A Royal Air Force aircrew officer has received the Croix de la ValeurMilitaire (Cross of Military Valour) with bronze star from the Prime Minister of France in recognition of his actions whilst serving with the French Air Force in Afghanistan.
Flight Lieutenant Ian Abson, 43, is an RAF Weapons System Officer who is currently on a three-year exchange posting with the French Air Force operating the two-seat Mirage 2000D attack fighter at Nancy-Ochey Air Base in North-East France. During a deployment to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, Flt Lt Abson - together with his French Air Force pilot, Captain Hugues Fouquet â€“ he led missions in support of NATO ground troops throughout Afghanistan.
His citation from the French Air Force describes Flt Lt Abson as having shown â€˜exceptional military qualitiesâ€™. It states:
[quote-full] â€œHe particularly distinguished himself on 19 May 10 during a mission to support American troops under heavy fire close to the Pakistan Border, delivering a laser guided bomb on to the enemy position, stopping the enemy firing and ensuring the safety of troops on the ground. These qualities were also illustrated during 24 war missions of combat air support as part of the international war on terrorism and the re-establishment of peace in Afghanistan. For his determination, courage and sense of duty, he merits this recognition and is therefore awarded the Croix de la Valeur Militaire with bronze star.â€[/quote-full]
The medal was presented by Prime Minister of France Francois Fillon at a ceremony held at St Dizier Air Base on 12th December. In a speech to assembled dignitaries, service personnel and veterans, Prime Minister Fillon said that Flt Lt Absonâ€™s actions served as a good illustration of the new bilateral defence agreement between the two nations.
Accompanied by his wife Louise, Flt Lt Abson said on receiving his award:
[quote-full]â€œIt is an honour and privilege to be recognised for ones efforts and particularly by another country. My self-deprecating side would say, however, that I was just doing my job to the best of my abilities. â€œIâ€™m extremely proud to be a British RAF officer on operations with the French, both in Afghanistan and in Libya, â€œflying the UK flagâ€ and making a direct contribution to our relatively new bilateral defence agreement.â€œ[/quote-full]
Flight Lieutenant Abson, who was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and attended Normanton Freeston Grammar School, will continue his exchange with the French Air Force until July 2012 when he hopes to return to his home in Beckingham, Lincolnshire. Until then he will continue to serve with 3/3 Ardennes Fighter Squadron in support of French Operations.
Flt Lt Abson praised the contribution made by his family:
[quote-full] â€œIâ€™m immensely grateful for the loyalty and support of my wife, who is always there to support the children and keep our family unit functioning and moving forward, particularly whilst Iâ€™m away.I often feel that the wives left at home supporting the family whist their husbands depart for war zones are the unsung heroines and maybe deserve more recognition for that unconditional support, loyalty and sacrifice.â€[/quote-full]
Flt Lt Abson transferred to the RAF in 2001 following 15 years in the Fleet Air Arm during which he served in the first Gulf War as an Observer on Lynx helicopters. As a combat ready Weapons System Officer on the Tornado GR4-equipped 31 Squadron, based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, Flt Lt Abson deployed three times in support of Op Telic (Iraq). He then joined XV(R) Sqn at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, as Qualified Tactics Instructor before commencing his exchange posting with the French Air Force.
He currently fulfils the role of a Combat Ready Four-Ship Leader (Chief de Patrouille) on the Squadron, leading, supervising and training squadron aircrew. Flt Lt Abson was also involved in the early French raids into Libya, including leading Franceâ€™s first four aircraft air interdiction mission of the campaign.
Speaking after the medal ceremony, the British Defence AttachÃ©, Air Commodore John Maas, said:
â€œItâ€™s quite clear since the treaty was signed last December that on an operational level France has understood the need to work closely with the UK. This translates into ceremonies like today where not only do they make sure that Flt Lt Abson is recognized for his involvement in the air, but the Prime Minister singles out the UK/French cooperation. This is the third time I have heard the Prime Minister highlight the strategic importance of Anglo-French cooperation and we were the only partner mentioned.
â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to next year when we will boost our exchange programme to 60 officers which will offer demanding career posts.â€
Flt Lt Abson meets the Chief of Staff of the French Air Force Generale Jean Paul Palomeros in the officers mess at St Dizier Air Base, France.
Flt Lt Abson in the cockpit ofa Mirage 2000D.
Flight Lieutenant Ian Abson proudly displays his medal outside the St Dizier Air Base in north eastern France.
Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Ian Abson receives the Croix de la Valeur Militaire with bronze star from the Prime Minister of France, FranÃ§ois Fillon.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2011.