Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Airman Goes into Action for Orphans

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Airman Goes into Action for Orphans

Article excerpt

Byline: By Robert Brooks

Consigned to a desert tent, North airman Pete Fields felt a million miles from the comforts of home in Northumberland.

But the RAF Boulmer logistics officer knew it was nothing com-pared with the appalling conditions faced by children in a nearby orphanage at Nasiriyah, south Iraq.

So the 33-year-old corporal from Powburn, near Alnwick, who has just returned from a tour of duty with coalition forces, strapped on his backpack and strode out to help.

In the blistering heat, together with 17 colleagues from 1 Air Command Centre, he marched 10km in full kit and raised nearly pounds 600 from big-hearted American and British servicemen at the Tallil Airbase where they were camped.

"Although we were securely enclosed on the base, it was hard not to notice life on the other side of the fence," said Cpl Fields.

"These kids were living in awful conditions, even eating out of a communal trough because they had no crockery.

"They didn't even have proper bedding and we felt it necessary to do something."

Loaded with 65lbs of equipment and weapon each, they set off on a circuit of the airbase with pipe music playing and the Union Jack held aloft, stopping to collect spare change from personnel they passed.

"When we had all the cash together, I was escorted down into the town by a couple of American soldiers to the orphanage," said Cpl Fields.

"It was a huge surprise for the kids there and their reaction was amazing and heartwarming.

"They wanted to hold our hands and talked about Iraq and Britain being friends. I was very moved.

"We only hope that we have in some way secured their future, at least for a time, and made life more bearable for them."

For other Northumberland servicepeople on duty with the unit's mobile radar crew in Iraq, children were also at the forefront of their minds.

Tactical radar operator Sgt Carl Beattie, of Longhoughton, said: "This was the longest time I have spent away from my family. …

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