Suffolk soldiers honoured by army chief

MORE than 100 Suffolk-based soldiers have been honoured by the head of the army who told of the “invaluable” support they offer to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

MORE than 100 Suffolk-based soldiers have been honoured by the head of the army who told of the “invaluable” support they offer to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Apache helicopter crews from Wattisham Airfield received medals following their first tour of Afghanistan from General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, in front of family and friends yesterday.

Speaking afterwards, Sir Richard, who lives near Norwich, paid tribute to the soldiers from Wattisham Airfield - the only Apache base in the country.

“I feel enormously proud,” he said. “I am proud to be the person giving the medals out and hugely humbled and privileged that guys and girls have joined the army and want to serve and give their dedication and quite rightly the nation responds to that by giving them a medal.

“The work from Wattisham is absolutely critical because the Apache crews are a huge support to the soldiers on the ground. We know that the confidence levels of the soldiers on the ground go up when the Apache's appear and it really changes the battle in our favour and I think the enemy are fearful of them too.”

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About 111 pilots and ground crew from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps (4 Regt AAC) received medals including 41-year-old staff sergeant Iain Ross, from Ipswich, who is an Apache pilot.

“Getting the medal is great and it shows that you are appreciated, especially when Sir Richard comes here,” said the former Northgate High School pupil.

“It is not always about getting the medal, although when it is given from somebody as high as Sir Richard it shows that there are people willing to come out from the Ministry of Defence and it shows the level of importance that they put on you.”

The 41-year-old father-of-three was proudly watched by his fianc�e Anita and his 15-month-old daughter Phoebe. And he admitted that being away from his family while in Afghanistan was difficult.

“With Phoebe I have noticed such a difference,” he said. “It is only three months but it seems like a lifetime when you are away and it makes you realise that they put their lives on hold.”

4 Regt AAC took over from its sister regiment at Wattisham, 3 Regt AAC, in May last year with responsibility for flying and maintaining the Apache helicopter in Afghanistan for a year.

A squadron from 4 Regt AAC will remain in Afghanistan until May. The two regiments are the only two regiments within the British Army to fly and operate the Apache Attack Helicopter.

Do you have a message of support for our troops? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

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