Airborne soldiers were on parade at the Houses of Parliament to be recognised for their efforts during the recent evacuation operation in Afghanistan.
Today, troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team joined colleagues from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force for an event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces.
Some 120 military personnel led by The Central Band of the Royal Air Force, marched from Wellington Barracks to Parliament, to be welcomed by rapturous applause from gathered Parliamentarians. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Speaker of the House of Commons addressed the troops before a private reception, also attended by 30 people representing the contribution of other Government departments and civilian authorities.
It’s humbling to experience the gratitude and pride being shown towards us.” Lt Col Dave Middleton
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Middleton, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, said: “Kabul was a unique experience and tactically it was a really difficult situation to contend with. We used the adaptability, intuition and teamwork of all the men and women who deployed to get as many people as we could out in as short a time as possible.
“There is a real sense of occasion to be invited to Parliament and it’s humbling to experience the gratitude and pride being shown towards us.”
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “Our work in Kabul this summer demonstrated the best qualities of our Armed Forces: bravery, compassion, fortitude and skill. I’m proud that Parliament is coming together on behalf of the nation to thank our Armed Forces for their role in bringing 15,000 people to safety and a brighter future.”
In a two-week mission in August, some 750 troops from 16 Air Asslt BCT, the British Army’s global response force, provided security and logistic support to the evacuation with most of the soldiers coming back from their summer leave at short notice to deploy.
Working alongside the Joint Force Headquarters and in partnership with the Royal Air Force, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and UK Border Force, more than 15,000 people were flown out. While in Kabul, the troops distributed 250,000 litres of bottled water, 25,000 bottles of baby formula and 9,000 nappies to the crowds of people waiting to be evacuated.
Sergeant Toby Shears, of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, said: “You can’t prepare for what we saw and had to do in Afghanistan, but the nature of our role is to be ready for anything and everyone pulled together to do our best.
“The parade has been a great experience. You tell yourself you’re proud of what you’ve done and you tell your blokes you’re proud of what we all achieved together, but it’s something else to feel how proud other people are of you.”
Although Operation Pitting has ended, the Ministry of Defence continues to support the relocation of vulnerable Afghans and enable their resettlement by making hundreds of surplus service family accommodation properties available to local authorities for short-term lease to house Afghan families.