Afghanistan army officer's delight at receiving OBE
AN ARMY officer from Bolton who was given an OBE after leading a successful seven-month mission in Afghanistan said he was “bowled over” by the humbling news.
Lt Col Richard Wallwork, aged 42, who was brought up in Egerton, commanded a 350-strong unit deployed to target enemy insurgents and help train Afghan security forces to protect the region themselves.
His mother, Christina Wallwork, who now lives in Horwich, said Lt Col Wallwork’s late father would have been “bursting with pride” after their son was included on a list of 117 service personnel to be honoured by the Queen.
Lt Col Wallwork said Afghanistan had changed beyond all recognition over the course of his five tours and that the region is “much safer” now.
“I was completely bowled over by it. It came out of the blue and it’s very humbling,” he said.
“A number of people from the regiment were submitted onto a recommendation list but I was stunned to have been chosen myself.”
His 4th Regiment Royal Artillery trained Afghan forces in how to use mortar weapons safely while protecting British troops from attacks from insurgents.
“I’ve been on four previous tours, the first in 2005, but this was my first as a commanding officer and you worry about all the 350 guys in the unit,” he said. “We were really lucky and got through the tour with no casualties and only a few non-life-threatening injuries.
“Two colleagues lost their lives on a tour I was on a few years ago, which was really tough, but we were luckier this time.”
Christina added: “I was extremely proud when I heard the news.Richard is such a modest man and rarely speaks about his achievements. It was a terrific surprise for the whole family.”
The seven-month stint was spent in the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah and Lt Col Wallwork, who is based at army barracks in North Yorkshire, said he is unlikely to return as Britain works towards the total withdrawal of forces by 2014.
“I’ve seen Afghanistan change so much — in terms of education, infrastructure and security, it’s a totally different country,” he said.
“They are in a good position now to take control of most aspects of security themselves with our troops mainly there in an advisory role.
“There are fewer attacks on British soldiers now than there were in 2009 so it is a safer place to tour.
“We’ve done some tremendous work and sustained some painful losses but the support from the public has been fantastic.”
A date is still to be fixed for Lt Col Wallwork, who accompanied colleagues on a tour of the House of Commons in the spring, to collect the OBE in London.
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