As households across the Fylde prepare to get together for Christmas, soldiers from the county bade farewell to their loved ones and headed to Iraq.
Around 150 troops from the Second Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment are flying to the war torn country to help local fighters train to take on the threat from ISIS terrorists.
They will deploy as part of a larger 500-strong British Army force which will spend six months training Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Security Forces.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces are currently battling with the terror group, which they call Daesh for control of the city of Mosul in the north of the country where ISIS had captured great swathes of land.
Officer Commanding of Blenheim Company Major Nickj Higgins said Christmas was obviously a difficult time of year to leave their families behind, but many of the lads were looking forward to going on operations and using the skills they have learned in the field.
He said: “Soldiers join up to go on operations and they want to deploy; so the company’s motivation and morale is high.
“Obviously Christmas is going to be difficult, but many of them have been deployed away before and they want to get on and do their jobs. It is part of the job.
“Last year we were deployed to help out with the flooding so this is the second Christmas away from home.
“We have spent the last few weeks training – infantry tactics, counter Improvised Explosive Device training, engineering such as bridging and breaching and combat medical skills.
“We have just undergone a a mission rehearsal exercise in Norfolk where the troops practised scenarios they could face in theatre, such as providing security and recovering broken vehicles.
“It was very useful as part of it included carrying out teaching with Iraqi personnel through interpreters so we can see how we might need to change things.” He said the troops were light infantrymen used to fighting on foot, but for this mission they would be using the army’s foxhound vehicles, which have a V-shaped hull designed to protect those inside from roadside bombs.
He said: “As light role infantry we are used to being on our feet, but the new Foxhound vehicles are excellent and they allow us to move around safely. It is going to be a real change from walking everywhere!”
Most of the troops will be on close-protection duty – keeping guard on the engineers and medics carrying out training with the Iraqis and Kurds.
Maj Higgins, who has served in Iraq during Operation Telic in Basra over five years ago, said that while they did not expect to be fighting directly against the ISIS forces, they were trained and were ready to carry out their mission.