Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited members of 16 Air Assault Brigade at their Colchester headquarters in Merville Barracks following their recent deployment to Afghanistan.
He greeted and thanked those involved in Operation PITTING and gained a sense of the experience, hearing ground truths and background stories, in an entirely people-focused visit lasting two hours. Troops had all assisted in the processing, medical treatment and onward evacuation of British nationals and entitled Afghans during the two-week operation. Over 15,000 people were evacuated by the UK; Mr Johnson described these efforts as “the biggest ever humanitarian airlift in British, or perhaps global, history.”
“What you achieved was nothing short of heroic.” Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister
The Prime Minister continued, “The whole country is incredibly proud of all that you have done. It is quite remarkable. The vast quantities of people you brought back, which far exceeded our initial estimates, are people to whom we owe a huge debt of honour and obligation for their assistance and loyalty over the last twenty years."
Following visits to two of the six facilities where troops had just finished their bespoke Controlled Group Isolation package, Mr Johnson was able to interact with and address all cohorts and bubbles. Brigadier James Martin, Commander 16 Air Assault Brigade, explained, “There was a need for a balance to be struck between COVID isolation and collective Post Operational Stress Management.”
The Prime Minister was interested in the soldiers’ experience of the whole operation and seemed genuinely touched and humbled to hear some of the stories from deployed personnel. Throughout, Mr Johnson consistently referred to the operation as a “truly historic event” and expressed his gratitude to the Armed Forces.
In their role as the Global Response Force, for which they are held at Very High Readiness, the Brigade will now continue to transition from isolation to integration, enjoying some well-earned leave and focusing on a rapid return to readiness.