Chinook Crew 'Chick': Highs and Lows of Forces Life from the Longest Serving Female RAF Chinook Force Crewmember

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Chinook Crew 'Chick': Highs and Lows of Forces Life from the Longest Serving Female RAF Chinook Force Crewmember

Chinook Crew 'Chick': Highs and Lows of Forces Life from the Longest Serving Female RAF Chinook Force Crewmember

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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. Upon leaving the RAF in 2019 Liz slowly became unravelled after a series of traumatic events that compounded her PTSD.

A second tour of Iraq followed without incident and then, in 2005, the Chinook force turned their eyes towards Afghanistan.As I turned the final page of this extraordinary memoir, I was left with a renewed sense of admiration for the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to serving their countries. Self-sabotage is a well-known symptom that comes with PTSD and depression; we don’t just let the wheels come off, we blow the whole damn truck up. But it goes both ways, and her male crew mates would often seek her assistance too, such as when her smaller hands were more useful for checking out an oil filter.

I was only halfway through my first operation when I went to Iraq; I ended up getting my first Iraq medal and came back. We also deliberately didn’t try to find out whether the casualties had made it or not, it was too difficult to find out because it wasn’t good for our mental health, but when the camp went into a state of ‘minimise’ — which is when the internet and phone lines are turned off — we knew that was when someone had lost their lives. However, she also wants people who read her book to learn from her sobering, life-changing experience.My ex threw my No1’s and No5’s in a skip when we separated so I’m just relieved that these were in a shoebox and I still have them. She descended into despair having left the RAF and realized she had lost her sense of purpose, having been integral to the mission in Afghanistan, including those medical rescue flights. I really want to get the message out – just because I had PTSD does not mean I have to have it forever.

At just 21, she was the youngest aircrew member to be deployed to Iraq and the only female in the Chinook Crew for the first four years of her service. This was extremely hard to deal with because you were doing everything you could to get there as fast as you could. Chinook Crew 'Chick': Highs and Lows of Forces Life was published in September 2022 and has been life changing for Liz. 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.

The 2020 lockdown further unravelled her mental state, leading to a harrowing episode in August where she attempted to take her own life with an overdose. I wasn’t able to be with people, I began to spiral and it triggered PTSD as I began to relive life at war. Liz McConaghy, from a small town in County Down, spent a total of seventeen years flying with the RAF’s Chinook Fleet.

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