Old Brightonian Flight Lieutenant Marc Heal (L.1994-98) rescued 29 casualties in the heat of a battle in Afghanistan and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) by the Queen for his actions.
He captained a Chinook helicopter immediate response team (IRT) during Operation Panther's Claw in July 2009, commanding eight IRT missions and rescuing 29 casualties. Flt Lt Heal was also awarded the freedom of the city of Brighton, one of only four people to receive the Honour. It was given "in recognition of his outstanding gallantry as the Captain of the Chinook helicopter Immediate Response Team in Afghanistan".
"The inspirational command of his crew and superior flying skills led to the successful extraction of 29 casualties and the saving of lives."
Marc is currently serving in Afghanistan.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
When I was at Brighton College it soon became clear that my dream of playing professional sport was drifting away due to a lack of skill and that I would have to find a proper job. I was always interested in Business and Finance having studied it at A-Level and Degree level and it is still an area I am hoping to go into when I leave the RAF next year.
- What are you now you've grown up?
I am now a Chinook Helicopter pilot in the RAF and am currently an Instructor on the Chinook Operational Conversion Flight with responsibility for training the new pilots to a level where they are ready to deploy on operations in Afghanistan.
- What is your best memory of school?
My best memory of school has to be playing rugby in the First XV. We were lucky to have two great coaches in Mr Pope and Mr Burton and we had a very successful season when it was not expected of us. The other memory that always comes back to me was the work we did on the annual trip to an orphanage in Romania and it is still one my proudest moments.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given?
Every morning when I arrived at school I would see Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If “at the bottom of the stairs to Hampden. The first line about ‘keeping your head when all about you were losing theirs’ is definitely something that goes through my head a lot when on operations.
- What does your job involve?
The main part of my job has been the 6 deployments to Afghanistan. As the captain of a Chinook Helicopter I am responsible for completing the task in hand, whether that is casualty evacuation or a deliberate operation to insert troops into known enemy territory.
- What are the most challenging parts of your job?
One of the hardest parts of the job is weighing up how much risk and danger you are prepared to put the aircraft in to complete the task. However the most challenging part of the job has to be rescuing casualties, often under enemy fire, whilst keeping calm and remaining focused on the job when there is chaos happening all around you.
- What have you done that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of the work that my crew and I did during Operation Panthers Claw in 2009 when we rescued 29 casualties over 3 days under very heavy enemy fire. This led to other proud moments including being given the Distinguished Flying Cross from the Queen at Buckingham Palace, the Freedom of the City of Brighton and Hove and this year a GQ magazine man of the year award.
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
If I could move RAF Odiham and it became RAF Brighton it would save me a lot of time wasted on the M25, although I’m sure residents of the city wouldn’t appreciate the extra noise.
- What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Seeing as I have just taken up golf I think I would take my sand wedge and some balls. As soon as I had perfected my bunker shots I would use my third object, a helicopter, and fly home.
- How would you like to be remembered?
I would just like to be remembered.