Honours for local RAF personnel

6 members of the team at RAF Odiham in North Hampshire have been honoured for their service in Afghanistan.

The awards have been given in the latest Armed Forces Operational Awards and Joint Commanders Commendations.

Flight Lieutenant Matthew Roberts (pictured right) , 18(B) Squadron Chinook Pilot led his crew on 3 medical missions recovering four casualties during a tour in Afghanistan. The second of which was conducted under extreme enemy threat. Tasked to recover 2 US casualties, Flt Lt Roberts and his crew routed to the area, along with an Apache helicopter escort to find there was a major ongoing fire fight. With US aircraft engaging with targets, Flt Lt Roberts held off over the desert whilst the Apache attempted to gain situational awareness.

An update was received that one of the casualties had died and the other was deteriorating. With a lull in the fire fight, Flt Lt Roberts decided to land, but spotted enemy small arms fire and heard the noise of rounds impacting the aircraft. The fire fight intensified again as the body of the dead soldier and the critically wounded casualty were loaded. The Chinook was surrounded by the enemy as Flt Lt Roberts took-off and the aircraft suffered hits to the fuselage. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross:

‘Chinooks are operated by four people, and I was only one of them. Although I was the captain on that day, the success of the mission was down to the skill and determination of my co-pilot and crew. As ever with these awards, our thoughts’ rest with the soldiers that were wounded and killed in the line of duty.’

Flight Lieutenant, Stephen Badham , Chinook Qualified Helicopter Instructor on the Chinook Force was in Afghanistan in June 2011, with the Immediate Reaction Team (IRT). Getting airborne, after being informed there was a casualty, the co-pilot discovered a fault with the aircraft’s Global Positioning System (GPS) so, Flt Lt Badham, as the Pilot followed the attack helicopter escort until encountering a severe dust storm, significantly reducing visibility.

Flt Lt Badham had to reduce height to 30ft to maintain sight with the ground until visibility increased. The crew spotted the smoke indicating the landing site and the crew successfully extracted the casualty. The Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) insisted that if the casualty did not receive surgery quickly, he stood little chance of surviving. Flt Lt Badham made the decision to return to Bastion rather than the easier route to Kandahar.

The flight was also more challenging due to the dust storm and Flt Lt Badham demonstrated excellent situational awareness to avoid known obstructions, he knew were in between his position and a safe Helicopter Landing Site (HLS). Flt Lt Badham was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Several personnel from RAF Odiham were also Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD): Squadron Leader Howard Bailey , Chinook Qualified Helicopter Instructor, Flight Lieutenant Adam Booth , Flight Operations Officer, Flight Lieutenant John Singh , Chinook pilot on18(B) Squadron and Flight Lieutenant Andrew Scrase , Chinook pilot on 27 Squadron.

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