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David Beckham visits British soldiers in Afghanistan
24 May 2010
Last updated at 11:25
England footballer David Beckham has made a morale-boosting trip to visit troops based at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.
England and LA Galaxy footballer David Beckham has made a surprise visit to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. While there he tried out some of the equipment used against the Taliban by British troops including a heavy machine gun.
Beckham also tested other guns after surprising troops returning from a two-month front line tour of duty. The former England captain met six members of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment as they arrived back in Camp Bastion.
Beckham also met 'dogs of war' at the Theatre Military Working Dogs HQ and was "attacked" by a German shepherd called Brit. The base's 51 dogs, including spaniels, Labradors and Belgian shepherds search for explosives and act as guard dogs.
While at Camp Bastion, the 35-year-old was also shown a plaque listing the British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan while a Union flag flew at half mast. The UK death toll since operations began in 2001 stands at 286 (24 May).
Beckham also took time out to have his photograph taken with British troops. Reflecting on his trip, the 35-year-old said it had been "one of my best experiences of my whole life, to actually be here, to see first hand what you all go through".
The footballer also spoke of his respect for the comradeship among the troops. "I have huge admiration for everything that you do, everything that you believe in, and everything that you are doing for our country; it's a real honour for me to be here."
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star took time out to sign autographs for some of the troops. Royal Marines of 40 Commando also presented Beckham with a good luck trophy for the World Cup in South Africa.
Beckham flew out of RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, to get to Afghanistan. Camp Bastion in southern Helmand Province houses 9,000 British soldiers. Temperatures can reach 45C (113F) and while he was there he joined senior officers in a paddling pool.
Beckham, who can't play in the World Cup because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon, even joined in with an impromptu penalty challenge and managed to hit the back of the net with his only attempt - despite his injury.
Beckham said he'd wanted to visit British troops on the front line for years but explained his busy playing schedule had kept him from doing so. He also told troops he would have considered a career in the armed forces if he hadn't been a footballer.
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