Soldiers from three regiments with links to East Anglia joined forces on the army’s Salisbury Plain battle area today ahead of their forthcoming combined mission in Afghanistan.

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The vast Wiltshire training ground was used to showcase the members of 12 Mechanised Brigade who are due to travel to deploy in the coming weeks.

They included representatives from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment, which recruits from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, and will be sending about 600 troops to Helmand province by early April.

They will be joined by about 320 from the Light Dragoons, based in Swanton Morley near Dereham, and more than 200 from The 1st Royal Tank Regiment (1RTR), based at RAF Honington, near Thetford.

All three units used today’s event to display the techniques and technologies which will help safeguard them in their mission to aid the transition of the war-torn nation back to the control of the Afghan security forces.

But it was also a final chance to talk about their anticipation of reprising their regiments’ crucial roles in the evolving conflict.

Capt Tom Clark, the Royal Anglians’ regimental signals officer, said: “Today is all about showing the roles of the different regiments. For us, the main one will be ‘framework patrolling’.

“We are moving towards transition, where the Afghan police can take the lead in securing the ground. We will be supporting the teams that specifically advise the Afghan uniformed police and the local police.

“I am quite excited about it. It is an opportunity for us to wrap up our story in Afghanistan. We were one of the first battalions out there in 2002, then in 2007 we were basically war-fighting and in 2009/10 we were partnering the Afghans. Now it is coming full circle.”

Capt Clark said he had taken the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend last week before his deployment.

“I ambushed Kate the night before February 29, to stop her having the ability to do so herself,” he said. “It was just the right time. It is more about giving her something to look forward to in addition to my return, and something to plan and keep her busy while I’m away.”

Infantry soldiers from the Vikings displayed a mocked-up sniper nest, using a new “sharpshooter” rifle.

Cpl Ben Brewer, 29, of the Light Dragoons, said his regiment’s focus would be on intelligence and reconnaissance.

He said: “It is our job to find the enemy and be prepared to strike. We will find our own intelligence and if we find the enemy we are prepared to go in and act on it, whether that means going in on foot or on a helicopter if we find an IED factory or something like that.

“I have done two tours previously in Afghanistan, and it is definitely getting better. I was out there on Herrick 10 (in 2009) when we had a lot of casualties. With the kit we have got now and the support of the people at home things have improved a lot.”

Capt Ben Simmons, 27, from Cambridge, is with 1RTR, whose two squadrons will handle roles including infantry movements in Mastiff armoured vehicles, and Reception Staging and Onward Integration training, giving up-to-the-minute knowledge for all troops arriving at Camp Bastion.

He said: “We are trying to put across the message that we are no longer fighting a war – we are enabling the Afghans to help themselves so we can step back.

“I was there a year ago, and it has improved a huge amount. Second time around, I’m a lot more calm about it, now I know what is expected and what I will be doing.”

During the event, defence secretary Philip Hammond also met troops from the 3rd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment – the same regiment as five of the six men who died in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan earlier this week.

7 comments

  • Unfortunately the "job" is to make afghan safe. I personally feel it is a long way off, and unobtainable by 2014, but if our troops pull out early, would thoses 404 soldiers have died in vain?

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    xarmywifex

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

  • xarmywifex, possibly...Most of the latest deaths of our boys, put their age of around 9 or 10 when the jets flew into the twin towers. This fact alone, proves that making Afghanistan a safer place, completely mission impossible.

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    nrg

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

  • Good luck to everyone going out there, and to those already out there including my husband. Regardless of whether you view this as a pointless war or not, the guys and girls are out there with a job to do, so let's all hope and pray they stay safe, and come home safely. x

    Report this comment

    xarmywifex

    Friday, March 9, 2012

  • Casualties at the end of war without aims and objectives always go up, so with us staying in Afghanistan until 2014, according to Vince Cable, many more young lives will be lost, uselessly! Alexander Burnes failed in 1848 and so will everyone else. Nobody can save the Afghans from themselves. Further, west Afghanistan will be used as a launch pad into Iran, without asking the Afghans, result being that they won't like it and fight some more. Karzai will leave with the Americans and then the warlords will fight it out between them, until then, NATO will protect another massive opium harvest for defense minister General Dostum and Walid Karzai, the presidents brother.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, March 9, 2012

  • A pointless war financed by a bankrupt country.History teaches us that Afghanistan will always be a basket case,but this simple fact is wasted on politicians who seem to have the attention span of a goldfish. I am angered by the loss of life of so many brave soldiers because at the end of the day nothing will be achieved and in the long run all this effort will be wasted.

    Report this comment

    Harry Rabinowitz

    Friday, March 9, 2012

  • Can only agree with what's been said and I am fairly sure the bulk of ordinary people can see this, that is with the exception of politicians and warmongers like Dannatt who are still trying to convince people otherwise. Shame on them all.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Friday, March 9, 2012

  • xarmywifex, I agree, all the best to our brave forces out in the baked mudflats of Helmand. However, the 'job' they have to do is no very clear, even after of 11 years of fighting....Bin Laden is dead, mission over in my eyes.

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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