Operational Honours Awarded to RAF Personnel

DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (DFC)

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT THOMAS PHILIP HANSFORD

Pilot, 1(Fighter) Squadron Royal Air Force

Akrotiri, 23 Sep 17

flt-lt-thomas-philip-hansfordFlight Lieutenant Hansford was tasked to provide combat air power in support of coalition and partnered forces fighting Da'esh. However, this was amended and he became the first RAF pilot to switch from a Close Air Support task, to provide Air Presence.

The mission was then urgently switched back to Close Air Support, to support friendly forces and civilians under fire in a Da'esh stronghold. Now five hours into the nine-hour night mission, Hansford had to lead his formation through severe thunderstorms that were capable of damaging his aircraft. Hansford positioned overhead ground forces that had identified multiple Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices thwarting a friendly advance and preventing a civilian evacuation. Minutes later, he expertly employed his entire weapon load to strike four vehicles which posed a significant threat. Such was the complexity of this simultaneous strike it required 235 sequential in-cockpit switch selections, a single error would have resulted in certain mission failure, and a direct threat to life for friendly forces.

The Air Presence task required exacting judgement in a battlespace more congested and complex than any in recent memory; a miscalculation would have had a strategic campaign effect. The leadership Hansford displayed during this maiden combat lead, on the first ever genuinely multi-role mission was truly exceptional and far exceeded what could be expected of a pilot with his experience. He displayed outstanding commitment and composure during this complex, fluid and demanding night mission. For exacting professionalism, mental fortitude and skill in abundance, Hansford is highly recommended for national recognition.

"I feel incredibly proud to have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, yet lucky to be in this position when I am confident that any other pilot on the squadron or Typhoon Force would have achieved equal success if tasked with the same mission. At the moment it still feels surreal to be receiving such a prestigious award and I am truly honoured. It is very important to remember that while I have been fortunate to be the one receiving this award, none of the Typhoon operations against Daesh would be possible without the teamwork and tireless support of our ground-crew and the air-air refuelling units."

Flight Lieutenant Thomas Philip Hansford
Pilot, 1(Fighter) Squadron Royal Air Force

Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS)

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT ALEXANDER EVESON (ALEX)

RAF Odiham

Chinook Pilot

Turks and Caicos Islands / Dominica, 13 Sep – 2 Oct 17

In September 2017, a series of hurricanes caused significant and widespread damage, and subsequent humanitarian crisis on many of the Caribbean islands. The UK contributed to the relief effort by sending a Joint Task Force to the region, which included a Chinook helicopter.

In the early hours of the 22nd September 2017, a request was received by the UK Joint Task Force to evacuate a baby from the Island of Dominica which had been catastrophically hit by a category five hurricane just three days earlier. Communications, transport links and advanced medical facilities were now unavailable on that island. The seven-month-old baby was struggling to breathe and it had been assessed that she would not survive without immediate medical attention. The conditions for a successful helicopter evacuation on that night were extremely poor. It was very dark, with no moon, low cloud and heavy tropical rainstorms along the planned transit route.

flt-lt-alexander-evesonFlight Lieutenant Eveson displayed supreme focus and an understanding of the situation at hand. Showing good leadership and professional ability as an aircraft captain, he rapidly planned his route, discussed options with his crew and developed a robust and sensible plan of action. During the transit, poor weather and heavy rain forced the aircraft to descend lower and lower towards the sea, with forward visibility reducing to below what would be acceptable for anything other than a lifesaving mission. Once safely on the ground, the casualty and supporting medical staff boarded the Chinook bound for the island of Martinique. Eveson has been awarded for his leadership, judgement and captaincy in extremely demanding and potentially dangerous conditions.

 

“Deploying on Operation RUMAN to the Caribbean Islands was an incredibly rare and rewarding detachment to have been a part of.  I feel privileged to have led a Chinook crew from No. 27 Squadron, RAF Odiham and am confident we made a significant difference to the welfare of those affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. To have been awarded a QCVS is an incredible honour and I am pleased to see that the efforts of the Chinook detachment have been recognised. The aircrew, engineers and enablers worked tirelessly to help those affected and were supported by countless personnel here at RAF Odiham. The speed at which we deployed and were able to start delivering aid is testament to the professionalism of those involved, and is a reflection of the dedicated training and decades of operational experience around the world. It was undoubtedly a crew effort on the night of the medevac; Flight Lieutenant Fuller, Sergeant Mountfield and Sergeant Smith reacted expertly and with complete commitment to the task. The crew’s efforts that night led to the safe evacuation of a very ill baby in challenging conditions. For that, we are extremely proud.”

Flight Lieutenant Alexander Eveson
Chinook Pilot

ACTING FLIGHT LIEUTENANT (NOW FLIGHT LIEUTENTANT) LAURA MCDONALD

RAF Brize Norton

SO3 A1/8, 38 Expeditionary Wing

Barbados, 8 Sep – 10 Oct 17

flt-lt-laura-mcdonaldActing Flight Lieutenant McDonald served as the officer responsible for Personnel and Finance matters during Operation RUMAN. Deploying with just twelve hours' notice, despite being on no formal readiness, the Joint Commander's advance party was quick to capitalise on her deployment and tasked her immediately with the creation of the Theatre personnel summary.

Despite no specialist training in accounts, McDonald oversaw the resourcing of the UK military's busiest Air Port of Disembarkation (APoD) in recent years. This required a forensic eye for detail, considerable initiative and excellent judgement to ensure that non-discretionary expenditure still achieved value for money. PJHQ Finance and Army Routine Life Support contracting specialists subsequently deployed to assure the Joint Task Force's expenditure and conducted independent reviews of the systems McDonald put in place; both parties found the support and services coordinated by McDonald to be faultless.

Once the APoD and Expeditionary Air Wing were established, McDonald continued to support the Joint Task Force by managing and checking the personnel information being passed between Logistics officers and local customs to support the accurate tracking of the Force in and out of Theatre. McDonald has demonstrated remarkable capacity, energy, ingenuity and resilience. Not only did she coordinate the personnel and financial support of the largest Air Mobility Force deployment in years, but she facilitated the same for the entire Joint Task Force. 

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