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Helmand heroism earns DFC for selfless Chinook pilot

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.

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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.

Published 4 October 2012