RAF pilot from Swanage wins bravery award after trying to save soldier in Afghanistan (From Bournemouth Echo)
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RAF pilot from Swanage wins bravery award after trying to save soldier in Afghanistan
AN RAF pilot from Swanage has been awarded for his bravery after flying his helicopter through dense fog to try to save an Afghan soldier.
Flight Lieutenant Chris Gent risked coming under fire from insurgents when he guided his Chinook around Helmand Provence in Afghanistan to find the injured man and return to Camp Bastion.
The 31-year-old was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air after making it to the Afghan National Army Soldier with visibility of only 50 to 100 metres.
The Afghan soldier had been shot in the head by insurgents on December 20 and sadly died of his injuries.
Speaking about the mission, and his team's role in Afghanistan, Flt Lt Gent said: “The flying conditions were dire but we absolutely needed to fly because we knew the man would very quickly die without our help.
“RAF pilots are highly-trained for these scenarios, and I was aided by the aircraft's high-tech navigational instruments and my crew, who were my extra eyes in the fog.
“Helping injured people and saving lives are the most important things my team do in Afghanistan, regardless of weather or nationality.
“We did everything in our power to try and save the soldier on this occasion and were saddened to learn he had passed away.”
Due to the fog he flew far below the 1000 metres stipulated for safe flight with all other UK and US helicopters at the camp grounded due to the conditions. Flt Lt Gent, who has flown Chinooks since 2008, added: “Our helicopters are rugged and versatile and we're often assigned to high-priority aeromedical evacuation missions because with four medics and life-saving medical kit onboard we're well-placed to offer patients immediate care.
“I'm flattered at being awarded, though it was a real team effort. My crew worked incredibly hard and this honour is reflective of their efforts, as well as mine.
“The nature of our work means that a lot goes unseen, but it's a real privilege to be recognised in this way.
“That said, having the chance to save someone's life is all the motivation I need in my role; it really doesn't get any more rewarding than that.”
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