Highs and lows of Forces Life From The Longest Serving Female RAF Chinook Force Crew Member
Author: Liz McConaghy
Published: Air World Pen & Sword
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Liz McConaghy, from a small town in County Down, spent a total of seventeen years flying with the RAF’s Chinook Fleet. Aged just 21, she was the youngest aircrew member to deploy to Iraq and was also the only female ‘crewman’ on the Chinook wing for four years. In her astounding career Liz McConaghy completed two deployments to Iraq followed by ten deployments to Helmand province in Afghanistan in support of the enduring Operation Herrick campaign.
Liz’s inspiringly honest story reveals the highs and lows that she witnessed at war, and the cost that came with that both, physically and mentally for those involved. During her deployments, she survived not only a near fatal wire strike onboard her CH47, but numerous enemy fire ‘contacts’ defending her crew by returning fire from both the M134 ‘Minigun’ and M60 weapons entrusted to her to operate.
Her biggest honour of all her duties, however, was serving on the Medical Emergency Response Team, or MERT, flying ambulance as it was more commonly known. This involved recovering wounded soldiers from the battlefield, often under fire, and witnessing them both die and indeed come back to life at her feet in the cabin of her Chinook.
Liz saw Camp Bastion grow from a barbed wire fence surrounding an area of tents in the sand to the huge Operating Base it became. She was also on the last 1310 Flight deployment there as the British forces withdrew 10 years later handing it back to the Afghan National Army.
Very few Chinook crew members, if any, spanned the length of time deployed as Liz McConaghy did. This is a genuinely unique tale that only Liz could tell, which ends with her battling the memories that haunted her, long after she had left the battlefield. Her own war within took her to the point of suicide once she had left the service. Her survival from both the battles in foreign lands and in her own head led her to begin telling her story, in the hope she can help others win their wars.