The last tranche of soldiers from 1 Royal Tank Regiment returned home to an emotional welcome from family and friends this evening (Wednesday).

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Some 100 soldiers from D Squadron arrived at RAF Honington to tears and relief from wives, girlfriends, parents and children.

It followed three months in Afghanistan where they provided Reception, Staging and Onward Integration (RSOI) training to 4 Mechanized Brigade who began a six month deployment in October.

They were met with eager faces from their waiting loved ones as they entered the Corporals’ Mess to the sound of a piper.

Sergeant Michael O’Connor arrived home to his wife Natasha and son Alfie.

She said: “It’s really hard to describe how you feel - I’m excited and it’s a relief to see them.

“When they’re away it starts off as quite difficult but then you get into a routine and get your head down and then for the last bit you’re tired and you can’t wait - I’ve been counting down the hours.”

Her husband added: “It’s quite overwhelming to see everyone here to be honest.

“Sometimes you just want to go straight home but it’s nice for the kids. I miss him and my wife so much.”

Lance Corporal Declan Costello was greeted by his relieved partner Zoe Charnock.

He said: “I’ve done a tour before which was six months so it was quite an easy brief but being away from Zoe and my family is hard - the rest of it is the job.”

Jeanette Green had her hands full with four young children, aged eight, seven, four and 13-months, while her husband Sgt Aaron Green was away.

“They went away in February and then came back and went again so it was quite hard,” she said “It felt like he’d only just gone away - it’s been a hard year.”

Sgt Green added: “You get used to it while you’re out there but it’s good to be home.”

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

It also provides a time for initial acclimatisation to allow the body to adapt to the harsh climate of Afghanistan, reducing the impact of heat on the body’s performance.

This was the second three month tour for the troops which has seen them train more than 10,000 soldiers and civilians.

Squadron Leader Major J.J. Collins, whose partner Carla Hill was waiting for him, said the deployment had been a success.

“It’s quite a routine job but we were training about 9,000 people and know how vital it is.

“The guys really got stuck in and worked hard and kept their standards really high and they had a lot of plaudits from HQ.”

The squadron also deployed in February for a three-month tour at the beginning of Operation Herrick 16 to deliver ROSI training to soldiers from 12 Mechanized Brigade.

The regiment will now conduct a series of homecoming parades to mark its return from Afghanistan. These will take place in Glasgow on Saturday, Bury St Edmunds on November 28 and Liverpool on December 1.

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