A highly decorated British Army explosives expert made history when he presented his daughter with her Ammunition Technician badge after she graduated in the trade to follow in her father’s heroic footsteps.
Lt Col Eamon Heakin RLC QGM* (Queen’s Gallantry Medal), 52, of Wantage, Oxfordshire, became the first ever British Army officer to proudly present his only daughter, Private Blythe Heakin, 19, with her Ammunition Technician (Class 2) badge, marking her entry into the AT trade at a graduation ceremony held at Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Munitions and Search Training Regiment (DEMS Training Regiment), Kineton, Warwickshire.
Not only did the presentation make history, it also came as a complete surprise to Private Heakin, who knew her father was attending the ceremony to see her and her fellow 10 students graduate from the 28-week AT (Class 2) course, but not that he would be there as the Presenting Officer.
Describing the moment she realised that her father was going to be presenting her with her badge and certificate at the ceremony, Private Heakin said: “It was a major shock, I didn’t think it was going to happen at all; a couple of people have made jokes about it and I’d actually bet the course and now it’s going to cost me a bit that my dad would not be the presenting officer – but I was thrilled to find out that he was.”
“I’ve never heard of a father being the Presenting Officer before, so it was an honour to be welcomed into the trade by my dad.”
The young soldier, who has been in the Army for 13 months, opted to train in the same trade as her father, and signed-up straight after gaining A* A Levels in Medical Science and Health and Social Care subjects.
Following her graduation, Private Heakin will now move to Deepcut where she will learn to drive and will then go on to Shrivenham to complete her training before being posted to her new unit – and will be promoted to the substantive rank of Lance Corporal.
Passing the Ammunition Technician Class 2 Course is the first step in her Army career during which she hopes one day to eventually commission as an officer – following again in the steps of her father who is also a late entry officer, commissioning in 2006.
A proud Lt Col Heakin, who is the recipient of 2 Queen’s Gallantry Medals, awarded in 2004 and 2007 respectively for operational tours of Northern Ireland and Iraq, said: “Having spent the last 30 years in trade as an Ammunition Technician and later an Ammunition Technical Officer I could never have imagined being in the honoured position to be presenting an Ammunition Technician badge to the Ammunition Technician Course which included my only daughter Blythe.
“She was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, whilst I was a serving Warrant Officer Class 2 with 321 EOD Sqn and since then she has accompanied me on every tour, always there on deployment and then on post-operational tour leave, sharing many special leaving and returning moments in the family of Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Operations.
“Blythe has spent her childhood in the shadows of a well-respected trade watching the various challenges which the MOD has met, and now she has transitioned into that trade herself having spent the last 9 months at Shrivenham and then Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal Munitions and Search Training Regiment on what is one of the most challenging courses in Defence.
“I cannot believe that she is now part of a very special trade and extended family within Defence”.
Lt Col Heakin, the youngest of nine children, grew up in Salford, Manchester, where he lived for 21 years. He is a former pupil of St Bede’s College, though the family are now settled in Wantage, Oxfordshire.
The Ammunition Technician Class 2 Course covered a wide syllabus including explosive chemistry, electronics, ballistics, ammunition design, material science, explosive storage and movement, with safety as the number one priority. The course was split between sites at Shrivenham and Kineton, the largest ammunition depot in Europe.