Cotswolds charity lends support to troops in Iraq


A CHARITY based in Fairford is providing practical support for the UK military engaged in military operations in Iraq.

The RAF Charitable Trust, which organises the annual Royal International Air Tattoo,  has provided significant support to the personnel deployed with 903 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW); making improvements to their quality of life and welfare whilst on detachment.

903 EAW and associated Force Elements (FEs) are based at RAF Akrotiri and consists of approximately 500 personnel.  903 EAW supports the C-130, Tornado, Voyager and Sentinel FEs which fly daily missions over Iraq, supporting Kurdish and Iraqi Ground Forces.

903 EAW also supports the Tactical Imagery-Intelligence Wing detachment, which exploits imagery and provides Battle Damage Assessment following UK air strikes.  With the recent arrival of RAF Typhoons to the island welfare requirements have increased significantly.

Since Aug 2015, the RAF Charitable Trust has donated £15,500 to the EAW. This money has been used to buy various items for Op SHADER personnel.  Fridges for work accommodation and picnic benches for the Op SHADER Welfare Facility were part of the project to improve living and working conditions.

The Op SHADER Welfare Facility has been provided by RAF Akrotiri and is an informal space for all ranks to relax in and provides access to wi-fi, TV and a computer console. However, there was no outdoor seating until the Charitable Trust picnic benches arrived.

The most eye-catching purchase was the 40 bright orange Trek Mountain bikes, plus locks, helmets, lights and puncture repair kits to keep people safe and the bikes maintained.  903 EAW HQ staff collected all 40 bikes from the local firm in Limassol that had sourced them.

Once all items were security marked they were shared amongst all of the FEs for their personnel to use during their down time.  The bright orange bikes have already been whizzing around station, helping people just get about or for those who want to train and get fit while on ops.

The RAF Charitable Trust had been approached by 903 EAW, to see if it could provide anything for the EAW.  He said: “We weren’t sure what to expect when we approached the RAF Charitable Trust but we were delighted with the response.

The fridges and picnic benches are the sort of things that make life just that little bit more comfortable whilst we are away from our families. The bikes have been a great success and our guys couldn’t wait to get their hands on them.”

Amanda Butcher, Director of the Cotswold charity, said Trustees recognised the importance of improving conditions and boosting morale for RAF personnel involved in Op SHADER. She said: “These initiatives will make life a little easier and more pleasant for those whom we seek to support.”