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Helicopter crew and soldier recognised on Operational Honours list

Military honours for personnel involved in dramatic helicopter escape and IED-hit vehicle rescue

Cpl Neil Bryden/RAF
Master Aircrewman Bob Sunderland (left) and Flight Lieutenant Charlie Lockyear

Military personnel from the region have been recognised in the latest round of Operational Honours.

Members of an RAF Odiham Chinook crew who landed their helicopter under fire from Afghan insurgents, and a soldier who risked his life to pull a colleague from the wreckage of a burning armoured vehicle have been honoured.

Master Aircrew (MACR) Bob Sunderland, 44, from Englefield Green, and Flight Lieutenant Charlie Lockyear, 34, from Devon, were among those praised during a ceremony in London on Thursday.

They were part of a crew dropping British forces into a high-threat area of Afghanistan when they came under fire.

Flying shrapnel wounded MACR Sunderland, leaving him bleeding from the groin, while further rounds disabled the aircraft’s radio system.

A hail of bullets hit the Chinook but Flt Lt Lockyear managed to guide it back to Camp Bastion’s hospital where the injured were treated.

Flt Lt Lockyear was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross while MACR Sunderland was given a Mention in Despatches.

Flt Lt Lockyear said: "I’m very proud of what my team did, there’s absolutely no way I could have done it alone.”

And MACR Sunderland added: "I wouldn’t say I was brave - my actions were instinctive and down to years of training."

Master Aircrew Bob Sunderland was awarded a Mention in Despatches in military Operational Honours
Master Aircrew Bob Sunderland was awarded a Mention in Despatches
 

Meanwhile, Trooper Jake Foster, from Egham, was also awarded a Mention In Despatches after pulling a wounded colleague from a blazing vehicle that had struck an IED.

The 23-year-old was with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Tank Regiment in a pair of Warthog armoured vehicle on an Afghan-led mission in the heavily contested insurgent stronghold of Yakhchal.

Trooper Foster was driving one of the vehicles when the second one struck an IED.

“There was an almighty crack, followed by thick clouds of smoke,” he said.

“It was my first tour and I'd heard stories about this type of thing so I was immediately thinking about casualties and how to treat them.”

He raced to the stricken vehicle and found a wounded colleague in the cab, surrounded by broken equipment, debris, highly volatile ammunition and fire threatening to spread.

“The driver was completely in shock," Trooper Foster said.

"He was semi-conscious and I took the decision that he didn’t know what he was doing. I couldn’t risk him wandering off and possibly stepping on another IED.

“It was a case of risk against reward so I pulled him from the blazing vehicle. I knew there was diesel or ammo that could cause an explosion but I had to get him to safety.”

He then dragged the casualty 50 metres to safety and began medical assessment and treatment.

His citation stated: “Foster’s courage and professionalism while facing terrain heavily seeded with IEDs and in dealing with casualties undoubtedly helped save the life of his comrade and allowed his unit to continue supporting the Afghan army’s mission.”

Training course

Elsewhere, an army officer from Fleet was awarded the MBE for his work as the first mentor to the deputy commander and head of training at Afghanistan’s version of Sandhurst's Royal Military Academy.

Major Keith Child, of the Adjutant General’s Corps (Educational Services Branch), was rewarded for his work in designing the entire 12-month course to train potential officers with the Afghan National Army.

The married officer, who has two children, said: "I am pleased to have been recognised for a year of work away from family.

"My job was particularly exciting and interesting as I was working on something new in Afghanistan."

 
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