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On the 29th April 2009, the RAF was given a Parliamentary Welcome Home for its personnel who had served on operations. On one of London's finest days of the year, 120 serving men and women of the RAF and RAF Regiment were greeted by Ministers and Members of the both Houses of Parliament as well as the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glen Torpey. From the Terrace of the House of Commons they watched as fly past in their honour by a Merlin helicopter.
Our thanks go to Shepherd Neame, MBDA, QinetiQ, Thales Land and Joint Systems UK, VT Group, Raytheon, EDS, G4S, Selex Galileo, Towergate Wilsons, Aramark, Omega Air, Newsdesk Communications, Sir Keith Park Memorial Campaign, RAF Benevolent Fund, BAE Systems and Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators for helping us make this possible.
Later that evening, some of those honoured for gallantry and leadership were entertained to dinner in the House of Commons by the Chairmen of the RAF and Reserve Forces All Party Parliamentary Groups and the Defence Committee, as well as the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support and MPs and Peers with defence interests.
Among those heroes attending were:
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT KEVIN HARRIS DFC
Whilst stationed at Basrah Air Station on the 26th March 2008, on a sortie to rescue a fatally wounded soldier from Basrah Palace, Flight Lieutenant Kevin Harris flew his Merlin helicopter in minimum visibility, at low level and in adverse weather conditions to the hostile site. On arrival, Flight Lieutenant Harris discovered that three injured personnel required evacuation. During the lengthy extraction process, his Merlin was subjected to numerous Indirect Fire Attacks. Returning to the hospital at the Contingency Operating Base, Flight Lieutenant Harris flew at roof top height across Basra City, avoiding known hostile areas.
This was one of six sorties Flight Lieutenant Harris flew between 26-28 March, successfully extracting 30 very seriously wounded personnel and a significant number of other casualties.
For his unflinching gallantry, skilled flying and leadership, Flight Lieutenant Kevin Harris was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
SERGEANT JOHN TAYLOR BAINBRIDGE QCB
On 19 July 2007 whilst on Op Telic, Sergeant Bainbridge was amongst the first to arrive at the B Flight Accommodation following a rocket attack in which three of his colleagues were killed.
Sergeant Bainbridge immediately entered the building, aiding with the evacuation of injured personnel and fighting and extinguishing a fire directly above a casualty. Whilst organising a human supply chain for more fire extinguishers, Sergeant Bainbridge's efforts brought the fire under control and saved the life of a colleague.
For this courageous act, Sergeant Bainbridge was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.
FLIGHT SERGEANT WILLIAMS
(whilst not officially recognised by a State award, the RAF Regiment asked specifically that he attend the dinner to recognise his contribution)
During a highly demanding operational tour in Iraq in 2007, Flight Sergeant Williams RAF Regiment displayed great fortitude in the face of terrible adversity. An insurgent rocket attack directly hit his team's accommodation, causing 40% casualties. Although he was amongst those pulled from the flaming wreckage, despite his personal injuries, Williams refused further medical treatment and continued to carry out his duties, to great effect.
On another occasion, his unit came under fire during a major operation. Owing to poor communications his team became isolated with the rest of the patrol. Facing multiple firing points, they were pinned down by the sheer weight of fire. However, Flight Sergeant Williams skilfully directed his men to use their weapons to best effect and successfully extracted his men. Sadly, one man was killed during this contact, but through his flawless personal example, Flight Sergeant Williams was able to keep his team effective for the rest of the tour.
Despite the enormous pressures placed on him, he never lost his trademark sense of humour, or his well-earned reputation as an exceptional Senior Non Commissioned Officer. Throughout the period, he consistently placed the Service interest ahead of his personal considerations.
FLIGHT SERGEANT ANN CARTER MBE
During three tours of duty at the Basra Contingency Operating Base, Flight Sergeant Carter led her Immediate Response Team to deliver life saving medical treatment, frequently with the ever present threat of death and personal injury.
