Ryan Tomlin Dead, RAF Airman Killed In Afghanistan Was A 'True Hero'
An RAF airman who died after being shot while on patrol in Afghanistan was a "true hero and shining star", his family said.
Senior Aircraftman Ryan Tomlin, 21, was killed by small arms fire during an insurgent attack in Helmand Province.
"He gave his life at a very young age doing the job he loved. Ryan will be sorely missed by his family and friends and everyone who loved him.
"We will remember his cheeky grin and great sense of humour. Ryan will be forever young and never forgotten. Our true hero and shining star."
Senior Aircraftman Tomlin leaves behind his mother and father, Diane and Kevin, and sister Michelle.
The airman, of 2 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment, was on his second tour in the war-torn region and had been working with the local population in the Western Dashte area, on the edge of Nad-e Ali district, when he was fatally wounded on Monday.
He was evacuated by air to the field hospital at Camp Bastion where "sadly he succumbed to his wounds" later that day, the Ministry of Defence said.
Described as a "highly professional and skilful" gunner, Senior Aircraftman Tomlin was said to have become "one of the rising stars of his squadron and regiment".
In his three years in the Royal Air Force Regiment, he achieved "all he set out to do" and showed "great potential for what promised to be the brightest of futures", the MoD said.
He was deployed on his latest tour to Afghanistan with No. 3 RAF Force Protection Wing at Camp Bastion in October.
During this time, he supported operations on the ground around Bastion, often being away for several days at a time through the harsh Helmand winter.
Wing Commander Jason Sutton, Commanding Officer, No. 3 RAF Force Protection Wing, said his death "deprived the Royal Air Force Regiment of one of its very best".
"Senior Aircraftman Tomlin was one of the finest men on my wing and his loss has come as a terrible blow to all of us, especially his comrades on his beloved 2 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment," he said.
"Bright, gifted and an absolute master of his craft, he had the complete trust of those who had the privilege of serving alongside him."
Flight Lieutenant David Martin, Deputy Squadron Commander of 2 Squadron, said Senior Aircraftman Tomlin epitomised the RAF spirit "in every way".
"I witnessed at first hand his quick thinking and calm professional manner during a meeting with village elders when he and his colleagues successfully fought off an insurgent attack," he recalled.
Hailing the airman as "one of the best gunners in 2 Squadron," he added: "He loved his job, he was a pleasure to command and I am honoured to have known him."
Section Commander Corporal Thomas Vardy described the airman as a "constant source of morale".
"It's hard to put into words how much you are going to miss someone," he said.
"Ryan wasn't just one of my team, he was my friend."
Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond said: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Senior Aircraftman Ryan Tomlin.
"The tributes of his colleagues in 2 Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment speak of a popular member of the unit and a confident, respected gunner.
"My thoughts at this time are with his family and loved ones."
The airman's death brings the total number of British forces personnel or MoD civilians to have died while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001 to 398.