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New Viking armoured vehicles. Photo Sean Clee
New Viking armoured vehicles

Commandos ready to face the Taliban

Devon based commandos have begun a phased deployment to Afghanistan where they are replacing other British troops. The troops from 3 Commando Brigade are part of a 2000-strong deployment of reinforcements being sent to Helmand Province.

Commandos from Devon are heading to Afghanistan on a highly dangerous six-month deployment in the heart of Taliban country.

Plymouth-based 3 Commando Brigade are taking over from 16 Air Assault Brigade who are ending a tour of duty supporting Nato operations.

The full deployment of around 1,000 commandos should be completed during October 2006.

The troops had spent the summer honing their skills in preparation for their autumn deployment to Afghanistan.

The commandos have been honing their skills.
The commandos have been honing their skills

Men from 3 Commando Brigade, which has its HQ at Stonehouse barracks in Plymouth, will be based in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

The deployment includes Bickleigh-based 42 Commando, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery from Plymouth's Royal Citadel, and 59 Commando Squadron based at Chivenor. 

It's the biggest deployment of Devon troops since the start of the second Iraq war in 2003.

The commandos will be at the front line of a conflict which has seen several British personnel killed in firefights with Taliban forces and tribal militia.

Senior Royal Marine officers based in Plymouth have sought to allay the fears of families about the dangers of the commandos' deployment to Afghanistan.

Brigadier Jerry Thomas, commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, who takes up the post of Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in mid-September, said he would be proud to lead the men into Afghanistan: "The boys are hugely looking forward to this deployment.

The troops will have improved mobility
The troops will have improved mobility

"I have seen a significant change in attitude in what they have done in practice exercises since the beginning of this year. There has been a realisation of what lies ahead and they're up for the challenge."

"At 3 Commando Brigade we have had a quiet period recently which has allowed us to hone our skills and this deployment will allow us to go out there and do the business."

The deployment follows months of rigorous training, including testing the new Viking tracked armoured assault vehicle and a long-awaited new communications system.

The armoured off-road carriers will be used for the first time in Afghanistan. It's hoped that the vehicles, which have been designed by marines for marines, will greatly improve the troops' mobility on the rugged terrain of Helmand Province.

More photos of the commando training:
Commandos training photos >

During the exercises the commandos conducted anti-ambush and patrol drills and sharpening their field skills.

Salisbury Plain's Westdown Camp was  transformed into a mock-up of Camp Bastion in Helmand so that troops could practice security operations in realistic conditions.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram

The Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram was on Salisbury Plain  to see the Royal Marines in action. He refuted claims that Western troops are poorly equipped, and said they could deal with any resistance they may encounter.

He said: "The British armed forces are trained for this environment and the risk that will be prevalent in Afghanistan.

"I hope they will bring about peace and stability to the region, and I want to say thank you to the servicemen's families who stand by them so well.

"They can take huge pride in what their loved ones are doing. They are making a big difference to a very troubled part of the world."

The Afghanistan mission is the second deployment this year for some Royal Marines from 42 Commando. They spent up to 10 weeks in the province between February and April.

Around 150 Royal Marines from 42 Commando became the first UK troops to enter Helmand Province and were given the task of protecting the engineers building Camp Bastion.

In total almost 2,000 troops will be involved in the latest six-month deployment.

However if circumstances allow, a rolling programme of leave will allow troops to return home for short periods to see their families.

last updated: 15/09/06
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