Monday, May 18, 2009

1 Royal Tank Regiment return home from Iraq

Music filled the air at the emotional reunion for around 30 soldiers from 1 Royal Tank Regiment who returned home from a six month tour of Iraq last night.

Piper Major Jason Sumner played Highland Laddie as the soldiers who were the last combat troops to leave Iraq, stepped off the coach to be met by their families at their base: RAF Honington in Suffolk.

Around 70 soldiers deployed to Iraq in November where they were in charge of the UK Military Transition Team Group (MiTT) – consisting of over 1000 men across 1000 square kms.

Around 16 MiTTs, were embedded in Iraqi Army units as mentors. Soldiers from 1RTR provided support, advice, training and specialist capabilities. They also helped the Iraqi Army plan and conduct dozens of successful major search operations.

Piper Lee Watson was greeted by his wife Nikky and his six-month son Ryan. Piper Lee last saw his son in February when he was home on leave. “I can’t believe how huge my son is now. I had a good time out there, it was a good experience but it feels good to be back. Now I’m looking forward to spending some time at home relaxing and enjoying some quality time with Ryan.”

Wife Nikky, whose brother Trooper Daniel Herschell served with Piper Watson in Iraq said: “It’s great to have them both home safe. It’s not been too bad whilst they’ve been away because we stayed in touch and I had Ryan to keep me busy. But I’m glad they are both back and we can now spend some quality family time together.”

Sergeant Major Stephen Hodson was delighted to be back home with his wife Sarah and his nine-month old daughter Eve. He said: “The last time I saw Eve was January and she has changed so much. Like everyone I am now looking forward to some leave to spend some quality time with our families.”

The Regiment has had a near continuous presence in Iraq since the start of the Operation in 2003. 40 of the soldiers who deployed in November returned home last week.

1RTR Commanding Officer, Lt Colonel Gavin Thompson said: “It’s fantastic to be back safe and sound after a successful tour. A transformation has occurred in Basra that is bringing peace and the first real signs of prosperity. Working with our Iraqi counterparts has been a team effort, in particular the Mitts and the way they rapidly developed the Iraqi Army. Our soldiers proved themselves to be consummate professionals, they can be proud of what they have achieved.”

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