A special mission for RAF cop
SAFELY back home after a tour of duty fighting crime and the Taliban with the Royal Air Force Police in Afghanistan is RAF Henlow-based airman Corporal Matt Akers. The 25-year-old is an RAF policeman who served in the Special Investigations branch at Camp
SAFELY back home after a tour of duty fighting crime and the Taliban with the Royal Air Force Police in Afghanistan is RAF Henlow-based airman Corporal Matt Akers.
The 25-year-old is an RAF policeman who served in the Special Investigations branch at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Bastion, the largest British base to have been built since the Second World War, is one of the busiest airfields in the world. In April, as the US Marine Corps arrived and British Army units changed over, this dusty desert airbase was as busy as London Gatwick Airport.
"I used to be a special constable in the British Transport Police," said Cpl Akers, who serves with the RAF's Tactical Police Wing at RAF Henlow. "I really enjoyed the challenge of policing, but I was getting frustrated with my main job as a train manager. I wanted a new challenge, and the RAF police seemed to offer everything I was looking for."
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After joining the RAF in February 2008, Cpl Akers moved rapidly through two demanding training courses to his first tour in Afghanistan. Although he was deployed to support general police operations around the giant desert garrison, he was marked out as being of exceptional ability and moved into the tough world of forensic investigation.
"It's a really, really challenging job," he explained. "If one of our soldiers is killed in action, I could be called to the scene to collect evidence and set up an investigation.
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"It can be very distressing, but I know that my work helps the coroner back in the UK to keep families completely informed about his investigation. We also help by escorting the fallen back to the UK. The first time I did that was very tough and upsetting, but when the hearse was on its way from RAF Brize Norton and I saw hundreds of well-wishers lining the route, I felt incredibly proud of my role.
"For families, it means someone is with their relatives every step of the way, maintaining their dignity and honouring their service. It's given me enormous respect for the guys who are fighting for the people of Afghanistan."
Cpl Akers is now waiting to hear about his next assignment.