Friday, March 15, 2013
Soldiers from RAF Marham’s IX(B) Squadron have returned home from a four-month tour of Afghanistan.
Family and friends gathered at the Norfolk military base to greet their loved ones after a “successful and demanding” mission as part of Operation HERRICK, the codename for British operations in the war torn country since 2002.
The squadron was sent out in November to police the skies of Afghanistan and provide tactical support to troops on the ground in preparation for the planned end of combat operations in 2014 and a reduction of troop numbers throughout this year.
Squadron Wing Commander Andy Turk said the Afghan winter had been a challenge for the airmen, particularly as they were faced with extensive flooding, rivers of thick mud, snow, ice and thunderstorms.
“Whilst we were able to focus on our work in theatre, our families at home were clearly missed by us all,” he said.
However he added: “It was reassuring to know our families were being supported throughout by the RAF Marham team and our friends and neighbours in the community.”
During that time the morale of servicemen was kept up with welfare packages, letters and Christmas treats from family and friends as they spent the festive period away from home.
In January, while they were in Kandahar, members of the squadron also marched a collective road distance of 7,469km – the distance back to RAF Marham – in order to raise money for The Royal British Legion.
Wing Commander Turk said it was an “absolute delight” to return home, adding: “I am extremely proud of all the personnel who have put in 110 per cent throughout and maintained their operational focus.”
IX(B) Squadron, which also led the first long range Stormshadow mission in Libya in March 2011, will celebrate its homecoming with a parade and medal ceremony in Downham Market town centre on Thursday, March 28.
Soldiers will march to the Town Hall car park from Bridge Street, where they will be presented with an Operation HERRICK medal.
The squadron, which celebrates its centenary in 2014, has had a busy couple of years.
As well as supporting the Libyan mission, the group was subsequently deployed to Gioia del Colle as part of the Nato force tasked with protecting Libyan civilians and enforcing the no-fly zone.
It was also involved heavily in the second Gulf War in Iraq from 2003.
A 19-year-old found dead on Hunstanton Beach was named today.
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