New pilots get their wings at Somerset's RNAS Yeovilton

image captionPilots in action for the crowds at the 2010 RNAS Yeovilton Air Day

Four new helicopter pilots trained in Somerset will be joining the front line in Afghanistan by Christmas.

The quartet are part of an eight-strong group who have just graduated from 848 Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton, picking up their "wings" in the process.

They will now be deployed to either Afghanistan or will join a training exercise in the Mediterranean.

RNAS Yeovilton is one of the busiest military airfields in the UK, with an annual budget of around £17m.

Cpl Graham Smith picked up his wings following 18 months of training.

"As soon as I started flying the helicopters, I knew this was the route for me and that was the way I wanted the rest of my career to go," he said.

"Last time I was out in Afghanistan it was as a ground troop with 40 Commando up in the north, so I'm looking forward to a new experience, this time in the air."

Alan Smith, Graham's father, said he was very proud of his son's achievements.

"I've followed his career since he left school," he said.

"It's so exciting finally to see your son settle down after years of being in a career and finally finding what he wants to do."

The new recruits have been warned they could be called upon to help in Libya if needed.

"We'll have helicopters operating from those ships that, if required, can fulfil the whole range of missions - troop insertion, extraction of casualties, or British civilians that we need to pull out," said Cdr Matthew Grindon, of 848 Squadron.

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