Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Saturday, 3 October 2009 17:14 UK

Gunner killed near UK base named

Senior Aircraftsman Marcin Wojtak
Senior Aircraftsman Wojtak was killed on patrol close to Camp Bastion

An RAF serviceman killed while patrolling close to the UK's main base in southern Afghanistan has been named as Senior Aircraftsman Marcin Wojtak.

The 24-year-old gunner, from 34 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, died on Thursday in an explosion near Camp Bastion, in Helmand Province.

Leicester-born SAC Wojtak was known to colleagues as "Big Ted", the MoD said.

The death brings the total of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 219.

His family paid tribute to him as a "gentle giant who was admired for his caring nature and endless kindness" and "placed his happiness in the happiness of others".

"His love of the military led him to a career in the Royal Air Force where he remained loyal and courageous to the end.

"We are so proud of him. Marcin is a beloved son, grandson, brother, uncle and boyfriend."

Promotion due

SAC Wojtak was taking part in a regular patrol to prevent insurgents launching an attack on Camp Bastion.

The Ministry of Defence said he was killed by an explosion while commanding his vehicle in the desert, south of Camp Bastion.

Most recent UK fatalities

Total deaths 2011: 32

Updated: Dec 18 2011

He joined the Royal Air Force in 2005 as a gunner in the Royal Air Force Regiment and went on to tour in the Falkland Islands and Kandahar.

In May 2008, he was posted to 34 Sqn Royal Air Force Regiment where he served on B Flight as a Rifleman.

He deployed to Kabul in August 2008 for six weeks to perform Force Protection duties.

The role of his regiment, based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, is to protect the security of the airfield at the base to ensure that British aircraft can safely take off and land there.

The Ministry of Defence described him as a highly skilled, diligent soldier who had a caring side as one of his squadron's trauma risk managers.

He had been appointed to Acting Corporal rank and was due to return home for training to make that appointment formal.

His commander, Squadron Leader "George" Formby, said: "The loss of SAC Wojtac at such an early stage in our tour has come as a severe blow.

"He was one of those steady, competent, reliable men that form the backbone of any unit."

The UK currently has about 9,000 military personnel in Afghanistan - the second largest deployment of any nation.

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