52 Brigade troops begin returning from Afghanistan

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52 Brigade troops begin returning from Afghanistan

Post by Admin on Fri 04 Apr 2008, 8:46 am

The first British troops from 52 Infantry Brigade have begun to arrive back at their home bases in the UK after a six month tour in Afghanistan.

In Edinburgh, troops from 52 Infantry Brigade Headquarters arrived back at the city's Redford Barracks. Under the command of Brigadier Andrew Mackay, the Brigade deployed as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in October 2007 and commanded the 7,000-strong NATO Task Force Helmand.

In theatre, 52 Brigade has been responsible for training and mentoring the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). Together with the Afghan National Army, the Brigade successfully planned and led the biggest NATO operation since 2001 - Operation MAR KARADAD - to remove the Taliban from Musa Qaleh.

There were tears of emotion at Weeton Camp in Lancashire as families turned out to welcome troops from the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) (2 YORKS) who started to arrive home from theatre yesterday, 2 April 2008. 2 YORKS have been attached to 52 Brigade and deployed to Afghanistan with the force in October 2007. Lieutenant Colonel Simon Downey, Commanding Officer, said:

"The battalion has just returned from a demanding six month tour, but a hugely rewarding one. Our main task has been to train the Afghan National Army so that that Army can take on the responsibility for security for its own people. I think, without being complacent, that we can look back on six-months' work really well done. I am hugely proud of what the men and women of the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment have achieved over the last six months.

"The support we have had has been superb. When you are far away from home and you are operating in some pretty difficult and dangerous and austere conditions, the support and thought that you receive from people at home makes a significant difference."

This has been a gruelling tour for the Battalion which suffered the tragic loss of two of its young men in two separate incidents during the deployment. Sergeant Lee Johnson, from Stockton-on-Tees, was killed by an explosive device whilst taking part in Operation MAR KARADAD in Musa Qaleh on 8 December 2007; and Corporal Damian Stephen Lawrence, from Whitby, had been taking part in a joint patrol with the Afghan National Army in Kajaki when a device exploded in one of the compounds they had been investigating. He was killed instantly.

And finally, in Reading, the 96 Territorial Army soldiers and 44 regulars of Salonika Company, 7th Battalion The Rifles Regiment, returned to a heroes' welcome as proud families and partners joined the Battalion's Royal Colonel, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester, and Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth to greet their loved ones at Brock Barracks.

A military band played as the 140 men and women of Salonika Company marched onto the parade square to receive their Operation HERRICK medals from the Duchess of Gloucester and the Commander of Regional Forces, Lieutenant General Nick Parker CBE.

In Afghanistan, the Company had been charged with defending the British base at Camp Bastion, but ended up getting a lot more from their tour. 7 RIFLES' Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Damian Griffin explained:

"The troops were sent out primarily to defend Camp Bastion, but they did that so effectively and were so keen to do more that they ended up serving on almost every British operation going on out there."

Lieutenant General Parker addressed the Territorial soldiers of Salonika Company on the parade square with the following message of thanks:

"I am extraordinarily grateful to every one of you for volunteering to take part in the tour and for the efforts you have made on our behalf. You return at the start of the centenary celebrations of the Territorial Army, TA 100, and in doing so demonstrate everything that is good about today's reserve forces.

"Your contribution is recognised by the medals you now wear and by The Duchess of Gloucester's gracious agreement to present them. Thank you for all you have done, and enjoy the post operational tour leave that you have all most definitely earned. After that, when you return to your various places of work, I am sure that you will show your employers that your time with Salonika Company has made a profound difference. The country, the Army, the Regiment and all of us represented here today are proud of you."

52 Brigade troops will continue to return to their home bases over the next few weeks as they are gradually replaced by personnel deploying for the next roulement under Operation HERRICK 8. 16 Air Assault Brigade will officially take over command of Helmand province from 52 Brigade later in April 2008.

Source: MOD - http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/MilitaryOperations/52BrigadeTroopsBeginReturningFromAfghanistan.htm

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