Friday, July 17, 2009
RAF Engineer - "first in and last out of Iraq"
A Royal Air Force engineer who was amongst the first British military to enter Iraq in 2003 is now going to be one of the last out.
Squadron Leader Graem "Pingu" Corfield was flown with the Royal Marines into Iraq's Al Faw Peninsula on day one of the British operations in Iraq in 2003.
He was part of One Marine Expeditionary Unit who provided air engineering support for the Royal Marines' assault on the Al Faw Peninsula.
Now after much change in southern Iraq, Squadron Leader Corfield is serving as second-in-command of the Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq) (JHF(I)), based in Kuwait, supporting Operation Brockdale; the drawdown of British equipment from.
And he now expects to return home on one of the last, if not the last, flight. Reflecting on the change in Iraq since the start of Operation TELIC, Sqn Ldr Corfield said:
"Iraq was a police state when I first arrived. Now it's an organised, democratic and self-reliant nation."
He also spoke about the use of the Merlin helicopter in Iraq:
"Chinooks and Lynxs were world class at their job in the original invasion of Iraq but now, the Merlin is the battlefield helicopter of choice and it has made Iraq its own. It's saved lots of lives," he said.
In the UK, Sqn Ldr Corfield works as a Senior Engineering Officer on Tornado aircraft, based at RAF Lossimeouth.
He is currently working with JHF(I)'s three Merlin helicopters as part of the Joint Force Logistic Component (JFLogC) in Iraq which is running the operation to recover six-years-worth of kit from the country, through Kuwait and onward to the UK.
The task faced by JFLogC when they arrived in Iraq on 28 March 2009 was immense with almost 4,200 troops in Iraq, an estimated 5,000 containers of equipment to process, and over 600 vehicles from Challenger tanks to quad bikes to deal with.
The majority of kit has been shipped to the UK on one of four civilian Roll-on/Roll-off ships, operated on a long-term lease by the MOD to transport military supplies and equipment. To date six ships' worth of military hardware has been dispatched, with another two to go later this month.
Apart from a small number of forces who will likely remain in Iraq, subject to the agreement of the Iraqi Government, to continue training and mentoring the Iraqi Armed Forces, British personnel, kit and equipment are due to be home by 31 July 2009.