Smart Award 2020 winner, SAC Sam Mercer

Tuesday 4th May 2021

A community-minded military chef from the Catering Flight at Royal Air Force Wittering in Cambridgeshire is the recipient of the Smart Award 2020.

Senior Aircraftman Sam Mercer’s (29) usual place of work is the Aviator Mess, where many of the Station’s military and civilian personnel eat every day. At the moment, however, Sam is many thousands of miles away, working as the sole chef at the Byron Heights Radar Station in the Falklands.

Smart Award 2020 shortlist

This award is named in memory of Senior Aircraftman James Smart, who sadly lost his life during Operation ELLAMY in 2011. The award is presented only to those holding a junior rank who have performed exceptionally in the preceding calendar year. The winner is drawn from a shortlist of twelve personnel who have received the Station Commander’s Monthly Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Smart Award Winner 2020

In addition to his professionalism and reliability as a station chef, Senior Aircraftman Mercer invested much of his own time helping his colleagues to develop their own skill sets. He organised a special military-themed dining function at Peterborough Regional College, helping the students to design the menu, budget their accounts and schedule tasks for the event.

Sam’s support to charity is no less impressive. He is a dedicated volunteer for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, assisting service families in their time of need and helping to raise over £2500. Sam also assisted Wittering Primary School with the set up and dismantling of the pantomime and helped the Station cater for nearly 200 people at a charity boxing event.

Sam, who joined the RAF in 2009 is a fully trained military chef. Chefs in the RAF have a varied role; preparing food at five-star themed banquets one day and cooking in the field the next. In the case of Senior Aircraftman Mercer, it means working as the only chef at a remote radar station on a mountain in the Falkland Islands.

SAC Sam Mercer, Smart Award 2020 winner

Speaking of his award, Sam said:

“I wasn’t thinking about getting an award when I was doing these things, you’re just doing what you can do to help – like anyone who gets involved with charity work. It’s really important that we do stuff in the community, we have to be good neighbours, help develop young people and get involved in a positive way.”

Royal Air Force Wittering is home to the A4 Force Elements; the specialist engineering and logistics squadrons that deploy around the UK and across the globe to support air operations and exercises.

Group Captain Jo Lincoln is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering and Commanding Officer of the A4 Force Elements. She said:

“Our junior personnel are such an important part of our team. They are the personnel with the tools in their hands and the skills that enable the RAF to support and deliver Air and Space power. It is therefore absolutely right that we recognise excellence both inside and outside the workplace.”

The Group Captain concluded:

“I can only really echo Sam’s words. It is so important that we as a Station make a positive impression on our surrounding communities. Congratulations Senior Aircraftman Mercer, you are thoroughly deserving of this award and you are a leading example to your colleagues and those around you.”

About the Smart Award

The Smart Award is a commemorative award named after SAC James Smart from RAF Wittering, who lost his life during Operation ELLAMY in 2011. The winner is drawn from a shortlist of twelve personnel who have received the Station Commander’s Monthly Award for Outstanding Achievement.

About Senior Aircraftman (SAC) James Smart

Senior Aircraftman (SAC) James Smart, a member of No 2 (Mechanical Transport) Squadron within No 85 (Expeditionary Logistics) Wing, deployed from RAF Wittering, by road, to southern Italy on 17 July 2011. He was part of a 10-vehicle convoy delivering vital equipment to UK Forces at Gioia del Colle in support of Operation ELLAMY. On the afternoon of 20 July 2011, SAC Smart was involved in a fatal road-traffic incident near Vasto, in southern Italy.

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