Update from Afghanistan

It’s August in Afghanistan and the members of 31 Squadron and their Tornado GR4 aircraft are being prepared for their mission. It’s their fifth week deployed on Operation HERRICK in support of UK, ISAF and Afghan ground forces. The night team have just ‘clocked off’ and the day shift are about to ‘walk’ to their aircraft. Meanwhile the Ground Alert Close Air Support (GCAS) team is about to be scrambled to Kandahar province, in support of troops in contact, meaning an imminent threat to life. The temperature is already approaching 40°C yet the personnel finishing the night shift are about to hit the gym.

During their deployment, 31 Squadron have taken on a massive challenge; to raise £31,000 for three worthy causes: Help for Heroes, Tickets for Troops and Epilepsy Action. To do this they are running, cycling or rowing an incredible 31000 miles. 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. This sums up the mentality of the squadron; not only committed to their primary role of providing close air support and reconnaissance, assisting forces on the ground, but also to assist our community at home wherever possible. As the Squadron approaches the halfway point, both in terms of miles covered and money raised, it is worth noting that they are already close to smashing the previous squadron mileage record of 24,000 miles, and the Goldstars still have 3 months to go!

Every hour of every day and night, a Goldstar in Afghanistan is likely to be clocking up the miles on a treadmill and cycling or rowing considerable distances. One or two Goldstars are even ramping up this already difficult challenge to a higher level. Tornado Weapons Systems Operator Flight Lieutenant Alex Stewart, on his second tour of Afghanistan, recently cycled around the Isle of Wight and from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and has just undertaken a mammoth challenge by rowing 127 km in 12 hours while outside, in temperatures over 40°C. As if that isn’t enough, on his return from operations later this year, he is attempting to row across the Atlantic for the same charity.

Meanwhile, Senior Aircraftsman ‘Nelly’ Nellist, one of the Squadron’s dedicated team of engineers, has also covered over 200 miles on a rowing machine so far and is now rowing up to 25 miles a day. Flight Lieutenant Shane Rutherford said, “As Operation HERRICK remains the main effort of the UK Armed Forces, 31 Squadron are 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 half way point, both in miles and money.’

Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, 31 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, added, “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 (since publishing the new total raised is now £29930.09). We have emptied the pockets of our friends and families, so if anyone reading this feels able to support us in anyway we would be very grateful indeed.’

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A 31 Squadron Tornado GR4 taxies for another Op HERRICK Mission.

Flight Lieutenant Alex Stewart Rowed 127 km in 12 Hours in the Heat of an Afghan Summer.

31 Squadron’s Senior Aircraftsman ‘Nelly’ Nellist is rowing up to 25 miles every day.

Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, Officer Commanding 31 Squadron.

Photography: RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2011.

Article : RAF website / RAF News

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