RAF Marham’s 31 Squadron in Afghanistan target �31,000 for charity

Goldstars servicemen and women row, cycle or run to 31,000 miles

Personnel from RAF Marham's 31 Squadron have set themselves a massive fundraising task while in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick.

The squadron is currently scouring the desert for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and protecting groundtroops using hi-tech equipment on their Tornado GR4 aircraft.

During their deployment the squadron, known as Goldstars, aims to raise �31,000 for three charities by running, cycling or rowing an incredible 31,000 miles.

Despite temperatures regularly hitting 40?C and after a hard day's work, members of the squadron are hitting the gym to help the charities. In just five weeks the team is almost at the halfway point.

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'All of 31 Squadron are tremendously committed to delivering the support required by the forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Equally, we are determined to complete our '31 go 31,000' challenge. We are doing well and I don't think the mileage will be an issue, but the �31,000 is a different matter. We have emptied the pockets of our friends and families so if anyone reading this feels able to support us in any way we would be very grateful indeed,' said the squadron's commanding officer Wg Cmmdr Jim Mulholland.

The Goldstars are raising money for Help for Heroes, Tickets for Troops and Epilepsy Action.

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'The endgame is to help not only our servicemen and women, some of whom suffer life-changing injuries while on operational service in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but also Epilepsy Action, a charity that is close to the squadron's hearts,' said a spokesman.

'This sums up the mentality of the squadron; not only committed ot their primary role of providing close air support and reconnaissance, assisting forces on ground, but also to assist our community at home wherever possible.'

Every hour of the day and night a squadron member is likely to be clocking up miles on the treadmill, or cyling or rowing considerable distances to take them closer to the 31,000 mile target.

Tornado weapons systems operator Flt Lt Alex Stewart, on his second tour of Afgahnistan, recently cycled around the Isle of Wight and from Land's End to John O' Groats. He has also undertaken a mammoth challenge of rowing 79 miles in 12 hours outside while in Afghanistan, in temperatures topping 40C.

On his return from operations later this year he is also attempting to row the Atlantic to raise more money for the charities.

Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) 'Nelly' Nellist, an engineer, has also covered more than 200 miles on a rowing machine and is now up to 25 miles a day.

'As Operation Herrick remains the main effort of the UK Armed Forces, 31 Squadron is committed to it both in the air and on the ground. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the local community and all our families and friends who continue to show great support by helping us toward the halfway point, both in miles and money,' said Flt Lt Shane Rutherford.

For more information, and to donate, see www.justgiving.com/teams/31squardron or donations can be pledged by texting GOLD62 and the amount to 70070.

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