New operational service medal recognises fight against IS
Medals honouring UK military personnel involved in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have been awarded for the first time.
The new silver Operation Shader medal featuring a striped grey, light blue, dark blue and red ribbon was presented to 36 sailors, soldiers and air crew.
The defence secretary said the medals would also be given to people working outside conventional areas of combat.
This includes UK-based drone pilots and intelligence co-ordinators.
The Operation Shader medal is the first operational service medal to be created since 2003.
Traditionally, operational service medals are awarded to individuals who have completed service in a specific campaign where they were exposed to physical danger.
The Queen has approved the extension of the eligibility criteria for the Operation Shader medal to include personnel who have made a significant contribution to efforts in Iraq and Syria, including civilians.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the move reflects the changing nature of warfare.
Speaking at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall after the presentation ceremony, Mr Williamson said: "It goes to show how important our armed forces are - it is about keeping Britain safe even if they're taking action in the field many thousands of miles away."
More than 1,400 British personnel are involved in the coalition formed in 2014 to defeat IS.
Personnel based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire fly the Reaper drones used to carry out strikes and surveillance against IS, assisted by intelligence staff and systems specialists.
The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said some of the personnel had worked on the campaign continuously since the UK's involvement began.
"Physical risk is one part of it, but there is also the mental resilience, the endurance and sustainment needed for people who have been effectively deployed on operations for years," he said.
"I am just delighted that we are having that opportunity to properly recognise their contribution to this campaign."
The medals presented to personnel based outside the conventional area of operations will not carry a clasp sitting across the ribbon bearing the words Iraq and Syria.