10:30am Tuesday 20th March 2012
By Ben Wilkinson
TROOPS yesterday put danger to the back of their minds as they said goodbye to loved ones and packed for a six-month tour of duty in Afghan-istan.
Nearly 120 soldiers from 4 Logistic Support Regiment, based at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon, left for Helmand province last night.
Their tour starts as the bodies of six British soldiers are today due to be repatriated to Oxfordshire after their patrol vehicle hit a bomb two weeks ago.
For Captain Ross Wotherspoon, 27, it will be his sixth spell serving in Afghanistan. He said the troops were looking forward to it.
He said: “There’s a little bit of relief as it’s finally here. It has been a long time coming since we started training in September.
“But today they’re also leaving loved ones behind and having to pack up and move on.
“This is the difficult time, but once you get out there and get busy, the mind goes off it.”
He added: “The guys are under no illusion and the job for us is the same as it always has been and it’s as just as dangerous and challenging.”
Private David Kane, 23, said: “It doesn’t seem right to be excited but it’s what we have trained for.
“You’re always going to have someone watching your back.
“You will deal with the odd scare but you have to just get on with it and hope for the best.”
Captain Marco Bresciani, 26, said for about 40 per cent of the soldiers this would be their first time in Afghanistan.
He said: “Everyone is really keen to get out there. I would say there’s 90 per cent excitement and 10 per cent apprehension.”
The soldiers will be supplying ammunition, water, rations and equipment to troops at patrol bases across Helmand province.
But this time they will also be taking some equipment back, as the Army begins preparations to withdraw combat troops from the central Asian country in 2014, in line with an agreement between Nato and the Afghan government.
The regiment is currently scheduled for a further tour of duty in Afghanistan early 2014.
But due to the changing political climate, some within the Ministry of Defence think this could be their last deployment.
After getting documents checked and bags packed at the barracks yesterday morning, the soldiers were allowed a visit home before setting off to RAF Brize Norton for their flight last night.
Lance Corporal Kevin Stephenson, 23, who lives with his wife Carra, 22, in Abingdon, said: “She’s obviously upset I’m leaving but she knows it’s my job.”
He said he would try to forget about the danger as he spent the final hours with his family, adding: “You sort of have to put it in the back of your mind.
“The worst bit is when you say your goodbyes.”
Private Steven Dent, 25, said soldiers would be nervous but added: “It all changes when you get out there and your training kicks in.
“Last time, the time just flew by, as the group of lads bonded so well.”
Private Alex Arthur, 21, said the support from family and the public helped a lot.
He said: “I’m going to miss family but I want to get out there and do my job.”
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