Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Home of the Harrier
James Blatch reports on life at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire
Number One (Fighter) Squadron were starting to get a reputation as the 'nearly' men.
Not since the Falkands Conflict, in fact, had any pilot with a One Squadron badge dropped a single bomb in anger.
That all changed on the 24th of March 1999, the Squadron went into action after a lull of 17 years.
A system of briefings for the wives and family was established. Individuals are not however told if their partners are flying to war. The philosophy is: why worry them about something they can do nothing about.
But the Station Commander here, Group Captain Andre 'Des' Dezonie, does know which pilots are due to take part in each raid.
Should the worst happen, he would be one of the first to know who it was who didn't return, it would then be up to him to deliver that news to the familiy concerned.
But the tall, former Bosnia War pilot has so far taken it all in his stride.
"We train for this, we work for this, we just want to get it right," he told reporters early on in the campaign.
It was he, who handled questions back at home about the apparent lack of bombing success being enjoyed by the Squadron.
"Tons of pressure weigh down on your trigger finger when you fly a mission, even if you can't really see the target, it's a lot easier to drop your bombs than it is to decide to abort, and bring back a full load," he said.
But he says the result is innocent lives are not being lost, and when they do drop, the Harriers are scoring a very high strike rate.
Families left waiting
For the families, the waiting game continues. They can, make use of a helo and information exchange which allows them to become self sufficient in the absence of their man or woman.
All the RAF Harrier pilots are male, but many of the One Squadron ground crew are women.
"We are on hand night and day for any eventuality, even if it's something like a broken washing machine or a heating problem, which are maybe things the husband would normally deal with," he said.
The 130 men and women of One Squadron should have spent just eight weeks at Gioia Del Colle near Bari, but everyone here knows they will not see their loved ones again until some form of conclusion is reached in Operation Allied Force.
Prayers are being said weekly in the Wittering parish church that between now and then, Group Captain Dezonie does not have to deliver bad news to anyone.