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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Liz McConaghy, from a small town in County Down, spent a total of seventeen years flying with the RAF's Chinook Fleet. Down Northern Ireland she attended RAF Cranwell on her 19th birthday to begin her exciting career thereafter on Chinook Helicopters. The author's ability to convey the depth of these experiences with sensitivity and authenticity is truly commendable.

Liz was only 21 when she became the youngest Chinook crewmember to serve in Iraq, and then became the longest serving female member. If you are looking for a military veteran with a truly inspirational story to tell who will provide audiences with the tools needed to build the path to a new life, look no further than Liz McConaghy. I went to see my brother in Palace Barracks the day he was doing his entrance test and I was in the careers office and saw a guy on a magazine hanging out the side of a helicopter,” she said. The author takes us through the intricacies of Chinook operations, the intense training, and the complexities of working as a team in high-stress situations.

In 2020, Liz suffered extensively with her mental health due to the onset of PTSD following almost two decades at war. She said: "The 'bat phone' would ring, we'd take down all these details, we would sprint out to the aircraft, spin the aircraft up as quick as we could, engineers would be helping and most of the time we'd get very minimal information to begin with, and injuries in Afghanistan don't just happen by accident.

I really want to get the message out – just because I had PTSD does not mean I have to have it forever.In 2005, Liz was first deployed to Afghanistan and she’d go on to complete 10 tours as part of the medical helicopter response team providing emergency assistance to wounded personnel. The process wasn't easy, but acknowledging the state of my mental well-being was the first step towards recovery. Maybe for you, it's a walk in nature, spending time with loved ones, or immersing yourself in a creative project. The book is peppered with riveting anecdotes, from daring rescue missions to heartwarming interactions with fellow crew members. The first thing you notice is the dust being kicked up off the ground surrounding the aircraft as the bullets get closer, then the distinctive ‘ting, ting, ting’ as they begin to hit the metal of the aircraft frame.

She was also the only female member of the crew on the iconic Chinook helicopter team for four years. When we lifted an Afghan on a tasking day in 2006/2007, we would hardly ever see any females on crew.

There’s so many people [that] have reached out to me since they’ve read it or heard my story here, either suffering from PTSD, who know of someone who’s got PTSD or might be on the brink of it, who they’re helping now because they’ve read my story, and also a lot of people have been affected by suicide because obviously I got to the point where I took a huge overdose and tried to end my life. I travelled to Morocco five times and Jordan twice for Iraq and Afghanistan training for living and working in hot, dusty climates, as well as to California four times for a couple of weeks at a time.

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