Battalion's 'real start' to training for Afghanistan
A battalion has begun the next phase in its intensive training ahead of a possible posting to Afghanistan before the end of the year.
The 2nd Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, has completed two exercises in Norfolk and Kenya since returning from Cyprus to Kendrew Barracks in Cottesmore, Rutland, last summer.
Now, the 650-strong battalion – known as The Poachers – have begun their first "mission specific training" in readiness for deployment to Helmand province.
It includes classroom and outdoor work learning about the country, its culture and the likely threats they will face, to practising getting in and out of the armed vehicles which will protect them, while dressed in full kit.
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The Poachers' officers and men are relishing the prospect of proving themselves in Afghanistan.
Private Ricky Smith, 23, of Thurnby Lodge, Leicester, said: "I'm looking forward to going, I joined up for things like this.
"It's something we've been trained for and we'll be glad to be able to go. I have a cousin in the Royal Artillery who was there. He said it's a bit scary at first but once you get used to it, it's okay."
Private Nick Palmer, 18, of Saffron Lane, Leicester, said: "We want to get out there, it's what we've been training for.
"I'm not scared yet because we're not definitely going, although I probably will be a bit as we get closer to the time.
"My brother Josh, who's in the Royal Engineers, has served there. He said it was scary but a good experience.
"My family's proud of me, but they were concerned when my brother was there and aren't keen to go through that again."
Their proposed deployment – the battalion has been "warned" it will be going – will come at a time when British troops are being gradually withdrawn.
The Ministry of Defence said UK force levels would be reduced from 9,000 to about 5,200 by the end of the year.
Battalion veteran, Warrant Officer (Class 2) Jay Greenhill, 34, of Narborough, previously served in Afghanistan in 2003, with 200 men from the battalion training the Afghan National Army.
The Company Sergeant Major, who has 100 men under his command, said: "It will be good for the guys who haven't been to get the operational experience.
"We've been doing mission specific training, learning the basics about the culture, geography, as well as crew training on the various armoured vehicles we'll be using and getting in and out of them in full kit. This is the real start of the training for Afghanistan. Training will become more intensive from now on."
The 104 Military Working Dogs unit based at nearby St George's Barracks at North Luffenham, in Rutland, is due to set off for Afghanistan in the next few weeks.
Some of the 150 soldiers and their dogs will search for weapons and explosives with others providing protection for troops.