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Forklift Engineer Brings Basrah to Britain

Ability Handling Ltd was extremely touched recently by a journey into the personal life of our Forklift Truck Engineer Mr Graham Ping. His inspirational daughter Michelle Ping works as a paramedic within the Yorkshire Ambulance Service in her day job..

In addition to this though Michelle Ping is an AEM with CHF and recently she was mobilised to Basrah to undertake quite a different role! With just over a year gone by since she returned to work for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Michelle tells us about the chilling truths and brings tales of Basrah to Britain.

It all began for Michelle when a calling notice was placed offering an opportunity to work on a newspaper in Basrah. This offered sand, sun and an exciting experience which needed someone in a month’s time to take the position. Michelle who had not been deployed in quite some time decided that this was her calling.

The details as always were sketchy but with full backing and permission from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service she headed off to HMS Nelson to join back up full time as a “Navy Bod”. Michelle reported for her OPTAG and then was thrown into a week of learning; she had to learn items such as how to look for mines, immediate action drills and even how to shower!

Although this was a tough learning curve Michelle enjoyed every single minute and she says this was due to the fantastic staff at the OPTAG Cell based in Nelson. If it was not for them she wouldn’t have been prepared for what lay ahead in Basrah. Following the completion of all this learning Michelle was granted a few days leave before making the journey to RAF Brize Norton to get her flight to Basrah.

After having to travel for just over two days she arrived in Basrah feeling tired, a bit fed up and already missing home but after being settled in Michelle soon started to get on with the task in hand. She was working as part of the Psychological Operations known as Psyops in a print shed and her job was to mass produce leaflets, newspapers, posters and handouts in order to give to any guys on the ground in helping to improve relationships between them and the Iraqis. It was about creating positive imagery, a sense of safety and building up strong links and trust.

Whilst there though Michelle was awoken one morning to the sound of an alarm which indicated an Indirect Fire Attack or IDF she had to hit the deck and hide under the bed on top of her weapon. It was at this point she wondered what on earth she had got herself into but after this life in Basrah settled.

Time was spent dealing with incidents such as these and Michelle was driving two Australians to their camp when alarms were signalled indicating she had to find cover. When she did she waited for the situation to calm and when the noise of ambulances and fire engines arrived she could only hope no one had been injured or hurt but this was never the case unfortunately.

But Michelle remembers her time as a happy one,

“I had a bloody good deployment and dare I say it, was sad to leave.”

Whilst there she visited Baghdad where she went to the American Psyops department and this couldn’t be more different to her Psyops department in Basrah. Her little Psyops department consisted of just her and a print shed but here they had all the latest technology and gadgets and Michelle was in awe. What her little Psyops department spent in a whole year they spent in a week.

Perhaps one of the more significant events was when Michelle visited Saddam’s Palace, a concrete jungle still very much intact and an amazing sight to see. Although she took albums and albums of photos they never will be as good as the real thing and she recalls feeling slightly emotional about where exactly she was at that current time.

She sums up her experience as extremely hard at times which you can imagine but this for her will be an experience she will hold with her for the rest of her life! This experience has made her the person that she is today and Ability Handling Ltd honour the services that she carried out as well as honouring the services that people like Michelle are carrying out every single day of our lives. It was great for us to be able to get an inside story from someone so close – our forklift truck engineer’s daughter. Michelle’s story shows her doing her bit but it goes beyond that, she creates a positive impression about the work that is going on as well as promoting the Air Branch which for her was key.

Now back in Britain Michelle has returned to work with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and has even appeared on a television documentary covering the work of the emergency services. Another lasting memory in her life was the day when she invited her managers to accompany her to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham palace. This was held to honour reserve servicemen and women and rightly so!

Ability Handling are extremely proud that through our forklift engineer, Michelle’s story has brought Basrah to Britain and given us an insight into what it is really like for servicemen and women who on a daily basis are putting their lives on the line. For more information on careers in the Royal Navy or the Royal Naval Reserve go to www.­royalnavy.­mod.­uk

We would like to wish Michelle all the best and we hope that we will continue to have her proud father, Graham Ping, as part of our forklift maintenance team for many years to come.