PARAMEDIC Michelle Ping has been awarded the top military honour of being Mentioned in Despatches - for saving the life of a wounded soldier while under fire from the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But the person she’s most proud for is her grandad Reg, from Southey Green - an 87-year-old former Naval man she likes to call ‘the Admiral’.
“Grandad Reg is so pleased and proud of me,” said Michelle, 38, from Dungworth in Sheffield. “When I told him he was absolutely over the moon.”
A Mention in Despatches is the oldest form of recognition of gallantry within the UK armed forces.
Michelle’s day job is with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, as a member of the Hazardous Area Response Team dealing with big crashes, fires and disasters country-wide.
But her role as a Royal Navy reservist saw her posted for her first tour of Afghanistan last summer, working as a paramedic attached to various foot patrols. She has previously served in Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia.
“Afghanistan was life-changing,” she told The Star. “It was hard work, pretty scary, probably the best time and the worst time of my life.”
Michelle was on a routine operation in Helmand when her patrol came under rapid fire.
“We landed in helicopters at dawn,” she said. “It was like something out of the computer game Call of Duty.
“As soon as we landed we came under contact. A good six hours into the patrol we stopped at a compound to re-supply with ammunition. Some of the guys were on the roof providing covering fire but we pretty much got smashed for a couple of hours. They were chucking everything at us.
“Unfortunately one of my boys received a single gunshot wound to the left side of his head. We had a man down. Instinctively I got my kit and just ran up on the roof to look after him.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to let you die’. I shook him and he came round. That was my job. I didn’t think about what I was doing, or the danger - the most important thing was looking after him, making sure he survived and we got him to safety.”
Colleagues initially believed the injured soldier Craig Paterson, 22, was dead - and former Earl Marshal pupil Michelle admitted she wasn’t sure he would live.
“The fact that he survived has been fantastic, because I didn’t think he would,” she said.
He did not know what was happening and wanted to sit up and, Michelle said: “I had to lie on top of him to stop him. Some of the boys came up and gave me a hand, and we pushed him off the rooftop into the arms of two other boys below, then we had to run with him for half a mile to a secure helicopter site so he could be evacuated.”
Craig was flown to Kandahar and then back to the UK for treatment where he is continuing to recover.
Michelle added her gender did not matter while she was out in Afghanistan.
“We want to be treated like one of the lads,” she said. “We don’t want to be protected or looked after. When you are living in that environment, there’s no man or woman thing - you are just one of the boys.”