A Royal Naval medic from Devon has been presented with an operational honour today (Friday) by the Duchess of Cornwall after his first six-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Medical Assistant Craig Barff (24), from Devon and originally Hartlepool, deployed in April to work with the Close Support Medical Regiment in Helmand Province.
The Duchess of Cornwall, as Commodore in Chief, Royal Naval Medical Services, presented campaign medals for service in Afghanistan to Royal Navy medical personnel. Her Royal Highness also attended a reception for the medal recipients and their families following the parade at HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth
She met Royal Navy and Royal Marine medics who deployed to providing trauma care and first aid at Camp Bastion hospital, where 3,600 patients were treated, and while accompanying more than 10,000 foot patrols across Helmand province.
Craig, now of Devonport Naval Base, Plymouth, primarily worked as a combat support medic with ‘A’ Company of 3 Mercian Regiment. He lived with them at their patrol base in the heart of the British operating area and went out on front-line ground patrols up to three times a day in the Afghan summer heat.
Craig said: “Working with the Army has been an interesting experience. It was weird being a Navy guy in an Army team and it took a few weeks for them to get used to me being there, but once they realized I was just the same as an Army medic it really gave me a sense of pride to represent the Navy.”
Craig joined the Navy in 2008 and in his short time has been posted to four bases in the UK but Afghanistan has been his first overseas deployment.
“Nothing can really prepare you for Afghanistan and I didn’t expect to be deployed here so soon” said Craig. “It’s obviously very different to how a navy medic usually works onboard a ship but you soon adjust and just get on with it.”
As a patrol medic, on average Craig would conduct two or three patrols per day, whereas the units he patrolled with only do one. he carries a medical rucksack which weights upwards of 20 kilos, and with his body armour, rifle, ammunition and water, the combined weight of his equipment can reach nearly 50 kilos.
Now home, Craig is taking some well earned leave with his wife Amanda and his 2 year-old son Riley. Having just received his campaign medal for his time in Afghanistan he can proudly wear it to remind him of the valuable contribution he made during his first deployment.
Commander Paul Jones, Commanding Officer of HMS Excellent, said: “The medics provide life-saving medical care and first aid in Afghanistan, often under highly pressurised and gruelling conditions, and it is important to both the individuals and their families that their valuable work and our pride in their efforts are publicly recognised.”
Operation Herrick 14 saw a significant proportion of the Royal Navy deploy to Afghanistan; with both the Royal Navy medical and logistical branches providing support to UK and coalition forces including from the military hospital unit at Derriford. The Medical Regiment comprised 257 personnel from 49 different units of which 185 were from the Naval Service.