Honington gunners back safe from Iraq
Gunners who spent the past six months in the searing Iraqi heat were welcomed back to Suffolk yesterday and praised for their work.The 140-strong 2 Squadron RAF Regiment flew back into the UK on Sunday morning via RAF Mildenhall.
Gunners who spent the past six months in the searing Iraqi heat were welcomed back to Suffolk last week and praised for their work.
The 140-strong 2 Squadron RAF Regiment flew back into the UK on Sunday morning via RAF Mildenhall.
At a medal ceremony, the squadron was praised by the base commander at RAF Honington for their success during the tour.
Despite the scorching heat around Basra and the occasional indirect fire they encountered from Iraqi insurgents, every member of the squadron made it back safely.
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And while many people in Suffolk have been complaining about the weather, for Flight Sergeant Roger Hopper the rain and grey skies were nothing short of “beautiful”.
The 40-year-old told how despite undertaking four tours to Iraq - the first was in the first Gulf war in 1991 - being away from his wife and two daughters had not become easier.
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He did, however, appreciate them all the more when he returned home, he said.
Explaining the purpose of the regiment's tour, Flt Sgt Hopper said: “We were there to make sure our aircraft did not get shot out of the sky. All the stuff we did was off-base.”
He said he was proud to be treated as a “father figure” by some of the younger gunners.
“Some of them went out as boys and have come back as men.”
He told how much had changed in and around Basra since he was last sent to Iraq. He said previously the Basra airbase would come under attack on a daily basis. Now, he said, it was attacked once a month.
Senior Aircraftman Michael Roberson, 20, from Brandon, had never been on a tour before and said the main shock for him was the heat.
Members of the regiment were praised by RAF Honington's commander, Group Captain Russ La Forte, who presented service medals to those who had not been to Iraq before.