PICTURE GALLERY: Troops with the Light Dragoons train near Thetford

Norfolk-based soldiers have been training near Thetford ahead of possible return to Afghanistan later in the year.

Troops with the Light Dragoons have been preparing for deployment with an intensive series of exercises designed to hone the vital skills they will need to survive on the ground.

The Dragoons' B Squadron has been training for a potential tour of duty since September and spent the week at the army's vast Stanford Training Area (Stanta) before heading to Wales for live fire training.

On Thursday, the focus was on contact drills - interacting with the enemy in different scenarios, including under fire - and clearing replica compounds on the training ground.

Major Tim Dalby-Welsh said: 'The more you do something, the more it becomes instinctive. It's not glamorous, it's so their gut instinct is to do something rather than to freeze.

'By this point in training, everyone has been preparing themselves mentally to be going out there as well. We are always working to improve, but by now we have done a lot of the training and they just want to get there and do it.

'They know that the support back in Swanton Morley is fantastic.'

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Among the soldiers is 20-year-old trooper James Avis, from Thorpe St Andrew near Norwich, who joined up almost immediately on leaving school.

'I definitely feel ready to go out to Afghanistan, that's what I joined up to do,' he said.

Trooper Marcus Sykes transferred to the regiment from the Queen's Household Cavalry after suffering an injury and is originally from Southery, near Downham Market.

The 25-year-old married his wife, Gemma, only six months ago and they have just bought a home together.

'She is not too worried if I have to go away,' he said. 'Gemma understood what it meant when I joined up.'

Trooper Luke Hubbard, 22, from Heartease near Norwich, is also preparing to for his first deployment to Afghanistan. He joined the army a year after leaving Heartease High School and said he had always wanted to go out there.

'I'll miss my family and friends the most,' he added.

Some of the soldiers, like Diss trooper David Roderick-Jones, have previous experience of the Afghan battlegrounds that could be awaiting them.

The 25-year-old, who attended Old Buckenham High School, completed a three-month tour with the regiment in 2009.

'I feel a lot more prepared this time and I'm looking forward to it,' he said. 'It was an experience when I went out before. I'd only been with the regiment for a couple of months and was replacing someone who had been injured.

'Last time I drove CVRT, a small tank, but next time it will be more foot-based.'

B Squadron is currently working as the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) and will be the army's 'eye and ears' in Afghanistan.

The Light Dragoons were deployed to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban in 2006, 2007 and 2009, assisting with the creation and training of the Afghan army.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Dereham, cheering and waving flags, to welcome the regiment home three years ago.

The 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment, is expecting a ministerial announcement soon about a potential deployment which could throw them back into the ongoing conflict within months.

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