RAF Odiham Chinook pilot awarded for bravery trying to save the life of an Afghan soldier (From Andover Advertiser)
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RAF Odiham Chinook pilot awarded for bravery trying to save the life of an Afghan soldier
AN RAF Odiham Chinook pilot, who skilfully guided his helicopter through dense fog to try to save the life of an Afghan soldier, has been awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air.
Flight Lieutenant Chris Gent, of 27 Squadron was among 23 RAF personnel honoured in the latest Armed Forces Operational Awards and Joint Commanders Commendations for bravery and service.
The 31-year-old flew his Chinook on a medical emergency response team mission on December 20, 2012 to try to save the life of an Afghan National Army soldier, who had been shot in the head by insurgents.
With fog reducing visibility to only 50 to 100 metres around Camp Bastion, all UK and US helicopters had been grounded because it was unsafe to fly.
But Flt Lt Gent’s crew were authorised to recover the injured man, who needed urgent medical attention.
The crew located the casualty and worked with an accompanying Apache helicopter to find a gap in the fog to land.
With the injured soldier on board, and his condition deteriorating, the team made a tricky return to Camp Bastion, and Flt Lt Gent skilfully guided the Chinook through the fog, despite the high risk of coming under fire from insurgents.
Sadly, despite the crew’s best efforts, the wounded soldier subsequently died of his injuries.
Speaking about the mission, Flt Lt Gent, from Swanage, Dorset, said: “The flying conditions were dire but we absolutely needed to fly because we knew the man would very quickly die without help.
“RAF pilots are highly-trained for these scenarios, and I was aided by the aircraft’s high-tech navigational instruments and my crew, who were my extra eyes in the fog.
“Helping injured people and saving lives are the most important things my team do in Afghanistan, regardless of weather or nationality.
“We did everything in our power to try to save the soldier on this occasion and were saddened to learn he had passed away.”
Flt Lt Gent, who has flown Chinooks since 2008, added: “I’m flattered at being awarded, though it was a real team effort. My crew worked incredibly hard, and this honour is reflective of their efforts, as well as mine.
“The nature of our work means that a lot goes unseen, but it’s a real privilege to be recognised in this way. That said, having the chance to save someone’s life is all the motivation I need in my role – it really doesn’t get any more rewarding than that.”
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