AFTER months of training Fylde coast troops are on their way to Afghanistan.
Fylde coast soldiers have bid farewell to their families as they head off for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The men from 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2LANCS) left their base at Weeton Barracks for RAF Brize Norton last night to catch an aircraft firstly to Cyprus and then on to Afghanistan.
They will be serving at the Shawqat forward operating base in Helmand Province with a mission to support and offer advice to the Afghan National Army in its battles against the Taliban.
The majority of the 550 strong battalion is going to be on duty in the war-torn region and the men were busy loading their bags and equipment on to wagons ready to be transported yesterday.
Among the men flying out was Kingsman Matt Lucas from Cleveleys. Matt has only recently returned from a 10-month posting to Canada and is now off for his third tour in Afghanistan.
He said he was hoping his brother Ben would make it to Weeton in time to see him off.
Ben, who serves with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was driving up from Milton Keynes to wave off the coaches.
Matt, 23, said: “He’s coming up from his girlfriend’s house just to see me off.
“I actually saw him last time I was serving in Afghanistan. We were just being deployed and he was heading home. We met in Camp Bastion. We spent an hour together in the canteen and then he had to go.
“I am going to miss my family but I don’t want them to worry. I am going to be working mainly as a radio operator at the HQ, so it won’t be like last time when I was a machine gun operator. There were a lot of fire fights then.”
Sgt Lee Clarkson, 34, from Layton, has also been twice to Afghanistan.
Last time in Shazad he said there was a lot of Taliban activity but he was not expecting it to be the same this tour.He said: “We are there to mentor the Afghan Army in their job of securing the country.
“We are to make sure they have the ability to take over when we eventually pull out so they can run things themselves.
“I am looking forward to going, we have been training hard for months for this so it will be good to put all that into practice.
“That’s what we get paid for and to be honest the lads love to do it.”
He said when he gets back he would be looking forward to seeing his mum, dad, wife and children again and to returning to his hobby – training at the Blackpool Akido Club.
Commanding officer Lt Col Neil Unsworth, from Southport, said his men had been working hard training for this tour and everybody was keen to go.
He said: “They are going to be living in forward operating bases and patrol bases operating as mentors to the Afghan National Army and Police.
“The Shawqat base is actually at the site of a former British fort from the 19th century so there’s a bit of history there. This time we will not be carrying out operations against the Taliban, the Afghan army will be doing that, they will run the operations.
“We will be there to offer advice and help out with evacuation of casualties because we can do that quicker then they can at the moment.
“We will be there to offer fire support in extreme circumstances.
“Things are getting better out there and the Afghan army is experienced but we are not going to be complacent and we know it is going to be tough.”