Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bath soldier looks forward to Afghanistan stint

A soldier from Bath says he is looking forward to serving in one of the most inhospitable regimes in the world.

Nineteen-year-old Nicholas Addey is coming to the end of a tour of duty in Basra, where he says his rifle company's stint has been "quiet".

But as he and thousands of British soldiers prepare to lead the drawdown of forces from Iraq, another country is already firmly in the minds and on the lips of men serving in 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 Rifles) - Afghanistan.

Although some of the 600 troops serving with 5 Rifles at Contingency Operating Base (COB) Basra have experienced a total of four tours, in 2003, 2004, 2006 and the present one, for many of the younger troops such as Rifleman Addey, their current deployment is their first.

And perhaps surprisingly, when asked about the future, the men eagerly talk about their hopes, and not fears, of serving in Asia.

The battalion, equipped with the formidable Warrior Armoured Vehicle, has a tour booked in 2011, and although there's no guarantee, the men are fully aware it is more than likely they will be deployed to the war-torn country.

The soldiers are now weeks away from the end of their current stint - with most scheduled to leave early to mid May - after Major General Andy Salmon, head of coalition forces, stood down and handed over military command to the US Army last month.

Maj Gen Salmon's consensus that the British Army is leaving Basra a much safer and optimistic place is shared by the 5 Rifles troops.

Rfn Addey, is out on his first tour, after arriving last December.

Rfn Addey, who will return to the battalion's base in Paderborn in Germany, said: "This has been a quiet first tour. There's been no contact with the enemy."

Rfn Addey, who was recently engaged to Trisha Hazell, 18, said it was the lack of action that has set his mind on fighting in Afghanistan in two years' time.

He said: "I joined because I wanted to fight, I wanted to make people proud, I wanted to be on the front line.

"The training we've done - we've not used it all on this tour. People join the Army for those reasons."

One of 5 Rifles' principle tasks in Basra is to provide protection on the base and assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces in Basra City when required - or as many of them like to dub themselves, they are "the insurance policy".

But they have not been called into the city once on this tour, and indirect fire on the COB is unusual these days - there have been only five attacks in the past eight months, compared to 28 in March 2008.

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