Suffolk colonel: 'We are not warmongers'

THE colonel in charge of the multi-million pound Apache attack helicopter force says his troops want to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, and not be seen as war mongers.

John Howard

THE colonel in charge of the multi-million pound Apache attack helicopter force says his troops want to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, and not be seen as war mongers.

Col David Turner, commander of both the force and the station at Wattisham Airfield, near Needham Market, was speaking to more than 40 media as he showcased the aircraft's capability during a special event today.

He said that the helicopter's fearsome image makes it difficult to win people over, but the precision targeting onboard means that civilian casualties can be avoided.

He said: “We are not shooting at everything we can see, it's not like that, the rules of engagement are very tightly controlled. The last thing we want is to be war mongers, we want to build stability, hearts and minds, although that is extremely difficult with this machine.

“The attack helicopter delivers a presence, protecting our forces. The precision weapons system allows us to attack and engage the enemy and not the civilians around the enemy.

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“I do not know who long we will be in Afghanistan. For our young men and women operating this aircraft can look forward to going back, and back and back to Afghanistan. This place is on operations all the time and pilots operate in 50C, it's hot and dusty, and we depend on good training.”

Major “Baz Hunter”, a 47-year-old Apache pilot who lives locally, added: “I have been on two tours of duty in Afghanistan and am looking forward to getting back out there. It's a real buzz to fly, especially in combat.”

Air trooper Ryan Warren, 21, who works on the Apache' guns, said; “You face two extremes of heat out there, hot during the day and plummeting temperatures during the winter evenings.”

The colonel praised Suffolk people for their support, and accepted that with night flying locally the helicopters can cause disruption for local people.