British Army, 7 Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, a soldier holds his Afghanistan Medal following a parade at Bielefeld, Germany (Crown Copyright, 2013)

Medal for Operation SHADER

New Medal for Britain’s Fight Against Islamic State Announced

The Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon made the announcement during his visit to members of the Armed Forces currently deployed on Operation SHADER in Iraq. Sir Michael met personnel from the Mercian Regiment, Corps of Royal Engineers, Intelligence Corps and medical units based at Erbil and Camp Taji. They have been involved in training Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish forces and Ninewah police.

Sir Michael Fallon announces Op Shader medal on visit to deployed troops in Iraq (Crown Copyright, 2017)

Sir Michael Fallon announces Op Shader medal on visit to deployed troops in Iraq (Crown Copyright, 2017)

Fighting the Evil of Our Time

Calling Islamic State “the evil of our time”, the Defence Secretary said:

It is only right that those who’ve performed above and beyond in this fight against the evil of our time get the recognition they deserve. This medal will do just that. Our troops have made huge contributions to the fight against Daesh [Islamic State], helping end its tyranny in large parts of Iraq and Syria. They have conducted over 1,500 strikes against Daesh terrorist targets and helped train nearly 60,000 Iraqi Security Forces. The campaign is not over but for those [who] have served we rightly honour the critical role they have played in helping keep us safe.

Taking a leading role in the Counter-Daesh Global Coalition, the UK has provided over 1,400 military personnel from all three Services as part of its three year involvement.

Following the recent uplift of 44 additional Royal Engineers who deployed to Al Asad Airbase in August, there are around 600 British soldiers on the ground in Iraq. They are primarily involved in training Iraqi security forces in battle winning infantry, engineering and combat medical techniques as well as providing courses on countering IEDs and other critical skills.

Change of Policy Rewards Drone Pilots

Recognising the changing character of modern warfare, Sir Michael noted the need to reward those not traditionally in line to receive medals.

Current UK Operational Medals policy requires consideration of risk and rigour to qualify for award of a campaign medal. To date, risk has been defined in terms of requiring an individual to be physically exposed to danger to qualify for medallic recognition and currently there are approximately 3,600 personnel who will receive the medal from May 2018.

The Defence Secretary has directed that this approach be examined to consider how best to recognise the rigour and operational contribution of those outside the immediate theatre of operations.

The Defence Secretary said:

The changing character of warfare provides new challenges – not just about how we fight but also how we recognise and support those who serve. As fighting has evolved we have adapted, ensuring our troops have cutting-edge equipment including unmanned systems operated from outside the battle space. Our recognition of service, the risks taken, and the long-term effects must therefore adapt too. That is why we need to examine how to provide medallic recognition for those making a vital contribution to Op Shader outside the battlespace, from Reaper pilots taking life-and-death decisions to those who ensure our planes can strike Daesh targets.

Operational Service Medal Proposed in June

In an early day motion on 21 June this year, Labour MP Nia Griffith proposed those who had been deployed on Operation SHADER should be honoured with a medal:

That this House believes that the bravery and service of the personnel involved in Operation Shader should be recognised with a specific Operational Service Medal without delay; recognises that in doing their duty these men and women are protecting UK citizens from the threat of Daesh, as well as defending civilians in the region and around the world; and calls on the Secretary of State for Defence to support an Operational Service Medal for Operation Shader.

The motion was seconded by Scottish National Party, Labour and Conservative MPs. In total, 56 MPs signed the motion.

The Defence Secretary also visited the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, where the UK is working closely with the US as the two largest contributors to the coalition’s military campaign, Operation Inherent Resolve. As the command centre for the entire coalition’s operations in Iraq and Syria, UK personnel, working alongside allies, are co-ordinating over 70 nations’ activity including over 1500 air strikes and surveillance conducted by the RAF in the UK’s three year campaign.

Sources: MOD; Telegraph; EarlyDayMotions

Featured Image: Crown Copyright.