After flying back into RAF Brize Norton the squadron completed the final leg of their journey by bus to their base at RAF Marham where they were met by family and friends and the Station Commander, Group Captain David Cooper.
Based at Kandahar Airfield, IX (Bomber) Squadron deployed as an essential element of Operation Herrick, the UK’s contribution to the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, the aim of which is to provide security and stability for the Afghan people with the ultimate aim of improving international security.
The focus for ISAF during IX (Bomber) Squadron’s tour was the continued transition of security control from NATO to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Officer Commanding IX (Bomber) Squadron, Wing Commander Andy Turk, spoke of the significant improvements he had seen since his last tour in 2009:
It has been extremely impressive to see the ANSF stepping up to the mark, increasingly taking the lead for their own security.
They now lead on providing security for nearly three-quarters of the population and the Tornado aircraft have allowed them the continued confidence to project further.
Wing Commander Turk added:
What is obvious from above is a much greater sense of security amongst the Afghan people.
Children playing in the streets, women gathering in relaxed groups and bazaars bustling with people; you can see that security is no longer the major concern for them and the contribution made by the Tornado Force over the years in delivering that security has been invaluable.
The Tornado GR4 fulfils a variety of roles in Afghanistan. A typical sortie could consist of searching for improvised explosive devices, route-sweeping ahead of friendly convoys, providing overwatch for ground forces, or tracking suspicious vehicles.
IX (Bomber) Squadron also maintained a high readiness to respond quickly when ISAF troops came into contact with enemy forces.
On their return to RAF Brize Norton, Wing Commander Turk said:
It’s an absolute delight to return home after such a successful 4-month deployment. I am extremely proud of all the personnel who have put in 110% throughout and maintained their operational focus.
The squadron will be holding their homecoming parade and medal ceremony in Downham Market town centre on Thursday 28 March. The parade will start at 4pm and the personnel will march up Bridge Street to the Town Hall car park where they will receive their Operation Herrick campaign medals.
The squadron replaced II (Army Cooperation) Squadron in November and handed responsibility for Tornado operations at Kandahar to 31 Squadron on 10 March.