Royal Approval for the Army Air Corps
Reservists and regular soldiers were honoured by HRH The Prince of Wales for their service operating helicopters in Afghanistan. Prince Charles, who is Colonel in Chief, AAC presented OSMs to AAC soldiers at a parade at Wattisham on 9th May 2013.
The majority of the 40 soldiers receiving medals were from 662 Sqn, 3 Regt AAC, which returned from a four month deployment to Helmand Province in January. Alongside them were reservists from Bury St Edmunds-based 6 Regt AAC(V) who have deployed to Afghanistan as ground crew alongside regular colleagues.
Prince Charles said: “Thank you all very much for the dedication, commitment and willingness to take on difficult challenges in difficult conditions in any part of the world you are sent to. You are remarkable people and I am incredibly proud to be here to share this occasion with you.”
The Prince paid tribute to “the remarkable sense of commitment” displayed by the reservists of 6 AAC (V), who gave a demonstration of an Apache at a Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) before the parade.
Prince Charles said: “The Army Air Corps looks in good shape for the future, particularly the contribution of reservist personnel. It is something that we should not take for granted that people are prepared to volunteer and to fit in a military existence with a civilian life.”
Among those receiving medals were reservists SSgt Del Smith and Airtpr Fiona Burgess, who returned in March from a six month tour with 1 Regt AAC. SSgt Smith works in the radiology department at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and has previously served in Iraq. “This medal parade is my last day of service and I’ll be a civilian again next week,” he said. “Confidence is the key skill that I’ve taken out of my military experiences. At the hospital I feel surer of myself in giving leadership to colleagues and being able to assert myself with senior staff.”
Airtpr Burgess said: “It’s a great honour to receive my campaign medal from Prince Charles. I’m really proud of my work on tour but sad that the experience is over. Our role was to manage the passenger handling facility, which is about getting troops on and off helicopters. As reservists we’re totally accepted by regulars because we’re out there doing the same job.”
Regular soldier L/Cpl Stephanie Beechey, works in 662 Sqn’s headquarters as a combat human resources specialist. She said: “It’s great to get out and do your job on operations and we’re well used to working with reservists.”
Col Andy Cash, Comd of Wattisham Flying Station, said: “It is a great honour for Wattisham Flying Station to host His Royal Highness. The event has allowed His Royal Highness to meet the soldiers and families of the Army Air Corps and recognise the service and achievements of our soldiers, both Regular and Reserves, wherever they serve around the world and particularly on operations in Afghanistan.”
6 Regt AAC(V) is a Territorial Army unit that provides ground crew as reinforcements to other Army Air Corps Regiments, both on exercise and operations. The regiment has two Squadrons – HQ and 677 Squadron is based in Bury St Edmunds, with detachments in Norwich, Swaffham and Ipswich, and 655 Squadron based at Middle Wallop, Hampshire. For more information visit www.army.mod.uk/aviation/27836.aspx