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25 April 2012, 16:28 | Updated: 25 April 2012, 16:31
More than 100 personnel from the Armed Forces, including from RAF Marham in Norfolk, have been publicly thanked by the Government for their contribution to military Operations in Libya.
The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, invited the Royal Air Force to lead a joint parade of personnel who served on Operation ELLAMY, followed by a reception in the Palace of Westminster.
"The 'welcome homes' we offer to troops returning from operations are Parliament's way of saying thank you for all that our Armed Forces do in our name. The response of Members of Parliament and Peers is a testament to the high regard in which we hold them, and our respect for their service."
An E-3D Sentry and one Sentinel aircraft from RAF Waddington flew over the Houses of Parliament to mark the occasion, flanked by Typhoons and Tornado GR4 jets; some of the RAF aircraft instrumental in the success of Op ELLAMY.
Leading the parade of 120 RAF, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps men and women was Wing Commander Nick Tucker-Lowe, Officer Commanding No II (Army Co-operation) Sqn, based at RAF Marham.
"We started the Operation planning the storm shadow raids that were flown on the 3000 mile round trip from the UK to Libya and back. They were the first UK launched bombing missions we had flown since the Second World War. We then deployed to Gioia Del Colle in Southern Italy and flew missions from there for the next five months over the skies of Libya; the first time that Typhoon and Tornado GR4 worked together.
I flew 62 Tornado GR4 missions, about 330 hours in total. That was about the going rate for most of the aircrew that I commanded for that time, it was non stop. There was always an aircraft patrolling the skies over Libya, getting airborne, landing, crews briefing or debriefing. There was no respite - each flight lasted up to eight hours, the equivalent distance of flying from London to Boston in the United States.
It is an honour to march alongside so many hard working and determined servicemen and women; the success we had in Libya was success on behalf of the people of Libya. The people of Libya won the battle for Libya and they were supported by us.
At Marham it was pretty intense but it was also hugely reassuring because Marham was one cohesive team irrespective of what people were doing on station. That made the impossible, possible. In fact, I think the scale and intensity not just at the start but throughout operation ELLAMY could not have been achieved without the dedication and teamwork of everyone involved.
We are very proud of the difference we were able to make; that we were able to save the lives of Libyan people and to give them the opportunity to choose their own future for years to come. We are also proud of the support we get from the British public. To be operating a long way from home knowing that you are doing the will of the people of Britain, it means that you can sleep well at night and then get on with the job the next day, focused on the task in hand."
Air Commodore Gary Waterfall was the UK Air Component Commander on Op ELLAMY.
"Operation ELLAMY was our part in the international community's endeavours under UNSCR 1973 to allow the people of Libya to take their country into a new era and decide their own future. This included applying the advantages of Air Power, predominantly, speed, reach and precision, to protect citizens of Libya from attack by the Gaddafi Regime, whilst the international community worked together to achieve the diplomatic and economic effects required to realize success.
The very nature of the Royal Air Force is that we can get in quick, get the job done, and get out quickly, in order allowing us to recuperate to be ready for whenever the government calls upon us again; this we did.
I am extremely proud of the contribution of the UK Armed Forces. For the RAF, in particular, Op ELLAMY saw the dawn of multi-role capability for Typhoon, in addition to its constant 24/7 defence of UK Airspace; but also Sentinels from No 5 Sqn came of age, providing ears and eyes to inform military commanders of what was happening on the ground - a vital capability."
The troops were hosted by James Gray MP, Chairman of the All Party Group for the Armed Forces.
"When troops march into Parliament for a 'welcome home', they are applauded in by Parliamentarians and staff. Politics are put to one side, arguments forgotten, while we honour those who serve and are prepared to sacrifice for their nation."