Monday, April 13, 2009

York Squadron Leader Damon Middleton looks forward to return home after Iraq service - The Press

HE could not be home in time to celebrate Easter with his family, but this York RAF pilot is now counting down the days before his tour of duty in Iraq is over.

Squadron Leader Damon Middleton, whose wife and three sons are longing for his safe return, has been deployed in the war-torn country since November.

The 39-year-old, who usually flies Hercules planes, is taking on a ground role in Iraq – acting as the chief air advisor for the British Army’s 20th Armoured Brigade.

He is stationed at the British and American Contingency Operating Base in the southern city of Basra and is due to return home in May.

“Seven months without the wife and kids is a long time,” he said.

“I’ve even been replaced at home by Gatsby the dog. It’s great to know I can be so easily replaced by a £200 chocolate brown Springador.”

It is the second time that Sqn Ldr Middleton has served in Iraq – the first being during the American and British invasion of 2003.

“I feel very proud of what we have achieved in the country since then,” he said.

“Back then, Iraq was in a very poor way, but now the local people are walking around town, going for a kebab, and they tell us that they are very happy.

“It’s great to think that when the British leave the country this summer, we will be leaving with the job done.”

Sqn Ldr Middleton, who lives in Nun Monkton, near York, has served in Afghanistan, Angola and Bosnia during his RAF career.

He trained as a pilot at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in 1990 and later returned as the deputy chief instructor, from 2002 to 2007.“What I love about being a pilot is that every day is different,” he said.

“Although you do the same job, the weather is different, the places you land are different, the challenges are different and the people you meet are different.”

He said although he was enjoying his job in Iraq, he was looking forward to getting home to his wife, Anna, and three sons, Connor, 16, Oliver, six, and Charlie, five.

“I’m ready to come home now,” he said.

“I work seven days a week, 14 to 15 hours every day, and I’m tired.

“I’m looking forward to sitting in the middle of York and having a pint by the river at the King’s Arms.”

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