Family and friends welcome soldiers home

Reporter:

Angela Belassie

LOVED ones turned out to welcome soldiers home from Afghanistan after a six-month tour of duty.

Sixty-five members of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh returned to Dale Barracks in Liverpool Road, Chester, on Wednesday.

Family and friends hung up welcome home banners and greeted the servicemen and women with cheers.

The servicemen and women have been serving in Helmand province and the operational tour was part of a peace-keeping duty with the International Task Force.

Commanding officer, Lt Col Stephen Webb, said: “It’s great to be back. During our six months of the 11 year campaign we were charged with doing a job and I think we should be very proud of what we have achieved.”

The married-father-of-two said they worked in three different areas, Lashkar Gah, Nad-e Ali and the Gereshk Valley, and their main job was to protect the key supply line.

He said they built up relationships with the local people through the Afghan security forces, which included the police and army.

It was double joy for a couple from Northop, near Mold, as the return coincided with birthday celebrations.

L/Cpl James Buckley, 24, was welcomed home by girlfriend Anna Ruston, also 24, on the eve of her birthday.

Anna said: “It’s fantastic to have him home. It’s been so long and it’s been horrible without him. It’s good timing and it’s a particularly good birthday present.”

James added: “It’s good to be back. It’s been a long time coming. Within the time we were away we achieved quite a bit.”

The pair said they were hoping to take a holiday together and James was looking forward to catching up with family.

A new group of about 100 soldiers left for the tour in Afghanistan last month as part of 4 Mechanised Brigade, which will take over responsibility for Task Force Helmand next month.

With combat operations planned to finish at the end of 2014, the emphasis of the tour will be on transition, partnership and training.

The various units within the brigade will mentor their Afghan colleagues so they can plan and run their own operations.

Campaign losses

Two Royal Welsh soldiers were killed during the tour.

Cardiff-born Captain Stephen Healey, 29, was commanding the Combined Force Burma reconnaissance platoon.

While conducting a vehicle patrol in the north of the Nahr-e Saraj districk of Helmand province, his vehicle struck in an improvised explosive device.

Cpl Michael John Thacker, 27, who was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, but from Cwmbran, South Wales, was part of the fire support group.

He manned observation post ‘Tir’ in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province when he was hit by small arms fire in May.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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