RAF News reporter in the field receives Commendation

Rachael Lee returns home from Afghanistan tour

A media operations officer who became RAF News’s top reporter on operations has returned home from a tour of Operations HERRICK and KIPION, after winning an award from the commander of 83 Expeditionary Air Group, the Service’s operational headquarters in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Flight Lieutenant Rachael Lee, 28, received a commendation from the UK Air Component Commander, Air Commodore Al Gillespie, for her work to keep the UK public informed about the RAF’s work in support of peace and security across the Middle East and in Afghanistan.

During her tour Flt Lt Lee, who was usually based at Kandahar, travelled throughout the combined 8-million square-mile joint operating area of KIPION and HERRICK, working closely with RAF units in six countries across three time zones. Among the units she worked with were 903 Expeditionary Air Wing at Camp Bastion and 904 Expeditionary Air Wing at Kandahar – as well as the ‘Dambusters’, 617 Squadron, who ran a detachment of Tornado GR4 fast jets at Kandahar.

“It was great to work alongside the Dambusters,” said Flt Lt Lee, who returned home on New Year’s Eve. “Every day they’re delivering real support to Afghan-led forces on the ground. The GR4 is an amazing aircraft and it takes an amazing team to support it – I was really proud to be able to tell their stories.”

Hours before boarding her flight back to RAF Brize Norton, Flt Lt Lee was told she’d received a commendation for her work. “I was overwhelmed,” she said. “It was totally unexpected – it sounds cheesy, but I really was just doing my job.”

Flt Lt Lee’s stories have kept RAF News readers up to date on the Service’s work since June, and some even picked up national attention. Among her most successful stories was a tale about RAF dentists at Kandahar, who help treat military working dogs which have saved countless lives by sniffing out Taliban bombs. The story, broken in RAF News in August, was picked up by national and international titles. “I found the story while having a conversation in the dining facility with a dentist who’d just been working with “canines” – not the teeth, the dogs! The story was a great opportunity to show how well RAF people adapt to challenges when on operations.”

Flt Lt Lee received her commendation from the Deputy Air Component Commander, Group Captain Dominic Stamp, at a surprise gathering of staff at 83 EAG’s headquarters in the Middle East. “It’s easy to underestimate the importance of media operations,” Gp Capt Stamp said. “We owe it to the public to make sure the RAF’s achievements on behalf of the nation are shared with the media, and Rachael did a cracking job making sure stories were published.”

Now on a hard-earned period of leave, Flt Lt Lee said she was looking to catching up with her family in Bolton before taking up her new role as a physical education policy officer at HQ Air Command.