Afghanistan heroism earns DFC for selfless Chinook pilot

Afghanistan heroism earns DFC for selfless Chinook pilot

7-Oct-2012 Source: UK MoD

An RAF Chinook helicopter captain has been honoured for his ‘outstanding bravery and airmanship’ evacuating battlefield casualties while under heavy fire during a mission in southern Afghanistan.

Flight Lieutenant Gerald Wyatt, known as ‘Gez’, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his actions in last week’s Operational Honours and Awards List. His citation reads:

“Flight Lieutenant Wyatt, captain of a high readiness Chinook, was scrambled to recover a military casualty with a life-threatening gunshot wound to the neck, when it soon became clear that the landing site was compromised.

“Putting the needs of the casualty above his own safety, Wyatt elected to keep the aircraft on the ground long enough to recover the injured soldier, despite continuous incoming small arms fire.

“The Force Protection (FP) Team was immediately deployed to support friendly troops and the casualty was recovered by the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) and crewman. As the FP Team recovered to the aircraft it emerged that one member had been shot in the shoulder and required urgent treatment.

“Wyatt kept his nerve under a hail of ground fire, lifting only when both casualties were safely on board.

“Unfortunately the aircraft had sustained significant damage, losing critical radio and electrical services, and a significant oil leak had begun from the rear transmission. The aircraft began to vibrate, making handling difficult.

“With no further options, Wyatt transmitted a mayday distress call and landed in the desert whilst he still had control of the aircraft before directing his crew to cross load casualties and the remainder of the MERT to a supporting helicopter. He then elected to remain with the aircraft to erase critical mission information and remove sensitive equipment before being recovered by a third aircraft ten minutes later.

“Wyatt’s selfless actions undoubtedly led to the saving of the casualties’ lives. His professional performance under persistent enemy fire and his outstanding bravery and airmanship are an example to all.”

Learning of his award whilst in Afghanistan, Flt Lt Wyatt said:

“It is an honour to receive this award and for it to recognise the work of the Chinook Force in Afghanistan.

“Flying the Incident Response Team Chinook has been an honour also as it is very much a team effort, from those that maintain the aircraft to the aircrew, the medics and the RAF Regiment gunners who provide security.

“There are many others who have been involved in significant incidents whose deeds will only be recognised by their peers. Nevertheless I am extremely grateful for this distinct tribute and am very proud to be a recipient of it.”

Upon his return to RAF Odiham, Flt Lt Wyatt gave the following account of the mission for which he has been honoured:

“While we were on the ground loading the casualty it was immediately clear we were being shot at. Fear was the natural response alongside the feeling of an urgent need to get out of the situation. However, we had a job to do which was to remain as calm as possible, wait and take off as soon as the casualty was on board the aircraft.

“It was obvious that the aircraft had been hit, although initially, once airborne, it was difficult to determine exactly what or how much of the aircraft had been damaged.

“As the condition of the aircraft deteriorated it became clear that we had no choice but to complete an emergency landing”
Flight Lieutenant ‘Gez’ Wyatt

“Outside of handling the aircraft, my immediate concern was for the condition of the casualty we had picked up, as well as the RAF Regiment gunner who had been injured protecting the aircraft whilst we were on the ground. At this point all the training we do proved its worth and, with all the crew working together, we focused on getting us out of the danger zone and the casualties safely back to Bastion.

“As the condition of the aircraft deteriorated it became clear that we had no choice but to complete an emergency landing somewhere; certainly not something I had done before, or since, and not a course of action that we would take lightly. However, by now we were clear of the Green Zone and appeared out of danger, so we made an approach to land in the open desert.

“As we landed in the sand it struck me that we were now safely on the ground but in unfamiliar territory; it took a few moments for me to catch up with the events of the previous 15 minutes or so. I managed to speak with a UK Apache crew who were en route to our location and asked for assistance.

“By now the RAF Regiment gunners we had on board the aircraft who are experienced in ground operations were out and protecting the aircraft so overall we were in a good place. Better still the casualties were stable and almost immediately US Pave Hawk helicopters were on scene to recover them to the hospital.

“With the area secure and the casualties safely away, we carried out some final checks on our aircraft and were then flown home to Bastion… quite a day!

“Although this award has been made to me for the events of that day it was very much a team effort. There were others on the aircraft who all played a substantial role. The professionalism and skill of every member of the crew played a huge part in ensuring the safety of the aircraft, and the crucial work of the medics and RAF Regiment gunners enabled the successful outcome.

“It is an incredible honour for me to receive this medal. I am enormously proud just to have my name mentioned at the end of the list of all those members of the Royal Air Force who did incredible things during the World Wars and other conflicts to receive the DFC. It is worthy of note that there are many in the Forces who do amazing things every day and their deeds will only ever be recognised by their peers.”

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