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Members of II Squadron RAF Regiment marched through the streets of Bury St Edmunds on Armed Forces Day, 30 June 2012, in a homecoming parade to mark their return from operations in Afghanistan.
The parade made its way from the Abbey Gardens, through the streets to the Apex and back. The final element of the parade was the presentation of Afghanistan campaign medals to members of the squadron, based at RAF Honington, by the Station Commander, Group Captain Andrew Hall.
The mayor and town council hosted a civic reception in the Abbey Gardens after the ceremony for squadron members and their families.
The squadron returned from their six-month deployment to Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, on 2 May, and was responsible for the security of the camp, which is one of the busiest airfields in the world.
Their duties involved patrolling an area of approximately 600 square kilometres, preventing insurgent attacks on the airfield and its personnel.
Group Captain Hall said:
II Squadron performed magnificently during their deployment and I am very proud of their operational achievements. What a great Armed Forces Day celebration, combined with the II Squadron homecoming parade.
It has been a privilege to parade through Bury St Edmunds and to receive such a high level of public support. Thank you for providing such a positive message to our personnel.
Corporal Ashley Watson, aged 28 from Norwich, said:
It was a challenging tour and the squadron worked incredibly hard out in Afghanistan. It is great to be home now, and the support that we have received while on tour and now as we parade on our homecoming has been brilliant.
Emma Buckley, the wife of Sergeant Doug Buckley from Thetford, said:
It’s wonderful to have the lads back home. It is always testing for friends and family when they are away and it’s great to see them back safe.
The squadron tragically lost one of its members in Afghanistan, Senior Aircraftman Ryan Tomlin, who was fatally wounded while on patrol. Aged 21, he joined the squadron in June 2009 and was a highly professional and skilled gunner who achieved all he set out to do during his time in the RAF Regiment.
A special dedication service was held for him in the memorial garden at RAF Honington on the Friday when an Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scroll, which are granted to the next of kin of UK Armed Forces personnel who have died on operations, was presented to the Tomlin family by Lord Tollemache, the Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk.
The squadron is now back into training and will be providing assistance during the London Olympics as well as participating in a high profile multinational exercise in France.
The aim of Armed Forces Day, which is now in its fourth year, is to boost public support and appreciation of all those who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
It provides an opportunity for the UK public to recognise the contribution that the Armed Forces (serving personnel, veterans and cadets) make and have made to the nation.
The squadron is parachute-capable and maintains its role as an airborne unit. The squadron was formed on 7 April 1922 and will be celebrating its 90th anniversary now it has returned to the UK.
The RAF Regiment provides worldwide force protection to UK air assets. Their squadrons are trained and equipped to deter enemy attacks, minimise the effects of a successful attack and ensure air operations can continue without interference.
The RAF Regiment is ready to serve anywhere in protection of personnel and bases, fighting on the ground to maintain control of the air. The RAF Regiment are also experts in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence.
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Published: 6 July 2012
From: Ministry of Defence