AN Army combat medic has been awarded an operational medal after returning from a six-month tour in war-torn Afghanistan.
Private Helen Cranson was deployed on Operation Herrick 15, with 1 Medical Regiment, providing medical cover to military units helping to prepare Afghan forces to take over the security of the country.
The front-line medics were often based at Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) around Helmand Province.
There, they lived and worked with fighting units, accompanying them on patrols while working with members of the Afghan National Army as they took on enemy insurgents.
All the time they were ready to treat the wounded and organising their safe evacuation back to hospital.
During her stay in Helmund, Helen was attached to The Queen’s Royal Hussars and 2 Rifles, where she provided medical training to soldiers and Afghan army medics, as well as providing medical care to both UK and Afghan military personnel.
During the tour, she accompanied troops on operations that saw them in armed combat with Afghan insurgents as well as encountering roadside bombs.
The former Wellfield Community School pupil, who joined the Army in 2009, said: “I was based in various places, starting in Camp Bastion, for two weeks maintaining medical kit.
“After that I moved to FOB Price for a month doing vehicle mounted patrols. I had my own armoured ambulance and would accompany patrols on long missions. If anyone had any primary health care issues or combat injuries I treated them.
“I also took part in foot patrols and treated injured soldiers. We encountered lots of improvised explosive devices and quite a few contacts, but fortunately we didn’t have any major casualties.”
The medals parade, which took place at the regiment’s camp in Munster, northern Germany, was watched by families of the soldiers. It included music from the Band of the Prince of Wales’ Division.
Helen, 23, who is from Trimdon Station, said: “The first time we came under fire was scary, but the infantry soldiers made sure that I was out of the line of fire. I needed to be ready to treat them if they were injured.
“It was a good tour and I am glad that I didn’t have to deal with any major casualties. It was a proud moment receiving my medal and I am looking forward to spending my leave with my family.”
Commanding Officer of 1 Medical Regiment, Lt Colonel Antony Peter Finn, said: “Every element of the regiment performed outstandingly and has been widely recognised as having provided the best pre-hospital medical care possible to the British Army in the field.
“While the regiment has been utterly focused on doing its duty, they have ever been in our thoughts.
“We could not do what we do without them and on behalf of us all – I thank them for their unwavering love and support.”