Chinook Crew 'Chick': Highs and Lows of Forces Life from the Longest Serving Female RAF Chinook Force Crewmember
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The author's ability to convey the depth of these experiences with sensitivity and authenticity is truly commendable.
The original manuscript was written in just three weeks as part of McConaghy’s recovery process from PTSD and is a rapid read at 160 pages. Commenting on this year's Women in Defence awards and Ms McConaghy's win, Alidad Moghaddam, CEO of Defence Discount Service said: "Liz's journey resonated deeply with us at Defence Discount Service. It is an honest and humorous account of her ‘best of times and worst of times’ and how her experiences flying on the Chinook have changed and moulded her into the woman she has become. My story takes you from dodging bullets to saving lives, exploring the harsh realities of war, and delving into the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life after leaving the military. One of the most remarkable aspects of "Chinook Crew 'Chick'" is the author's ability to convey the challenges she faced as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Moreover, "Chinook Crew 'Chick'" offers valuable perspectives on the sacrifices made by servicemen and women, shedding light on the emotional toll of deployments and the strain it can place on personal relationships. Liz would fly into dangerous war zones to recover severely wounded soldiers from the battlefield, often not knowing if they would survive. 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. Inspiring others to learn from her experiences, Liz openly speaks about her mental health and well-being and the influence of charities such as PTSD Resolution and Help for Heroes for her recovery, encouraging others struggling with mental health to seek professional health.
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.It was a privilege to be part of it, a huge honour really, to be part of any soldier's last journey off the battlefield. When I left hospital [after the suicide attempt] I had that total euphoric feeling you don’t often get. Aged just 21, she was the youngest aircrew member to deploy to Iraq and was also the only female crewman’ on the Chinook wing for four years. Her best friend Anna died of cancer, and the marriage to her Special Forces husband – whom she’d met serving in Iraq – fell apart, ending in divorce.
In an exclusive interview with Liz McConaghy, the longest serving female RAF Chinook Force Crew member, Liz describes how it all started, and the challenges she faced during and after leaving the RAF. In a conversation with BFBS the Forces Station about her award, Ms McConaghy spoke about her time with the MERT (Medical Emergency Response Team), describing that as "the highlight and the biggest privilege" of her career, saying: "As part of that duty, we were recovering the injured and wounded soldiers off the battlefield and seeing regularly. It provides a window into the unique camaraderie and unwavering dedication that define the military community. During my transition into civilian life, that year I was starting to unravel, I could have picked up the phone, but you don’t.Her narrative style is engaging and filled with vivid descriptions that make you feel like you're right there in the aircraft, experiencing the adrenaline rush and the camaraderie that comes with military aviation. 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. It's Liz here again, and today, I’d like to chat about something that's close to my heart – the importance of giving your mental health a score. The Chinook chick survived Afghanistan and Iraq but was almost defeated back home Liz McConaghy racked up an incredible 3,000 flying hours manning the guns on the RAF's heavy-lift helicopters over 17 action-packed years, including 12 deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. She left the forces in 2019 and went on to a career with a disabled flying charity to help support those same wounded soldiers into flying scholarships.