Regiment heads back to Helmand

A PARACHUTE regiment based in Essex has deployed to Afghanistan for the start of a six-month tour.

More than 100 soldiers from C Company, The Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (2 Para) began their journey to Helmand Province last night.

A total of 550 soldiers from the regiment, which is based at the Merville Barracks in Colchester, will have deployed to the region by the end of next week.

This will be the second tour of the country for 2 Para who were first deployed in 2008 when they suffered heavy losses – 13 men from the 2 Para battle group did not return home.

This time around they will be based in Nahr-e Saraj which is colder and wetter than their previous location. They will be providing direct military support to the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

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Pte Ian Spink, 23, who was with the regiment on the 2008 tour and is a speaker of the Pashtu language, said he was ready to return.

“All the training we do goes on and on and there comes a point when you just want to get out their and do your job,” he said.

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“The pressure you feel is 10 times worse when you are waiting to go. Once you’re out there it’s actually easier to cope with than the build up.

“This tour is going to be very different. The army has brought in courageous restraint which is a new scheme to reduce collateral damage and help us to build up rapport with the locals.”

Cpl Lee Fox, 25, who lives in Colchester with his wife Rachel and three children, is on his fifth tour.

“I’ve been to Northern Ireland and Iraq, but this is my first time to Afghanistan so I’m expecting it to be completely different experience,” he said.

“It doesn’t get any easier for the family you leave behind and this will be my first Christmas away from them so that will make it hard.

“It is difficult for my wife, but she has the kids to keep her busy and she’s very proud of what I do and supports me.”

Pte Luke Robinson, 21, who has a 15-week-old son and fianc�e, Elizabeth, in North Wales, is on his second tour of Afghanistan.

“It is difficult to be away from your family, but when you are out there you just have to block out the people at home and not think about them too much. You’ve got to get on and do your job.”

The deployment of 2 Para will replace 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles who are now coming to the end of their six-month tour. They will form a major part of the 2 Para Battle group which is part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.

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