A former soldier is preparing to head to Afghanistan in the new year for a 12-month stint with the RAF reserves.
John Best, 45, from Lerwick, will be trying to help improve conditions in the war-torn country throughout 2010 with the Lossiemouth-based 2622 (Highland) Squadron.
Mr Best, who left the army in 2007 after 24 years’ service, has recently been carrying out regular training with the reserve regiment – the air force’s equivalent of the Territorial Army. No sooner had he volunteered to carry out his duties in Afghanistan than he was told he would have to go anyway.
However he said he was looking forward to the challenge of working there. “I said I would go, and then I got a compulsory call,” he said. “I’m alright about it because of the training I had in the army.”
He will leave Shetland on 4th January before carrying out an intense training programme to prepare him for the task ahead.
Since leaving the army Mr Best has worked for Royal Mail and NHS Shetland. However it is his work as a lifeboat volunteer that will be sorely missed while he is away.
Lerwick Lifeboat operations manager Malcolm Craigie paid tribute to Mr Best’s efforts since he joined the RNLI in February last year.
He highlighted one occasion when the lifeboat man had shown dedication beyond the call of duty.
“One rainy night he turned up first, but with no shoes on! Of the 15 search and rescues we have been to this year, John has turned up on most occasions and has been aboard for eight of them,” said Mr Craigie.
“Only eight months after joining the crew in October of 2008 he faced hurricane force 12 conditions when on board the lifeboat with his crewmates during the rescue of the fishing vessel Shermara II nearly 40 miles from station.”
He added a fund-raising day had seen Mr Best enjoy the reactions of youngsters who knocked him in the dunk pool.
“As the kids kept coming back he stayed. He spent the whole day there, even missing his lunch break. He’ll be a great loss and we all look forward to his safe return home, and hopefully back with the Lerwick Lifeboat.”