Canadian RAF pilot honoured by Queen Elizabeth
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2007 12:42PM EDT
A Canadian pilot serving in the Royal Air Force was one of five U.K. servicemen and women honoured by Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday for their roles in operations in Afghanistan last year.
Flt. Lt. Christopher Hasler, 26, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for "displaying great courage and composure in a most demanding and high risk environment" on two occasions in Helmand province last July.
In the footage of the ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Hasler appears distinguished and respectful as he awaits his turn, then approaches and bows. The Queen then pins the medal on Hasler and they chat for a few moments before she shakes his hand. He then bows once more before striding away.
Hasler was born in Jasper, Alta. but was raised in Halifax. His parents now live in Ottawa. He has been with the RAF since 2000.
In the first incident where he demonstrated bravery, Hasler was supporting a combat operation against the Taliban in the Sangin area on July 7, according to a U.K. government news release.
"Delivering stores and troops he landed in a site surrounded on three sides by buildings and to allow another aircraft into the site was required to position the spinning rotor blades just above a single story rooftop -- any error would have almost certainly resulted in catastrophic damage to the aircraft."
Hasler was carrying five crew members and several paratroopers when he performed the risky manoeuvre that brought the choppers' rotors within 15 centimetres of the building, in order to provide better cover for the troops facing enemy fire.
One week later on July 14, he once again demonstrated courage under fire.
With Taliban small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades flying all around, he landed a Chinook helicopter under extreme circumstances to deliver supplies and troops to an ongoing battle in Afghanistan.
"Hasler demonstrated tremendous bravery and commitment when skillfully landing his aircraft while under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack thus allowing troops to disembark and reinforce other ground troops already under significant threat from Taliban forces," stated the news release.
Hasler's dream of becoming a helicopter pilot began in Grade 9 when he job-shadowed a Canadian Forces Sea King pilot, according to reports.
After being rejected by the Canadian Forces for undisclosed reasons, Hasler spent two years studying international relations at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.
He then joined the RAF in 2000, eventually serving in Iraq, and then Afghanistan.