First-time Vikings soldiers bridge the age gap
Soldiers from different ends of the age spectrum are undertaking their first operational tours in Afghanistan with the Royal Anglian Regiment.
38-year-old Pte Rog Wills, from Colne in Cambridgeshire joined the regiment’s 3rd Battalion, which is a reserve unit from the Territorial Army (TA).
Pte Wills left his job manufacturing flooring components in nearby St Ives to undertake a six-month tour in Cyprus last year, after which he deployed as a regular soldier with the 1st Battalion, known as the Vikings.
“A lot of people my age are getting older, getting relaxed and getting fat,” he said. “I didn’t achieve a lot when I was younger, and I met a guy who was a PTI in the army who said I would have made a brilliant soldier. So I joined the TA and the Royal Anglians and it was the best thing I have ever done.
Pte Wills said when he returns from Helmand in the autumn he is going to spend some “quality time” with his wife Rachel, and five-year-old twins Lilly and Royston.
“I’m going to take them to Disneyland and do all the things I have not done for 18 months,” he said. “Rachel is having it harder than I am at the moment, but she is glad to see me achieving something. She was not keen on me coming out here, but I wear the pants, so that’s that!”
Pte Wills is one of the first recipients of the Suffolk Medal, an award which recognises B Company’s county links and rewards good soldiering.
He said: “It is just for doing the right things, really. I feel like I was meant to be here, and I have done it with the best regiment. I wouldn’t want to have done it with anyone else.
“The Vikings have done four tours out here and it is just good to be a part of it. I am proud and honoured to be out here with them.”
In contrast to the soldier known affectionately as “Big Daddy”, his comrade Pte Eathan Nee is the youngest soldier in the company at the age of 18. When he spoke to the EDP, the soldier from Wisbech, had only been in Afghanistan for two weeks.
“I have always wanted to come here,” he said. “It has gone very quickly. When we’re not on patrol or on stag (guard duty) we play football or chill out playing board games or watching DVDs. They know I’m the youngest and they look out for me. Rog is really sound. I’m quite pleased someone is there to help me out.”
Pte Wills said: “He doesn’t need helping out really. He has hit the floor running.”
Pte Nee’s parents are Samantha and Ned, and he has an older brother Ayden, 22, and sister Ashton, 20.
Another member of 6 Platoon is the more experienced L/Cpl Ashley Fiddes, 24, from Ipswich, who has noticed changes during his second tour of Afghanistan.
He said: “Two years ago we were fighting straight out of the gate, so you can see how different it is now.
“I have noticed that the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) have been taking more of a lead this time. I find that working with the ANSF they are very keen to learn and very keen to work with us. That is a very good sign.
“Life here is really good. It is a lot different to the last tour. Welfare facilities are good, we have TV and internet access, and the cooking is really good as well. Last tour we were on rations every day. This time it is fresh food every day.”
L/Cpl Fiddes said his first job on return to the UK would be to “cook a nice meal” for his girlfriend, Lucy.