Ex-CWO Chris Parker of 1084 (Market Harborough) Squadron now a Sgt Air Load Master with the RAF was one of the helicopter crew awarded the GAPAN Award for Gallantry announced in the RAF News dated 7 November 2008.
The award is to an individual, or crew of an aircraft, in any field of aviation for an outstanding act of gallantry. It is intended that this should be awarded on rare occasions for any act considered worthy of the award as soon as the facts of the event are clear. Awarded at the discretion of the Master and on the advice of the Trophies and Awards Committee.
The citation is detailed below
2008 – BASRA CITY IRT CREW – 28 (AC) SQUADRON RAF
At 2315 hrs on 1 June 2007, the Incident Reaction Team (IRT) based at Basra Air Station was alerted that there was a serious casualty following a mortar attack on an isolated British location in the centre of Basra City. Landing an aircraft at the location was assessed to be very high risk. Intelligence reports had indicated a large, ‘spectacular’ attack would occur somewhere in Basra, with a helicopter being a possible target. The crew of the Merlin helicopter, consisting of Flt Lt Michelle Goodman, Pilot, Flt Lt George Williams, Co-pilot, Sergeant Chris Parker and Sergeant Steve Thomas, was fully aware of the elevated threat level throughout the sortie.
Alert to the high risk, but being fully conscious of the importance of providing unfailing IRT support to ground forces, Flt Lt Goodman and her crew commenced an expeditious transit and approach to an unfamiliar and dangerous landing site, whilst under intense enemy direct and indirect fire. Flying tactically on Night Vision Goggles at very low level across a hostile city, she continued her approach, undeterred by close friendly covering fire and even closer enemy fire which began to impact to the rear of the aircraft. Despite a complex approach, with numerous obstructions and ambient conditions on the limit of aviation operations, the crew executed a landing with few visual references bringing the aircraft in next to the casualty. The medics and Aviation Reaction Force left the aircraft as four mortar rounds landed in and around the location. Despite this the crew elected to hold the aircraft on the ground as the option with least risk. A top cover Lynx helicopter was by now reporting several substantial explosions in the area, which were believed to be either enemy mortars or rocket propelled grenade fire.
With the casualties loaded, the crew departed the landing site just as further explosions occurred in close vicinity to the aircraft. Additionally, the aircraft detected a possible enemy missile engagement and automatically discharged flares as a counter measure. The crew departed the area, the aircraft’s path covered by very close friendly artillery fire, to distract enemy forces. Flt Lt Goodman flew rapidly from the area, making maximum use of the aircraft’s performance, and with outstanding support and situational awareness from her crew and supporting assets to achieve a safe transit clear of the engagement area. The aircraft landed at the British Field Hospital just 14 minutes after launch.
Many IRT sorties are high risk. However, on this occasion the crew had to instantly weigh up the risk of losing the IRT aircraft against the importance of recovering a serious casualty, which has an impact on morale throughout the coalition. Without the IRT, the casualty would have died within 15 minutes. Despite extreme pressure, the crew made the right decision displaying determination and selflessness on a bold and daring sortie which undoubtedly saved life. For her outstanding bravery in the face of the enemy, Flt Lt Goodman was awarded the DFC, the first time the honour has been awarded to a female pilot. In recognition of their collective actions, the 28 (Army Co-Operation) Squadron IRT crew consisting of Flt Lt Michelle Goodman, Flt Lt George Williams, Sergeant Chris Parker and Sergeant Steve Thomas is collectively awarded the Guild Award for Gallantry.
Flt Lt Valerie Smith (OC 1084 Sqn) commented ‘CWO Parker was very popular cadet and well known in both South Midlands and South & East Midlands Wings having taken part in the 2000 Nijmegen marches and represented the Wing at football. He has kept in touch with the squadron but in a typical modest way he hadn’t mentioned this to us. We are obviously proud that he has received this prestigious award and relieved that he and the rest of the crew came through the ordeal unscathed’
It is perhaps of additional interest to note that of the 10 cadet team members of the 2000 Wing Nijmegen Team, in addition to Sgt Parker, four are serving in the RAF Regiment; one is a FS and one a CI in S&EM Wing.
By Flt Lt John Standish 1084 (Market Harborough) Sqn.