Atlantic in a 72-foot racing yacht.
Teams have also faced tough trekking, wild camping and mountain biking stages across thousands of miles of challenging terrain.
The expedition, which is part-funded by the Services Sound and Vision Corporation, has been organised to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF Regiment, a small Corps within the RAF that provides a dedicated specialist air force protection role for deployed aircraft and personnel and which was formed in 1942.
RAF Regiment teams take turns for each stage of the 14-Leg expedition which began in May this year and is due to end in April 2018.
One team has just completed Diamond Rock Leg 5 through Peru, overcoming illness, injury and extremes of temperature, after travelling more than 700 miles by mountain bike and climbing 18,500m during the ride – the equivalent to just over twice the height of Everest.
The Leg 5 team finished at the shores of Lake Titicaca at Puno in Peru after riding through South Cusco – at one stage having to find refuge in a football stadium in the town of Checca to shelter from severe stormy weather.
Sqn Ldr ‘Geordie’ Graham, who oversaw training for Leg 2 in the Canadian Rockies earlier in the year in June - in a stage aided by support from The Ulysses Trust - said the experience was priceless for reservists.
He said: “They come from all walks of life and for a small personal contribution and The Ulysses Trust grant, have been exposed to legacy team-building skills we couldn’t replicate in the UK.”
Teams of 25 RAF Regiment reservists and 22 regular gunners took part in a crawl, walk and run training system of mountain biking as they rotated over four weeks for their part in Leg 2 over the Canadian Rockies.
SAC Scott Magee added: “We have seen some truly amazing sights and gone through some tough times but it’s all about team work and I am delighted to be part of the RAF Regiment’s 75th expedition.”
Teams are now cycling across Bolivia, Argentina and Chile for Leg 6 of the Diamond Rock expedition leading up to December 20 before the adventure takes on Mount Aconcagua in January.
Organisers of the year-long expedition said the endurance adventure was developed to provide a lasting and memorable series of activities and events to mark the anniversary.
The expedition was inspired by record-breaking adventurer Mark Beaumont, who holds the record for cycling 18,000 miles around the world, and forms the major part of the anniversary celebrations of the regiment.
The Royal Air Force, the oldest independent air force in the world, is planning a similar way to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.