Merlin pilot is first woman to receive RAF top honour

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Merlin pilot is first woman to receive RAF top honour

Post by Guest on Sun 09 Mar 2008, 1:29 pm

Merlin helicopter pilot Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman has become the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Flight Lieutenant Goodman was awarded the DFC today, Friday 7 March 2008, for an act of courage during her deployment to Iraq in June 2007, when as Aircraft Captain of an Incident Reaction Team (IRT) Merlin Helicopter she flew into an extremely dangerous area of Basra City to rescue a casualty.

Flying on night goggles and under very heavy fire she landed next to the casualty and extracted him, despite mortar rounds landing nearby. Without the IRT, the casualty would have died within 15 minutes.

The citation for her DFC, which is awarded for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy', explains the incident in detail:

"The incident took place on 1 June 2007. At 2315 hours Flight Lieutenant Goodman was alerted that there was a serious casualty following a mortar attack on an isolated British location in the centre of Basra City. Landing an aircraft at this location is assessed to be very high risk and intelligence reports indicated a large, 'spectacular' attack would occur somewhere in Basra, with a helicopter being a possible target. Flight Lieutenant Goodman was fully aware of the elevated threat level.

"Alert to the high risk, but being fully conscious of the importance of providing unfailing IRT support to ground forces, Flight Lieutenant Goodman elected to fly her approach, whilst under intense enemy direct and indirect fire.

"Maintaining a firm control of the situation whilst flying tactically on Night Vision Goggles at very low level across a hostile city, she commenced a most expeditious transit and approach to an unfamiliar and dangerous landing site.

"She continued her approach, undeterred by close friendly covering fire and even closer enemy fire which began to impact to the rear of the aircraft.

"Despite the most complex approach, with numerous obstructions and ambient conditions on the limit of aviation operations, she executed a landing with few visual references bringing the aircraft in next to the casualty.

"The medics and Aviation Reaction Force left the aircraft as four mortar rounds landed in and around the location; however, she remained in full control of the situation and elected to hold the aircraft on the ground as the option with least risk.

"The top cover Lynx helicopter was by now reporting several substantial explosions in the area, which were believed to be either enemy mortars or Rocket Propelled Grenade fire.

"With the casualties loaded, Flight Lieutenant Goodman departed the helicopter landing site just as further explosions occurred in close vicinity to the aircraft. Additionally, her aircraft detected a possible enemy missile engagement and automatically discharged flares as a counter measure. She departed the area, her path covered by very close friendly artillery fire to distract enemy forces.

"Flight Lieutenant Goodman flew rapidly from the area, making maximum use of the aircraft's performance, crew and supporting assets to achieve a safe transit clear of the area. The aircraft landed at the British Field Hospital just 14 minutes after launch.

"Many IRT sorties are high risk. However, on this occasion Flight Lieutenant Goodman had to instantly weigh up the risks against the importance of recovering a serious casualty, which would impact on morale throughout the coalition.

"Without the IRT, the casualty would have died within 15 minutes. Despite extreme pressure, whilst in the face of the enemy, she made the right decision. This was a bold and daring sortie which undoubtedly saved life."

Upon hearing the news of this historic award, Flight Lieutenant Goodman commented:

"I am truly honoured to be awarded a DFC, but without both my crew and all the engineering support personnel, the rescue would not have been possible. This is not an award just for me, but recognises all the soldiers, sailors and airmen, who, day in and day out, put their lives on the line for the British public to remain safe."

RAF Benson's (where Flight Lieutenant Goodman is based) Station Commander, Group Captain Paul Lyall, said:

"For the last two years, Royal Air Force Merlin helicopters have been hard at work moving our troops around southern Iraq. Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman showed great gallantry in flying her helicopter into a restricted area of Basra under enemy fire to rescue a wounded soldier and speed him straight to our field hospital.

"She would be the first to say that any of her colleagues would have shown the same skill and courage. She is humbled to be the first female recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross. All of us at Royal Air Force Benson salute her actions, and those of the other three crew members that supported her. Flight Lieutenant Goodman's actions were in the finest traditions of the Royal Air Force and we are very proud of her."

Flight Lieutenant Goodman was born in Bristol on 22 November 1976 and was brought up there before completing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester. Her Royal Air Force career began in 2000 and, following Initial Officer Training at RAF Cranwell and Initial Flying Training at RAF Shawbury, she was posted to the Merlin Force at RAF Benson in 2004. A combat-ready pilot, Flight Lieutenant Goodman has completed three tours on Operation TELIC in Iraq.

Provided By: MOD -


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