Warrant Officer “Paddy” Foxwell’s appointment to the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire was earned far away from Brunei, in action associated with Afghanistan. But we can all bask in his reflected glory. And I would like to argue that his selection for a Loan Service tour in Brunei was partly due to the talents he showed before and during Op HERRICK.
As we all agreed when CDS was with us earlier this month, Loan Service in Brunei requires the British military to display, as individuals and without exception, all the qualities which cause the Sultan to choose British expertise whenever he can. His Majesty can afford to be picky. He wants our best, on two fronts: the qualities which win battles and the qualities which help us choose which battles to fight.
Some of us have to impress him on one front only, by and large. 2RGR came across triumphantly as a battle-hardened outfit when His Majesty visited the Garrison on 18 June. I will always treasure the Sultan’s remark to the Rifleman who had just demonstrated a wicked looking automatic grenade launcher. The Sultan pointed instead to the Kukri on his belt and said: “now that’s the really fearsome weapon”.
I and my team in the High Commission focus mainly on the other front – diplomacy. I was tickled pink to be dubbed a “Combat Ambassador” by CDS, but I know the title includes a proper dose of irony.
The Loan Service, however, have both flanks to guard. His Majesty wants you in his chain-of-command as examples of valour, men and women of action; but also as ambassadors for the British Military.
So it gives me special pleasure that Paddy Foxwell’s MBE was won on both fronts. His citation begins by emphasising how much action he has seen: “WO Foxwell has spent the majority of his 30 years of service at the cutting edge of Royal Air Force Regiment Operations. He has served on seven front line squadrons, back to back, and always displayed the highest personal and professional standards”.
But it goes on to stress that the shooting war was sometimes the least of his worries: “Whilst managing the complexities of operating in a combined joint environment, WO Foxwell surmounted a multitude of seemingly insurmountable resource challenges…” That sounds like my job. Especially this bit: his performance was “… key to fostering excellent relationships with the Squadron’s coalition partners”.
Clearly, Warrant Officer Foxwell is a soldier and Ambassador rolled into one. And that, surely, defines what we, and what Brunei, look for from the Loan Service as a whole. And so, without wishing to detract in any way from the scale of this soldier/diplomat’s individual achievement, I would like to associate the whole Loan Service community in Brunei with my message of thanks and admiration.
Warrant Officer Foxwell has done us proud. But those high standards are what the Sultan pays for – and pretty much takes for granted. That he does so is already a massive achievement; and something the whole Loan Service community has accomplished together.
So, Paddy, special congratulations to you. But hats off to all of you. Let’s keep it this way.