Apache Crews Celebrate Operational Double

Wattisham-based 4 Regt AAC paraded in December to be presented with campaign medals recognising their role in the NATO-led Libya operation in summer 2011 and service in Afghanistan during 2012.

The two deployments challenged the unit’s air and ground crews to carry out the Apache’s first operational missions in the salty sea air and confined spaces of a ship sailing off Libya, as well as supporting troops in the hot, high and dusty conditions of Afghanistan.

Col Jackson, Dep Cdr of 16 Air Assault Brigade, presented 66 soldiers who served in the Libya campaign with NATO’s Non-Article 5 Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR medals, which the Queen has granted special permission for military personnel to wear, and a further 44 OSMs for Afghanistan.

Two operational honours awarded for actions during the Libyan campaign were also presented; a QCVS for Maj Mike Neville and a MiD for WO1 Jonathan Lane.

Apaches from the Regt’s 656 Sqn flew sorties over Libya from HMS Ocean as part of NATO operations to protect civilians in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1973. On 22 missions between June and October 2011 the Apaches hit more than 100 targets, firing 99 Hellfire missiles and 4,800 30mm cannon rounds.

Soldiers from 4 Regt AAC deployed to Afghanistan from January to September 2012, with the Regt’s 654 and 664 Sqns each completing a four month tour. As well as pinpoint strikes in support of ground troops, the Apache’s role is to escort other helicopters and land convoys and provide a near all-weather surveillance capability.

Lt Col Etherington, CO 4 Regt AAC, said: “This is a very proud day as we join with our families to celebrate our achievements over an 18-month period with two very different, but equally challenging, operations. The fast-moving events in Libya saw a five-week exercise for 656 Sqn become a five-month operation, as we went from learning how to operate Apaches onboard naval ships to flying operational missions for the first time. Taking off from a moving ship to fly over sea at night without lights into a high threat environment challenged our pilots, while the ground crew had to adapt to safely maintaining aircraft in the confined spaces of a ship. For 654 and 664 Sqns, they had a busy and demanding tour of Afghanistan that presented a very different environment, role and threat.  On both operations the Apache has again demonstrated its effectiveness and versatility, which is all down to the professionalism and dedication of our personnel on the ground and in the air.”

Cpl Danny White, an aircraft technician, received both the Libya and Afghanistan campaign medals.  He said: “It’s an absolute honour to receive both campaign medals at the same parade. It makes me feel that my efforts on two very busy but rewarding tours are appreciated. Afghanistan and Libya were very different. Working onboard HMS Ocean was a completely new experience and we were all learning on the job, working in very confined spaces and always on the go. Afghanistan was just as busy but it’s almost part of the programme and, while it was new to me, the unit and most of my colleagues had done it before.”

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