The Aircrew Sere Training Course (ASTC) located at RAF College Cranwell has another signature on its Wall of Honour.
Sergeant Hayley Ridgeway MID RAMC joined the Army straight from school aged 15. She was encouraged to join the Royal Army Medical Corps as, in her words, she was too short in stature for anything else. Hayley trained as a medic and in 2008, aged 19, she was sent on her first operational tour of Iraq. During this tour Hayley was attached to combat patrols. She was awarded the DZ award for her services During this tour. (The DZ Award for Bravery is given in memory of Ella Dlugosz who was killed in Iraq in 2007. Ella was one of the Army’s youngest female soldiers to die on active duty).
Following various routine tours including Canada and Kenya, Hayley was posted to the First Battalion the Rifles. In 2011, whilst operating in Afghanistan, Hayley was operating as patrol medic during a routine patrol with her Platoon; at approximately 2.00pm the patrol was hit by a command wire IED.
The blast injured numerous personnel; Hayley was so focussed on providing life support to the other members of her platoon, including her boss Lieutenant Dan Clack, that she didn’t realise she was injured herself. It wasn’t until they were running to get extracted and she was dropping behind, that she realised how serious her own injuries were. Hayley made sure Dan and the others were loaded onboard a medevac helicopter before attending to her own wounds. This resulted in a five hour delay to her own extraction.
Speaking to the aircrew students from the Permissive Land Survival Course, Hayley spoke of Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the day she was blown up by the Taliban. Hayley was awarded a Mention in Despatches for her selfless courage on that day. She is humbled by the award and initially felt angry because in her eyes she hadn’t managed to save everyone. She spoke of the importance of knowing your people, particularly in the period following trauma and the deaths of friends and colleagues.
Nine years on, following seven serious surgical procedures to save her legs, she is still receiving treatment and support for PTSD; she has won a place to train as a psychiatric nurse with the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps. In 2012 Hayley was selected for the Millie Lifesaving award presented to her by actor Dame Helen Mirren.
Hayley continues to reluctantly speak of her operational experiences, motivated by the loss of her close friend Lieutenant Dan Clack.
Hayley is the epitome of the ASTC Motto ‘Animus invictus’ – ‘Unbroken spirit’.