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Chinook Crew 'Chick': Highs and Lows of Forces Life from the Longest Serving Female RAF Chinook Force Crewmember

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Keep your head down, get stuck in the same as the rest and be the best ‘person’ at your job,” she added. She said that the casualties she dealt with during the war were tiered, from T1 as the most severe danger to life, to T3 which was known as “the walking wounded”. Turning adversity into positivity, Liz’s talks focus on finding hope and overcoming adversity, sharing anecdotes from the darkest times in her life and how she has emerged from the darkest of places. What follows is sketchy, but the next memory McConaghy has is waking up from a 40-hour coma in a hospital bed in Basingstoke.

Liz McConaghy, originally from Newtownards, holds the accolade of longest-serving female on the Chinook wing and also the youngest aircrew member ever deployed to Iraq. The unmistakable thud of a dozen rotor blades from the two RAF Chinooks echoed across the desert and poppy fields as the helicopters barrelled into hostile territory. It's usually troops in contact or there's been an IED of some format so, you know, most of the time you're kind of going into somewhere that's pretty tasty when you're going to land. With her hands tied together, McConaghy felt it “roll down my chest and all the way to my belly button.Courageously telling of how her memories eventually caught up with her in spectacular fashion, leading to her trying to take her own life, she survived and now offers hope to those who find themselves in the darkest of places and how to find the tools within to rebuild a new life.

The mission was dropping off ammunition and supplies at the British army’s forward operating base at Kajaki Dam – a beautiful but deadly spot where they could be ambushed or shot down. I travelled to Morocco five times and Jordan twice for Iraq and Afghanistan training for living and working in hot, dusty climates, as well as to California four times for a couple of weeks at a time. I went to see my brother in Palace Barracks the day he was doing his entrance test and I was in the careers office and saw a guy on a magazine hanging out the side of a helicopter,” she said. It provides a window into the unique camaraderie and unwavering dedication that define the military community. There’s so many people [that] have reached out to me since they’ve read it or heard my story here, either suffering from PTSD, who know of someone who’s got PTSD or might be on the brink of it, who they’re helping now because they’ve read my story, and also a lot of people have been affected by suicide because obviously I got to the point where I took a huge overdose and tried to end my life.If you think you are owed some sort of prize for being capable of doing things as a woman, you’re almost saying you are incapable in the first place.

Waking in intensive care two days later, McConaghy's feelings had completely shifted; she realised she didn't want to die. Based at RAF Odiham, Liz became an Aircrew Instructor in 2010 and also served as a member of the Medical Emergency Response Team, saving hundreds of lives in the Helmand Province. I’d kind of ignored it because we were on Herrick and there was a war to be fought, and then it started to get so bad I couldn’t fly. Liz is one of six women who has served as a loadmaster in the RAF, and for four years, was the only female crewman on the Chinook wing.Yesterday I was once again able to join over 400 extraordinary women at the 69th Women of the Year Lunch and Awards.

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