Officers, Warrant Officers and all ranks of 9 Regiment, Army Air Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am so pleased and proud to be with you this afternoon as you exercise your Freedom of Boroughbridge, and to have been able to give you the campaign medals for your most recent tours in Afghanistan.
I am also most grateful to the Mayor of Boroughbridge, and the good citizens of this historic town, for allowing my Regiment to exercise its freedom of the town today and to permit this parade to take place in the town centre. It really is a splendid backdrop for what, I am sure you will agree, is a very important and special day.
Since 16 Air Assault Brigade first deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, the Army Air Corps has been operating in theatre alongside our ground troops, most recently in the upgraded Lynx Mark 9A which, I am told, is performing remarkably well in the harshest of operating environments.
As ever, the level of Taliban activity has varied from year to year and from season to season, but there is one continuing feature throughout this battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Helmand – and that is yourselves and the rest of the Corps who have been on constant operations in Afghanistan for the last five years and, of course, in Iraq from 2003 until 2009. During my visit to Helmand Province back in March last year, I met many soldiers, all of whom had nothing but praise for the outstanding support of the Army Air Corps. I can only hope that you do all appreciate the enormous value of your role. In current Army jargon, the term ‘Force Multiplier’ is probably most apt when describing your impact in theatre.
Most likely none of you could ever imagine that in the dim and distant past I once flew helicopters while serving in the fleet Air Arm with 845 Squadron. As a result I do at least have some idea of the considerable effort it takes to ensure that an aircraft and crew are fully prepared for an operational task. It is very much a team effort and whether you command or fly the aircraft, service it, ensure it is refuelled and re-armed, man the communication systems, brief the air crew before a mission or sustain the force, everyone plays a key part in the proceedings. So, to each and every one of you, I would just like to offer my special gratitude for the contribution you have made in Afghanistan. You have served us all, - and your fellow servicemen and women – with great distinction.
Finally, I would also like to take this opportunity to add my warmest thanks to the families here today. As the father of two serving officers, I know only too well how difficult it can be when your loved ones are away for so long and in harms’ way. Your moral support for them all is absolutely crucial to the success of this fine Regiment and I know that the soldiers here today would be the first to say how grateful they are to you – as they are for the support of this town and many of its residents.
My warmest congratulations to all of you on parade for a job so well done.