Dragoons set for Afghanistan

MARK NICHOLLS More than 180 Norfolk-based soldiers are preparing to head to Afghanistan in the latest deployment of troops announced by the British government.

MARK NICHOLLS

By Mark Nicholls

More than 180 Norfolk-based soldiers are preparing to head to Afghanistan in the latest deployment of troops announced by the British government.

The soldiers from the Light Dragoons will head to the troubled Helmand province in April in a move that will also see hundreds of troops from the 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment join the fight against the Taliban.

It will also coincide with the return home of just over 100 personnel from the Light Dragoons' 'C' Squadron, who have been in Afghanistan since October.

The latest deployment was announced by Defence Secretary Des Browne in a written statement to MPs last week that confirmed that 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines will reach the end of their operational tour in April, to be replaced by units drawn from 12 Mechanised Brigade, of which The Light Dragoons and Royal Anglians are a part.

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The 180 soldiers from The Light Dragoons, based at Robertson Barracks, Swanton Morley will deploy to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province next month where their tasks will include disrupting the Taliban and provide reassurance and support to the government of Afghanistan and the local population.

As a Formation Reconnaissance Regiment, the Light Dragoons are the 'eyes and ears' of the army.

Equipped with Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles, they will conduct mobile patrols in the south of Helmand Province to ensure that the Afghan government and its own security forces are able to expand their influence in the region.

The Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles are fast, highly manoeuvrable and armed with a 30mm cannon, they can be deployed in a variety of roles to support the rest of the Brigade.

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Angus Watson, said they were looking forward to the challenge.

“We are more than ready. We have very nearly completed our training and the soldiers now just want to get out there and get on with the job. The tour will be very challenging and of course we will miss our families but we have a job to do and we will go out there and do it to the very best of our ability,” he said.

“Our main task will be to help to bring security to Helmand Province and to support the UK Task Force as it continues to provide a stable environment to help rebuild the country. This is likely to not only involve some fighting against the Taliban but also to facilitate reconstruction and development.”

The last four months has seen The Light Dragoons undertake an intensive training package in readiness for its deployment. Training has included the honing of individual and team skills, a range package and exercises representing likely scenarios that will be experienced in Afghanistan.

The Regiment's 'C' Squadron, which returns in April, has been involved in a number of high profile operations in the south of country in support of NATO operations.