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

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My journey is a beacon of hope for those navigating life's darkest corners, showing that within themselves, they can find the tools to rebuild a pathway to a new existence. The lecture series has gained the Museum respect from far and wide and regularly sees an oversees contingent of viewers each month watching the lectures online. I knew that things were really coming unravelled one night when I couldn’t sleep and at about 4am I was Googling some of the soldiers that we’d picked up.

One of four RAF crewmen, two pilots and two aircrew, McConaghy was in charge of operating the M60 machine gun capable of firing 7.Her career saw her amass 2 deployments to Iraq and 10 deployments to Helmand Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick which gave her an insightful and very personal perspective on war. During my transition into civilian life, that year I was starting to unravel, I could have picked up the phone, but you don’t. 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’d kind of ignored it because we were on Herrick and there was a war to be fought, and then it started to get so bad I couldn’t fly.

Liz is one of six women who has served as a loadmaster in the RAF, and for four years, was the only female crewman on the Chinook wing. This was extremely hard to deal with because you were doing everything you could to get there as fast as you could. My name is Liz McConaghy, and my journey has been quite the rollercoaster – from soaring high in the Royal Air Force Chinook Fleet to facing the deepest valleys of life.Thankfully, the panel (the only protection we have is on the floor) had caught on the ground underneath and kind of zoomed up. Now working as a motivational speaker, Ms McConaghy speaks candidly about her mental health struggles and shares inspirational stories from her time in the RAF. Her narrative style is engaging and filled with vivid descriptions that make you feel like you're right there in the aircraft, experiencing the adrenaline rush and the camaraderie that comes with military aviation.

Finance is provided by PayPal Credit (a trading name of PayPal UK Ltd, Whittaker House, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Surrey, United Kingdom, TW9 1EH). She had seen some terrible things on deployment during her service, not least flying on the medical flights recovering badly injured and dead soldiers from the battlefield. So, I’m kind of still getting used to it a little bit, but I think the biggest sense of purpose, writing the book was great.

The first time I went, there was an army commander in the theatre, and he made me go and stay in a girl’s tent because you aren’t allowed mixed accommodation, and I was so miserable. A struggle with PTSD escalated, and in August 2020, I faced my darkest hour, attempting to take my own life. A wonderfully written story which really brings to life how challenging being in the Chinook force can be. She spent days on end in her small flat in Basingstoke, Hants, binge-eating, getting up in the middle of the night, and looking online for news of soldiers she had worked with. Keep your head down, get stuck in the same as the rest and be the best ‘person’ at your job,” she added.

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