Gallery: Wattisham Airfield Apache helicopter soldiers return to base after War in Afghanistan

Air trooper Owen Jones (left) and air trooper Mike Colton.

Air trooper Owen Jones (left) and air trooper Mike Colton. - Credit: Corporal Andy Reddy RLC

Returning soldiers from Afghanistan have been recognised for their achievements.

Wattisham Airfield’s 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, which flies the Apache attack helicopter, held a medal parade earlier today.

Lord Tollemache, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, presented Operational Service Medals to 54 soldiers from 662 Squadron, which returned last week as British combat operations in Helmand ended.

He said: “662 Squadron has made a quite extraordinary contribution, undertaking five tours over the course of the campaign in Afghanistan.

“It is therefore fitting that they should be the squadron entrusted with protecting Camp Bastion as coalition ground forces extracted and handed over the security of Helmand Province to the Afghan National Security Forces.”

As well as carrying out strikes to support ground troops, the Apache’s role was to escort helicopters and land convoys. They also provided a near all-weather surveillance capability.

Apaches from the regiment were in the air for around 29,000 hours in support of operations, with 662 Sqn having completed five tours since 2007.

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The regiment’s commanding officer, lieutenant colonel Mike Neville, said: “This parade has been an occasion for us to come together as a regiment to welcome our soldiers home and recognise their important contribution to operations in Afghanistan this year.

“The Apache has again proved to be a highly capable and versatile aircraft, which is to the credit to our soldiers, both regular and from the reserve, working in the air and on the ground, many of whom have completed several tours.”

Among soldiers receiving a campaign medal for their first tour was airtrooper Owen Jones, a class two Apache ground crew soldier.

The 19-year-old said: “It has been a proud occasion to receive my campaign medal alongside the friends I served with in Afghanistan. As ground crew our role is to refuel, rearm and move the Apache on the ground so it is ready for operational missions. The tour was a great opportunity to do my job for real and put into practice the skills I’ve learnt since joining the Army.”

Wattisham Airfield, which is a key Army Air Corps site, is based near Needham Market.