About 100 soldiers made an emotional return to Suffolk last night after a three-month tour of Afghanistan.

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The soldiers from H Squadron, 1st Royal Tank Regiment, arrived at RAF Honington, near Thetford, to be met by their delighted families.

On arrival at the base, the soldiers formed up at their squadron offices where the squadron flag was raised to signify their return home, before marching to the mess led by the Pipes and Drums.

Based in Camp Bastion, the soldiers have been responsible for delivering the Reception, Staging and Onward Integration (RSOI) training that is mandatory for all soldiers entering Afghanistan.

It is the final stage of a six-month-long training package to ensure that the soldiers have the most up-to-date tactics, techniques, procedures and intelligence at their disposal.

The soldiers will return to Afghanistan in late summer for a further three months when they will deliver the ROSI training package to soldiers who have deployed on Op Herrick 17.

Squadron Officer Commanding Major Jonathan Davies said: “The training we do is vital as it is the final rehearsal before soldiers go out on the ground. We trained 9,000 men and women in a 70-day period and it has been hard work. But the dedication and professionalism of my men meant that the last lesson was as good as the first and I am very proud of what we have achieved.”

Among those returning was Lt Sean Sapsford. Originally from Suffolk, this was his first operational tour. He said: “It’s fantastic to be back. It was my first operational tour. I was really keen to get out on ops. The role I had was to take the first lesson of the package, so I got soldiers when they were tired and a bit daunted about what they were starting. I spoke to every soldier in theatre and set them on their way which was a very rewarding experience.”

His fiancée Georgina, a trainee teacher at London Metropolitan University who was there to meet him said: “I thought the time would go rather slowly while Sean was away. I started by counting the weeks down, then it got to days. It’s great to have Sean back this evening. I live away from Honington but the unit has been really supportive and said I just needed to ask if there was anything they could do for me.”

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