Battalion prepares for its fourth Afghan tour

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SOLDIERS with a regimental base in Bury St Edmunds are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan for their battalion’s fourth – and likely final – time.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment will begin deploying to Nad-e-Ali, in central Helmand province, next month.

It will form a security assistance force to ‘enable and advise’ the Afghan national security forces, aimed at increasing the confidence of the Afghan people.

“Nad-e-Ali is held up as one of the shining examples of the successes in Helmand, as to Afghans taking the lead for security and governance and making a difference,” said commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Mick Aston, impressed with changes he has seen in the war-torn country over the last 10 years.

“It’s highly unlikely that the Vikings would go back to Afghanistan as a battalion again,” he added.

On Monday, the troops – recruited from Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex – completed their pre-deployment training on Salisbury Plain, where they took part in exercises that replicated the challenges they can expect to face in Afghanistan.

They have now been given two weeks’ leave, ahead of their six-month tour.

Lt Col Aston said: “They’re all raring to go – it’s a young battalion that are highly motivated.

“They’ve been well trained, well led and are well equipped. They understand what’s ahead of them – risks and dangers we have mitigated through our training.”

On its return, the battalion, which has had 15 soldiers killed in Afghanistan, is expected to march through six towns, excluding Bury, but including Ipswich and Haverhill.

“If we could, we would come to all of the big towns and even the small ones,” said Lt Col Aston.

“The tremendous support we receive from people in the home counties means a lot to me and the soldiers in the battalion. It underpins the success we have and is a huge boost to the morale of the battalion.”