Honington: gunners return from duty tour

LOVED ones last night welcomed home Suffolk-based gunners after their six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

FAMILIES and loved ones were reunited with gunners from RAF Honington as they returned from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

The 139 servicemen of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment flew into the UK via the American airbase at RAF Mildenhall before boarding a bus bound for Honington.

As the squadron walked through the giant door of the Jimmy James Hangar they were met with cheers of excitement and applause from their families and friends.

Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Collin Hammil, 31, who was met by his wife and four-month-old daughter, said: “It’s so exciting to be back. A lot of effort has been put into the homecoming and when your family turns up and hugs you it’s just amazing.

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“It’s always hard out there and it was harder this time because I had a young child and wife. It’s been a hard tour but rewarding.”

His wife Vicky, 20, said: “He came home for two weeks in July just in time for the birth but he had to leave when she was two weeks old. It’s a really emotional day; I’m so overwhelmed to have him back.

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“We don’t watch the news when he’s away and it’s hard sometimes but we’re just really proud of him.”

The event was particularly emotional for 25-year-old Rhiannon David and her husband of four years Corporal Ryan David, who live in married quarters at RAF Honington. She said: “It’s good to have him back and really exciting but I was nervous. We’ve got to get back into our routine now and learn to be together again.”

Cpl David added: “I’ve been away before but the homecoming has never been like this; it’s amazing.”

SAC Ross Downs was met by his father, who had travelled from Glasgow, along with his stepmother and sister. He said: “It’s great to be home to normality. It was my first tour and it really opened my eyes.”

While patrolling Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the squadron lost one its members.

In July, SAC Kinikki “Griff” Griffiths of 1 Squadron was killed near Camp Bastion while serving as part of the Camp Bastion Force Protection Wing in Helmand province.

The 20-year-old gunner was killed in a road traffic accident and was soon to celebrate his 21st birthday. The squadron has been on a six-month deployment to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan where their role was to primarily defend the camp’s fence line with regular patrols.

The men ventured into local villages in a bid to secure the trust of the locals and maintain security. The squadron also has a small sniper element used on helicopters and provides as Fire Support Group for patrols that re-supply the bases.

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