Comd JHC Makes Busy Visit to RAF Benson

Comd JHC, AVM Dixon recently made an official visit to RAF Benson during which he completed a busy programme of events. Detailed are some of the more significant aspects of that visit.

Comd JHC was on hand to assist the Station with its infrastructure work that will see new single living accommodation for personnel, a fully upgraded nursery and a new coffee shop. He saw first hand how infrastructure is improving.

His first stop was the Project SLAM building site for the new SNCO single living accommodation. The block will contain 72 rooms and is being built along with a 54-bed JNCO block, significantly increasing the capacity for the Station’s personnel. Whilst lending the building contractors a hand, the Commander commented, “I used to be the Station Commander here and I always dreamed of getting SLAM blocks so this is fantastic!”

After laying one of the first bricks for the new block, the Comd took a whistle-stop tour of the new nursery facilities. 4Children took over the contract for the nursery provision at RAF Benson in April and have drastically overhauled the old building, bringing state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for the families. With a complete redecoration, new sun shades, flooring, and new equipment and toys, the nursery is already proving a hit with parents and children. No-mow grass has already been installed for the babies and toddlers and additional outdoor play equipment and flooring will be installed for pre-school and school aged children.

Benson will also benefit hugely from the Costa Coffee, which was officially opened by the Comd. The old NAAFI Cafe building received a complete facelift, with a complete redecoration, new lighting and seating, and a new secluded outdoor dining area. During his visit the Comd officially opened the new facility and was given the honour of ordering the first Costa Coffee. With increased opening hours and a wider range of healthy items on the menu, the Costa is a welcome addition to the facilities. He commented, “It has been wonderful to see all the positive changes that are taking place at RAF Benson today. This Base has been extremely busy over the past ten years, fully committed to operations and support to operations, and it is fantastic that the investment in the base is being put to such good use. The facilities that are being provided will enable the Station to continue to maintain its operational output and, equally importantly, support the families of our personnel in the best possible way.”

Mr Lawrence Shirazian, the Managing Director of Aramark Ltd for the South West and Wales, joined the Comd and Station personnel for the formal opening of Costa. He commented, “We are delighted to see the active partnering successfully delivering a new branded coffee offer to personnel and families at RAF Benson.”

Personnel and families from across the Station joined together to celebrate achievements both in the UK and overseas.

Comd JHC, completed his visit by conducting an honours and award ceremony in the Officers’ Mess, where he presented 23 medals, two personal commendations and a Royal Warrant.

The OSM with Afghanistan Clasp was presented to Flt Lt Woolf, Flt Sgt Unsworth, Chf Techs Hicks and Salter, Sgt Walsh, Cpls Blake, Evans, Hardisty, and Phillips, and SAC, Ellis, Johnson, McVey, Mitchell, Sadler and Temple.

The NATO Non-Article 5 Op UNIFIED PROTECTOR LIBYA medal is presented to personnel who served on the United Kingdom’s supporting operation for the NATO operations to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya, Operation Ellamy. It was presented to Sqn Ldr (Rev) Al Nichol and SAC Hopkins.

PO Horton was presented with the ACSM 2011. The LS&GCM was presented to Sgt Banks and Cpl Stokes, whilst the Clasp to the LS&GCM was presented to Flt Sgt Buttigieg.

Cpl Bennett, was presented with the personal commendation of Comd JHC. She was commended for her outstanding contribution in the provision of logistic support to domestic flying tasking and operational commitments. Working in Merlin Forward Logistics Focus, Charlotte assists with providing aircraft spares to support 28 (AC) and 78 Sqn Merlin aircraft. Charlotte also provides over 300 hours per year as a qualified volunteer first response paramedic for the South Oxfordshire and St John’s Ambulance.

Chf Tech Drinkel was also presented with the personal commendation of Comd JHC. He works within the Merlin and Puma Fce HQ and is responsible for providing coordination between the Station’s engineering operations and fleet planning for both Merlin and Puma Forces. His initiative and resourcefulness as well as leadership and commitment have ensured that the time spent in preparation of essential reports was reduced by 80%, whilst the efficacy and accuracy of the information was ultimately increased.

The final presentation of the day was the award of the Royal Warrant to WO Neville of Eng and Logs Wg. WO Neville joined the RAF in 1979 as a Flight Line Mechanic and has served at numerous Stations, working on numerous aircraft types during his lengthy career including Jet Provost, Tornado, Puma and Merlin. He is currently part of the Puma 2 Maintenance Flt where he is responsible for the standards and practices of all his personnel.

The Stn Cdr Gp Capt Colman, who hosted the Comd and the awards ceremony, commented, “It is always a delight to host these award ceremonies. So often the exemplary work of our personnel and their sterling commitment to the RAF can be overlooked as we focus on achieving our operational goals. It is important that we take a moment to reflect on their achievements and to remember the personal sacrifices that our team have made to ensure that they can deliver the best possible output to Defence. This was highlighted by the presence of so many family members at the ceremony, who have supported our personnel from the ‘home front’ throughout their deployments and indeed their careers. Without their support we would not be able to do our jobs as well as we hope we do!”

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