Air crews made an emotional return to their families and loved ones, who were waiting at RAF Marham on Saturday, after completing their final deployment in Afghanistan.
Number 31 Squadron was the final squadron to be deployed to Afghanistan, and on Tuesday set out on the last leg of the long journey home – via RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus – after supporting Operation Herrick.
The flight provided a particularly poignant end to the deployment as they left the base for the last time on the same day as the world fell silent to commemorate Armistice Day and remember those who had given their lives in conflicts across the globe.
RAF Marham’s station commander, group captain Harv Smyth was first to welcome 31 Squadron. He said: “It’s absolutely brilliant to see 31 Squadron home after a successful final deployment to Afghanistan.
“31 Squadron has truly come full circle from their formation in 1915 where they earned the Squadron motto ‘First in Indian Skies’ with them completing the Tornado Force support of Operation Herrick as the ‘Last in Afghan Skies.”
Air Vice Marshal Gary Waterfall, air officer commanding Number 1 Group, said: “Its really good to see the last Squadron return after five long arduous years in Afghanistan not forgetting the five years prior to that with the Harrier Force including the Royal Navy.
“This has been a successful end to the deployment and to have 31 Squadron back today is fantastic and the Tornado Force have without doubt made a difference and saved lives in Afghanistan leaving a firm foundation for the Afghan National Security Force.”
During their time in Afghanistan, The Tornado Force have provided Close Air Support to UK and Coalition Forces deterring enemy forces along with providing vital information using the RAPTOR and Litening III reconnaissance pods.
This information has been used by the troops on the ground to identify potential IEDs undoubtedly saving countless lives.
A small number of personnel flew into Marham with the remainder of the Squadron returning back to RAF Marham over the next couple of days via RAF Brize Norton.
The Squadron will be marking the end of this deployment with a medal ceremony at the end of the month before taking a well earned break and enjoying time with their loved ones.