In one incident, Flight Sergeant Carter was deployed to extract a Danish soldier seriously injured by an Improvised Explosive Device. On arrival at the scene, she assessed the incident and rightfully declared it as a major incident. Personally supervising the evacuation process and without regard for her own safety, Flight Sergeant Carter's clear direction to her team and guidance to the medical chain of command resulted in a successful and flawless evacuation. Flight Sergeant Carter repeatedly demonstrated this level of bravery and professionalism over three operational tours and is was recognised by the award of the MBE last year.
SENIOR AIRCRAFTSMAN DANIEL McCOMISKY
(whilst not officially recognised by a State award, RAF Odiham ask specifically that he attend the dinner to recognise his contribution)
Whilst a member of the Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) at Camp Bastion, at 2345 hours on 1st September, Senior Aircraftsman Daniel McComisky was alerted to an incoming Chinook Helicopter prevented from landing due to a large boulder wedged between the tyres of the forward port undercarriage. Assessing the situation and immediately producing a solution, Senior McComisky made his way under the hovering helicopter, and without due regard for his own personal safety, carefully removed one of the heavy undercarriage wheels, allowing the undercarriage to fall clear. Senior Aircraftsman McComisky then refitted the wheel, enabling the aircraft to complete a safe landing.
Senior Aircraftsman McComisky's personal intervention unquestionably prevented significant damage to the aircraft and ensured the safety of the crew and passengers.
SQUADRON LEADER MATTHEW CARTER MC
Whilst attached to 3 PARA Battle Group HQ Squadron Leader Carter deployed in June 2006 to Helmand Province. On the first of three contacts, he immediately directed accurate and close quarter Attack Helicopter strikes. On another occasion, while his own vehicle was engaged in close quarter combat, he guided Attack Helicopter strikes with pin-point accuracy neutralising enemy positions. In the fiercest contact, Squadron Leader Carter dismounted his own vehicle, a mere 30 metres from enemy forces, and without regard for his own personal safety, he accurately guided Attack Helicopter firepower against enemy positions.
During an operation in July 2006 to capture a high profile Taliban leader, Squadron Leader Carter leapt from an ascending Chinook Helicopter caught in incoming enemy fire in darkness, to ensure he could play his vital part in calling in air-support. His invaluable contribution paved the way for the success of ongoing future planned operations.
Squadron Leader Carter relentlessly sacrificed his own safety for that of others. His unfaltering bravery facing the enemy on numerous contacts and his skill, judgement and decisiveness unquestionably warrant this well deserved award for bravery.
GROUP CAPTAIN PAUL BURT QCVS
Group Captain Paul Burt commanded Basrah Air Station from May to November 2007, providing support to Air and Land Operations throughout Iraq and providing assistance to the Iraq Government and the Ministry of Transportation in the management of Basrah International Airport.
During his six month tour commanding 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, comprising over 400 Royal Air Force personnel and attachments from the Army and Royal Navy, Basrah Air Station sustained over 700 rounds of Indirect Fire and numerous casualties and fatalities.
Under his command, the men and women of 903 Expeditionary Wings' exemplary performance has also been formally recognised.
For his own efforts, Group Captain Paul Burt was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service.
GROUP CAPTAIN MARTIN SAMPSON DSO
Group Captain Sampson commanded Number One Fighter Squadron over two tours of operational duty in Afghanistan. Participating in one hundred and three high tempo missions in tasking climatic and environmental conditions and significant hostile activity, Group Captain Sampson delivered an outstanding performance both as commander and pilot.
On one such mission on 30 April 2006, from the partial information available to him, Group Captain Sampson accurately relayed the enemy's position to his number two aircraft whose ground radio failed during the bomb run. Assessing the situation, Group Captain Sampson, calmly relayed details to his wingman, when this aircraft's weapon system failed, Group Captain Sampson swiftly dived into the attack only to receive a broken message, successfully neutralising a different target, at low level under heavy enemy gunfire.
For his command, bravery and outstanding flying skills, Group Captain Sampson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Also attending were
Wing Commander Phil Robinson , DFC and 2 Bars
Squadron Leader Nick Paton , DFC
Squadron Leader Shane Anderson, DFC
Squadron Leader John Butler, AFC
Flight Lieutenant Craig Wilson DFC,
Flight Lieutenant Warren Keenan - MiD
Sergeant Daniel Baxter - MiD.