Camilla Gives Medals To Navy Medics

The Duchess of Cornwall presented medals to Royal Navy medical personnel today for their service in Afghanistan.

Acting in her role as Commodore in Chief, Royal Naval Medical Services, Camilla arrived by helicopter to inspect a parade of the medics at their base at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in Portsmouth.

After taking the salute from 200 Royal Navy and Royal Marine medical personnel as well as 18 Army and RAF personnel and three civilians, she inspected the band of the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre.

The band members were also recently presented with their operational medals having taken up the role of stretcher bearers in Afghanistan last summer.

Among the tunes played by the band today was the theme music to the television series M*A*S*H which was set in a US military hospital in Korea.

Following a prayer led by the chaplain, Camilla went to the wardroom where she met service personnel and their families.

Air Engineering Technician Michelle Ping, who won the Sun Military (Milly) award for best reservist, was among those receiving a medal.

The 38-year-old from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, went to Afghanistan using her civilian skills as a paramedic for the Hazardous Area Response Team (Hart) in Leeds.

During her service, she helped save the life of Highlander Craig Paterson who was shot in the head as he provided cover to his company from snipers.

AET Ping described how she climbed on top of him to prevent him from being shot again before pushing him off the single-storey rooftop into the arms of her colleagues who carried him half a mile to the helicopter landing pad.

She said: ''I didn't worry about myself, Craig was the most important person to me.

''It's ironic but it's his birthday today while I'm receiving my medal, I guess he wouldn't be celebrating if I hadn't been there to help.''

AET Ping added that the Milly awards evening was a ''great honour''.

She added: ''I sat next to Prince Harry all evening, David Beckham was sat nearby and Peter Andre was great, a lovely guy, I'd just like to say 'Pete, I'm still waiting for your call'.''

Leading Naval Nurse Sarah Morris, 27, from Melksham, Wiltshire, who also received her medal today, said: ''It's great to be back but I want to go again.

''It's a really great atmosphere, you feel that you have lots of support to get through everything.''

Commander Carol Betteridge, who was commanding officer of the Hospital Regiment for Op Herrick 14, said that she was ''very proud'' of all the team.

She said: ''It was amazing, we drew from 61 units and bringing that diverse unit together was a challenge but to see them perform as such a professional clinical team was an honour.

''We delivered something to the moral component for the boys and girls on the ground.

''Although their work is difficult, we try to help them realise that there's a top unit behind them if they get injured, that there was someone there for them.''

The Royal Naval Medical Services comprise of 1,468 trained personnel, from all medical disciplines providing primary and secondary medical care to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, as well as to the wider defence community, both ashore and afloat in the UK and abroad.

On Operation Herrick 14, from April to October 2011, the naval service provided the command teams at Camp Bastion hospital, treating more than 3,600 patients including coalition troops and Afghan civilians, and accompanied 10,000 foot patrols.

Commander Paul Jones, commanding officer of HMS Excellent, said: ''The medics provide life-saving medical care and first aid in Afghanistan, often under highly pressurised and gruelling conditions, and it is important to both the individuals and their families that their valuable work and our pride in their efforts are publicly recognised.''

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