Afghanistan

Op Pitting: New medal will honour Kabul evacuation heroes

The Operational Service Medal Afghanistan has its own distinctive clasp and will be awarded to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel.

Armed Forces personnel deployed to support the evacuation from Afghanistan in August 2021 will receive special medals for their contribution.

The Operational Service Medal Afghanistan, with its own distinctive clasp, will be awarded to members of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force for their efforts in Operation Pitting.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Forces News "service personnel who served five consecutive days in Kabul, or aircrew who were involved in three or more sorties, will receive the operational service medal with an Op Pitting clasp".

Mr Heappey also said that while it was a "departure from normal medal policy", Operation Pitting was "exceptionally deserving".

"There's a tendency amongst my generation and those who are slightly older than me, who served in an Army where Iraq and Afghanistan was a guaranteed medal," he said.

"Plus, for many people, various missions to the Balkans, Sierra Leone, it was perfectly possible to serve for 10 years and finish up with five or six medals.

"The reason to award the Pitting medal is not just to give some people something to put on their chest, people who served in Kabul, in my view, served a six-month tour compressed into two weeks in terms of the intensity of what they dealt with."

Operation Pitting was the largest humanitarian aid operation in more than 70 years, the Ministry of Defence said.

More than 1,000 troops, diplomats and officials were dispatched to Afghanistan to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies after the country's capital fell to the Taliban – airlifting more than 15,000 people to safety in just over a fortnight.

The mission became the biggest airlift in Royal Air Force history.

The Prime Minister said: "I'm delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has given permission for a special medal to be awarded to all those who deployed to Kabul, to honour their heroism in the face of extreme adversity.

Soldier feeding children Operation Pitting which will see the military aid the evacuation of former British staff eligible for relocation 20210822 CREDIT MOD.jpg
A soldier feeds children as part of the operation (Picture: MOD).

"Operation Pitting will go down as one of the great achievements of our UK Armed Services and their civilian counterparts in the post-war era."

He added: "The whole country can be immensely proud of their tireless work to bring men, women and children to safety. They represent the very best of us."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "As the security situation worsened by the hour, our servicemen and women stepped up and delivered the largest British evacuation since the Second World War. They will rightly receive medallic recognition for their efforts.

"I would like to thank them, and all our service personnel, on behalf of the public and UK Government for safely evacuating endangered Afghans through some of the most desperate scenes imaginable. You have done us all proud."

After Op Pitting's completion, there were discussions over whether the personnel involved should receive medals for their role.

The Ministry of Defence said at the time, the awarding of medals, which would go against the precedent of eligible operations lasting 30 days, would require "lengthy consideration".

The vast majority of voters in a Forces News poll believed personnel involved in Op Pitting deserved medals for their work.