Supporting NATO forces from the sky: Flt Lt Genevieve Rolleston-Smith
Since combat operations ended in 2014, British forces and NATO allies have committed significant resources to Afghanistan. With the aim of helping to rebuild and provide ongoing security in the region.
Flt Lt Genevieve Rolleston-Smith reflects on her time as a Puma pilot in Afghanistan👇
I am a Puma pilot, which is the RAFs support helicopter. Our primary role is to move troops and equipment to and from wherever they need to be.
We moved troops, contractors, embassy staff, advisors and civilians around the region which means they don’t have to travel by road.
The road network can be quite dangerous with an ever-present threat of improvised explosive devices, so by enabling people to travel by air we cut out that risk.
We also hold a casualty evacuation standby, so are ready to launch and recover injured service personnel and get them to a hospital within the ‘golden hour’.
Another role is to transport essential equipment and resupplies to more remote bases.
Over the Christmas period, we moved a huge amount of Christmas mail, sometimes floor to ceiling stacks of Christmas presents sent out by families back home!
Being able to bring gifts and presents from home makes a huge difference to morale and makes being away from friends and family at that time of year the more bearable.
It was my second deployment on Op TORAL, and my third time in Afghanistan. It’s a rewarding experience to put into practice the skills that we train hard for back home.
It’s a satisfying feeling to know that you’re moving people swiftly and safely to where they need to be.
Afghanistan is beautiful — much more mountainous and snowy than people might expect. It’s a really striking place with huge snowcapped mountains surrounding the city and brightly coloured houses reaching up almost to the summits.
While deployed one thing that surprised me was the weather. I had heard stories of the Kabul smog but experiencing it was a different matter. The reduced visibility can make flying particularly testing and combined with very congested airspace in and around the city, it’s certainly a challenge at times.
Whilst away I for sure wasn’t expecting there to be a Combined Service Entertainment team and a military brass band in theatre. They were visiting different British units and putting on fantastic shows for Christmas.
As we were flying the band to their next destination on Christmas Day, they started playing Jingle Bells in the cabin. It took us a few moments to realise what was going on and how Christmas carols were being piped across the intercom!
Read more about some of the women who are keeping Britain safe on deployment: 👇