Personnel from the squadron, due to be disbanded next March as part of the Ministry of defence’s latest defence review, were greeted by a crowd of around 200 men, women and children and a lone piper at an emotional reunion at the front line base last night.
A delay at RAF Brize Norton where the 80 servicemen and women were going through customs had delayed their return to Moray on board a Tristar plane by an hour.
The squadron has successfully completed a four-month tour of duty at the Kandahar airbase. They have now handed responsibility for Kandahar Airfield over to the 617 “Dambusters” Squadron which is also based at RAF Lossiemouth.
A base spokesmen said: “Personnel from 12 (Bomber) Squadron marched into a hangar where they were greeted by rapturous applause and cheers. The scene was very emotional when the personnel were reunited with their friends and family on Thursday night.
“Children were in the pyjamas ready for bed and had been allowed to stay up especially to welcome back their mum or dad. Families and friends had made banners and wore T-shirts emblazoned with welcome home messages for their loved ones.”
Wing Commander Simon Strasdin, the officer commanding 12 (Bomber) Squadron, said: “I would like to thank the Squadron for their efforts whilst on deployment and for those who were left at home looking after the families. I am immensely proud of the Squadron’s achievements and I hope everyone has a relaxing break before heading back to work.”
He added: “It’s been an outstanding tour for 12(B) Squadron – our last operational tour in Afghanistan and, indeed, our last ever. It’s a proud moment for the squadron in our 99th anniversary year. Through some immensely challenging times we’ve delivered air power across Afghanistan in support of ground forces, reaching nearly 2,000 flying hours. I’m proud to hand over to the Dambusters, who are very well prepared and ready for the months ahead.”
Group Captain Ian Gale, Station Commander RAF Lossiemouth, said: “The RAF has a motto that translates ‘through adversity to the stars’ and 12 Squadron has a motto that means ‘Lead the field’. Twelve Squadron have come through adversity this year and gone on to lead the field, I am bloody proud of your achievements. Everyone here, whether in a uniform or not, is part of this Squadron and should be proud of their efforts.”
Last night’s welcome home was the last official duty for Group Captain Gale who today will officially hand over command of RAF Lossiemouth to his successor Group Captain Mark Chappell. Group Captain Gale is being posted to undertake the Higher Staff Command Course at the defence academy headquarters at Shrivenham in England.