SAR Officer receives MBE from the Queen
A Royal Navy commander who promoted ‘a remarkable spirit de corps’ has received his MBE from Her Majesty the Queen at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Commander Chris Channing now works for the Military Aviation Authority at the Ministry of Defence in London but was awarded a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his time in charge of 771 Naval Air Squadron in Culdrose.
Chris, 45, was born in Portsmouth but lived in Helston, Cornwall for most of his 19 years with the Service. Now living in Kingston-upon-Thames, he is married to wife Nic and has two children aged 13 and 10.
According to Chris’s citation, his performance as commanding officer of 771 was ‘exemplary’. He was described as ‘rising to every challenge’ and during his time in charge, the Squadron’s Sea King helicopters flew over 500 Search and Rescue sorties. “Leading life saving efforts, often in the most difficult environmental conditions, you made a difference to the lives of numerous people,” it read. “Shouldering immense responsibility, your
judgement and leadership were constantly tested; they were never found wanting. Undertaking every task with drive and purpose, you led from the front, encouraging, developing and motivating your team and promoting a remarkable spirit de corps.”
Chris’s former squadron, 771 NAS, is one of the Royal Navy’s Search and Rescue Squadrons and provides cover for the Western Approaches – which includes the Cornish peninsula, the Isles of Scilly and the Atlantic/Channel up to 200 nautical miles.
“My two years in command of 771 were incredibly rewarding,” he said. “It’s not every day you get to lead a team that really makes a difference, but here I did - I was supported by a thoroughly professional team of aircrew and engineers who rose to every challenge. “It was a memorable posting and then to be honoured with an MBE is just truly fantastic and came completely out of the blue. It was amazing to receive the award from the Queen herself – it was a fantastic day for all of us and my children were completely in awe to be at Buckingham Palace.”
At just 15 minutes notice to fly by day and 45 minutes by night, 771 NAS work 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, their distinctive red and grey Sea King helicopters are called upon more than 200 times a year, making it an extremely busy and demanding job.
“To be part of such a busy 27/365 organisation is challenging both operationally and managerially,” said Chris. “They have a diverse portfolio ranging from Search and Rescue to training for Afghanistan operations, standing at Very High Readiness for counter-terrorism ops, planning for Olympic security and initial flying training of helicopter pilots. “Personally I took part in a number of operational missions while also providing the leadership, support and pastoral care to a team of 200 men and women operating and maintaining eight Sea King helicopters.”
Chris, who is known as Damage as his Navy nickname, attended the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk and joined the Royal Navy in 1990. His mother Patricia lives in Ferndown, Bournemouth and his father Kelvin, who has since passed away, was ex-RN. He left as a Fleet Chief Petty Officer Marine Engineering Artificer and was on the first FCPO’s signal upon the introduction of rate – FCPO is now known as Warrant Officer.