Soldiers prepare for Afghanisation trip

SOLDIERS destined for Afghanistan carried out some final tuning of their firing skills yesterday.About 20 gunners from 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery fly out to Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, next month and although their core skill is firing large artillery guns, they still need to maintain their skills with smaller weapons.

By Sharon Asplin

SOLDIERS destined for Afghanistan carried out some final tuning of their firing skills yesterday.

About 20 gunners from 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery fly out to Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, next month and although their core skill is firing large artillery guns, they still need to maintain their skills with smaller weapons.

The gunners, based at Kirkee/McMunn Barracks, were at Fingringhoe Ranges all day putting in some final practice with pistols, light machine guns and the standard SA80 rifle.


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They went through a range of basic marksman drills using sitting, standing and kneeling positions as well as donning basic camouflage uniforms - known as combat 95 - to full combat dress with helmet, body armour and webbing.

Captain Matt Armstrong, the battery training officer, said: “This is the sort of training that is conducted two or three times a year; it's not particularly mission specific, it's just to get their hands on weapons.

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“Though our primary role is artillery - to provide support fire and co-ordination for infantry and helicopters on operations - our secondary role is as infantry so it's always important to maintain basic military skills.”

About 190 troops from 7th Parachute Regiment will be going to Afghanistan. They will perform a range of roles in addition to their conventional artillery role, including taking the lead in training members of the Afghan National Army.

Lieutenant Colonel David Hammond, the regiment's commanding officer, added: “The regiment will be conducting a broad spectrum of roles in addition to our traditional role as artillery.

“We will be running the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Army from basic training through to accompanying them on operations of their own. This is a vital role in the part that British troops are playing in Afghanistan.

“My soldiers have prepared and trained for this deployment for the past few months and are confident and ready. We will be supporting the UK Task Force in providing a stable environment to help rebuild the country.”

Defence Secretary, John Reid, announced in January a UK Task Force of 3,300 British troops would be deploying to Helmand Province as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force.

The bulk of those troops are from Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade, including about 1,600 troops directly based in the town.

The troops' job will be to help Afghanistan develop its infrastructure and the capability to govern itself to bring about long-term stability.

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