Gallery: Army salutes band of unsung heroes at Wattisham

THEY are one of the unsung forces behind the British Army.

While their colleagues battle the enemy on the front line, they face the challenge of keeping the military moving.

Yesterday Suffolk-based engineers were saluted for maintaining and repairing the army’s helicopters and vehicles out in Afghanistan.

Soldiers from 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) – who are based at Wattisham Airfield near Ipswich – were presented with their operational service medals.

Among them were 8 Field (Para) Company from Colchester Garrison, Essex, who are responsible for the upkeep of the army’s vehicles, while their counterparts at Wattisham are more involved with aircraft maintenance.

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The battalion, which has recently returned from a six-month tour of Afghanistan, was responsible for the repair and recovery of all vehicles and equipment. It worked round-the-clock – in state-of-the-art facilities at Camp Bastion and out on the ground – to keep everything running smoothly.

Lieutenant Colonel David Potts, commanding officer of 7 Air Assault Battalion REME, said: “Today’s medal parade has been about recognising both the commitment of soldiers who have recently returned from Op Herrick 13 and the enduring commitment this battalion has to support aviation assets in Afghanistan.

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“Over the last year my soldiers have done all that has been asked of them to keep the army’s helicopters, vehicles and equipment running in theatre in very difficult and demanding conditions.

“It is a common misunderstanding that REME units work solely in the relative comfort and safety of Camp Bastion, but at all times half of the battalion was out across Helmand and facing the same dangers as the infantry. Our people have shown themselves to be both excellent at their trades and as soldiers. I’m immensely proud of their achievements, as they should be too, and I hope they all enjoy their well-deserved leave.”

There were 350 soldiers on parade at Wattisham, 270 of whom served on Operation Herrick 13.

The army says, as technologies advance and equipment becomes more complex the soldiers of 7 Air Assault Battalion REME have to be up to the challenges of training and keeping up-to-date with modern engineering.

Their work involves maintaining a wide range of equipment from Apache helicopters to multiple-launch rocket systems.

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