Best Of Benson Commended

RAF Benson hosted its annual awards ceremony this autumn to recognise the outstanding achievements of its personnel.

The formal dinner and awards evening, known as the ‘Benson 76’ in honour of the Station’s heritage, was held in the Officers’ Mess on Thursday 1 October with Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, the Deputy Commander of Operations for the Royal Air Force, as the guest of honour.

Military and civilian personnel of all ranks from across the Station were nominated in four categories: Professional Excellence; Teamwork; Resourcefulness and Innovation; and Loyalty. A fifth award, known as the Spirit of  Benson is also given where there is a worthy candidate.

The Professional Excellence Award was presented to Acting Corporal Tom Welch, an engineer who works on the Puma. The extracts of his citation read out on the evening said:

“Acting Corporal Welch has consistently worked far beyond his acting rank in the transition to the Puma Mk 2. He was a key member in developing a much-improved process to plan and control maintenance activities and also  volunteered to become one of a small group of in-house rotor tuners. All of his activities and achievements have been far in excess of that expected of his rank. After a high profile deployment to Afghanistan he requested involvement in the most challenging and busiest task of embodying Puma Mk2 modifications. Working tirelessly, his pivotal role directly contributed to the early declaration of Initial Operating Capability and ensured the  aircraft deployed to Afghanistan on time. His professional excellence is quite simply outstanding.”

The Teamwork award was presented to Flight Lieutenant Tacita Crossland, the Officer Commanding Personnel Services Flight. The extracts of her citation read:

“Flight Lieutenant Crossland has been an integral member of the RAF Benson team over the last year, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure personnel are supported and well considered advice is always available.  Charged with a broad portfolio, she has adeptly managed and delivered community and deployment support, welfare, personnel management, complaints and grievances and service discipline to name but a few. Well regarded by colleagues, the community support team in particular has witnessed the lengths Crossland goes to in order to resolve welfare issues as compassionately and pragmatically as possible. Despite her unrelenting workload, she deputised for the Project Officer for Families’ Day 2015 during his detachment and was largely responsible for delivering the outstanding event that was enjoyed by thousands. She is thoroughly commended for her relentless dedication to the Station and her team.”

The Resourcefulness and Innovation award was awarded to Senior Aircraftman Michael Ryan, a fireman who is currently detached on operations overseas. While Michael was not able to be present to collect his award, extracts of his citation were read:

“Senior Aircraftman Ryan is well respected and trusted in his primary role and sets a remarkable standard in all that he does. There are many examples of his significant innovation, proactivity and resourcefulness, including outside his primary role. His most notable impact outside his duty as a fire fighter has been on the welfare and morale of the section through the provision of welfare facilities for fire crews working anti-social shifts and the  procurement of a section barbecue, both of which greatly enhanced the team ethos. Showing true initiative, Ryan singlehandedly organised an Easter egg collection for children in the John Radcliffe hospital and personally delivered over 200 eggs. He is an outstanding ambassador for the RAF and a very innovative and proactive airman.”

The Loyalty award was awarded to Sergeant Richard Ford, an engineer with the Puma Force. Currently deployed with the Puma Force on Operation Toral, Richard was unable to collect his award but extracts of his citation read:

“Totally committed to the Service, Sergeant Ford’s dedication and performance during the past year have gone far beyond that required of his role. The backbone of 230 Squadron’s avionics and Senior Non-Commissioned  Officer output, he has willingly deployed on almost every detachment. Whether it was taking control of engineering on an exercise in the absence of his Engineering Officer or where he was the hub of all engineering coordination, he has been indispensable at all times. He selflessly volunteered to bring forward his operational detachment to cover a gap and even cover both deployments if required. His unswerving commitment to the team, ensuring their welfare and exuding a positive and encouraging attitude has ensured strong morale even with the most challenging tasks. He is commended for his outstanding devotion to the Service and his fellow tradesmen.”

Richard and Michael will both be formally presented with their awards when they return from their deployments.

The Spirit of Benson award is only presented when there is a worthy candidate. The criteria for the award, which was donated to the Station by a former Station Commander, notes that the recipient should be an individual who has overcome adversity to achieve both personal and professional excellence. The worthy winner of the Spirit of Benson was Sergeant Andrew Halliwell, who commands the projects team within C4I (the hub of all communications and information technology and systems for the Station). The extract from Andrew’s citation read out on the evening said:

“Sergeant Halliwell is quite simply an exceptionally dedicated individual. In addition to his primary tasks within C4I he has successfully managed an inexperienced and undermanned team, provided comprehensive support to the significant changes taking place at RAF Benson and even acted as the Station’s Cryptographic Custodian during the incumbent’s deployment. Halliwell also has a plethora of additional duties including governor for RAF Benson Community Primary school, a well respected RAF rugby union referee, a station auditor and a well-utilised Drill Instructor who has assisted in copious ceremonial events. Diligently fulfilling his primary and secondary  duties to the highest standard, Sergeant Halliwell’s performance is all the more impressive when you understand the personal circumstances he has faced over the past year with the grave illness and tragic death of his father. The fact that he remained focused during this difficult time highlights his calibre and strength of character. He embodies the Spirit of RAF Benson.”

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