Medals for RAF men back from Iraq

CELIA WIGG Campaign medals were today presented to servicemen from RAF Honington whose tour of duty in Iraq was described the toughest assignment since the second world war.

CELIA WIGG

Campaign medals were today presented to servicemen from RAF Honington whose tour of duty in Iraq was described the toughest assignment since the second world war.

Four members of No 1 Squadron from the Suffolk airbase were killed in action during the operation to protect Basrah Airport from insurgents, and their loss was keenly felt by their colleagues, who flew back to their families and loved ones on Saturday night.

The majority of the 96 airmen had previously served in Iraq - the 37 receiving medals for completing their first tour of duty including Squadron Leader Jason Sutton.


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“We have lost four people and some were wounded as well. The bottom line is it was a really tough tour, probably the toughest for any RAF regiment since the second world war, but our lads are in good spirits. We have come through it, we mourn our dead but we can at the same time celebrate our success,” he said.

“We have succeeded with our mission and certainly made progress. We have done ten projects supporting things like providing villages with water, and equipping schools. RAF regiments in the area have developed very warm relations with the local population. They are very positive.”

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Flt Sgt Brad Daniel said it was his most difficult assignment since joining the service.

“There were very high temperatures and there was no respite. We lost four which was devastating. To be able to concentrate and go again after, that was the hardest thing. The squadron has done very well.”

The ceremony took place within hours of Major General Tim Cross - the most senior British officer planning post war Iraq - attacking America's “fatally flawed” policy. And there have been frequent calls for the British troops to be recalled.

But Flt Sgt Daniels said: “It doesn't affect my lads. We are here to do a job.”

The regiment's commanding officer Group Captain Russ La Forte, who presented the medals, told watching families they could be “inordinately proud”. He added: “We simply couldn't have maintained our fighting spirit and will to win without the support you have given my men.”

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