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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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The Co Down woman said that growing up and seeing her brother join the Army when she was 16 was where her initial love of the armed forces originated. But she also knows the experience almost killed her and wants others in a similar position to know they can get help. Emphasising the importance of looking after wellbeing and mental health, Liz encourages others to reach out for help when struggling. I’ve met so many people via social media who tag themselves as the broken soldier or the forgotten veteran. The book is peppered with riveting anecdotes, from daring rescue missions to heartwarming interactions with fellow crew members.

Most purchases from business sellers are protected by the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 which give you the right to cancel the purchase within 14 days after the day you receive the item. The author's unwavering passion, her determination to break down barriers, and her unwavering commitment to her craft are awe-inspiring. H-style air ambulance service in which a Chinook was on constant readiness at Bastion to fly to the middle of the battlefield and rescue seriously wounded soldiers.

Just like anything in our body that breaks, with time, rest and the right people to help you recover, we can mend our broken brains. Liz was only 21 when she became the youngest Chinook crewmember to serve in Iraq, and then became the longest serving female member. As an ambassador for mental health, with a focus on PTSD among veterans, I want to emphasise that our struggles need not define us. Without the uniform and the sense of identity it provided, her world unravelled and what she had witnessed on the battlefield took its toll. I left in 2019 because I couldn’t fly anymore; the RAF had offered me a desk job, but I did it for about 3 weeks and then went ‘I can’t do this, I can’t look at Chinooks flying everyday outside the window and not be on them’ so I ended up taking Med discharge.

Deployed twice to Iraq and ten times to Afghanistan, Liz struggled with her mental health feeling detached emotionally and suicidal. A struggle with PTSD escalated, and in August 2020, I faced my darkest hour, attempting to take my own life. She said: "I used to be there for the guys who used to come back from some of the MERT flights and be really Liz’s story offers hope to those who have also found themselves in the darkest of places, who are looking for the tools within themselves to begin to rebuild a pathway to a new life. Liz finished counselling with us in early 2022, she says “we all have good days and bad days, but life has been pretty good since.When we lifted an Afghan on a tasking day in 2006/2007, we would hardly ever see any females on crew. We didn’t personalise who were in the body bags because we knew it would have such a detrimental effect on our mental health.

Only when she saw a huge, sparking cable lashing against the airframe and smelled burning electricity did McConaghy realise they had flown directly into high voltage wires crews nickname “helicopter killers”. Long runs were cathartic for me, and it cleared my brain, but at the start of lockdown we couldn’t travel more than five miles and that was detrimental to my mental health. They’ll stop something else working and they’ll fall out the sky, whereas for us, we’re pretty okay. Another wonderful woman just getting on with her job and making a massive impact in so many ways without wanting any recognition!So you can take a lot around you, a lot of battle damage and as long as the engines are still running and you are still going, then you’re okay. Over the course of her military career, Liz was deployed twice to Iraq and ten times to Afghanistan, witnessing truly tragic things that left her struggling with mental health and feeling suicidal. Then a friend of mine and I were out walking and I mentioned it and she was like you’ve got to send this off to a publisher, what happens if somebody wants to publish it? Thankfully, the panel (the only protection we have is on the floor) had caught on the ground underneath and kind of zoomed up. The effort and sacrifices made in Afghanistan significantly advanced medical science and gave McConaghy a profound sense of purpose.

She was also the only female member of the crew on the iconic Chinook helicopter team for four years. I knew we were about to crash so I braced myself hard against the door frame and placed my hand on the release straps of my harness,” she said. Anyone who’s lost someone to suicide can kind of hear my story and realise they couldn’t have done anything to help. I was only halfway through my first operation when I went to Iraq; I ended up getting my first Iraq medal and came back. Is there any way to summarise my career went too quickly, because I think for a lot of the chunk of it was Herrick.No one needs little Liz crying down the phone going ‘I think I’ve got PTSD, I think I’m coming apart. So, I’m kind of still getting used to it a little bit, but I think the biggest sense of purpose, writing the book was great.

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