Alasdair marches home with a message

Alasdair Ross will be a familiar face to many around Ipswich.The Rushmere councillor spends much of his time representing constituents on matters ranging from roads to housing.

IPSWICH: Alasdair Ross will be a familiar face to many around Ipswich.

The Rushmere councillor spends much of his time representing constituents on matters ranging from roads to housing. But for the last seven months he has been at the heart of a bloody conflict in Afghanistan.

The 47-year-old father of two returned to the army in April after seven years to join the Infantry Battalion, 2 Rifles as an operations warrant officer.

Flown in to the Upper Sangin valley, one of the key battlegrounds for British troops this summer, Mr Ross was influential in controlling troops and reacting to insurgent attacks.

During their tour of duty, his team uncovered more than 300 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) but lost 23 soldiers to bomb blasts and one to gunfire. He said: “There is no shortage to the amount of explosives used by the insurgents. It can be totally destructive and deaths are often caused by soldiers stepping on them.

“While I was there, as well as those who died, 12 were left with life threatening injuries and two underwent triple amputations. You either die, or you lose limbs.”

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On Wednesday the armed forces were rocked by the news of five more British deaths in Afghanistan's southern region.

And Mr Ross, who spent 24 years in the Royal Green Jackets, serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, believes the enemy are more ruthless than any he has fought before.

“Those were infantry battalion soldiers doing the same sort of job but working slightly further south than we were.

“The Taliban don't worry about killing soldiers or civilians. They aren't bothered by public outcry or repercussions. They are just gangsters hiding behind a smokescreen of religious warfare.

“But because we are bringing stability to the area, they have been forced to take on more brutal tactics.”

Thanks to Mr Ross and his fellow servicemen and women, Sangin is now home to a 200-stall market, a school and a clinic, treating local children and adults daily.

He has no immediate plans to return to the front line but brings home a positive attitude towards the ongoing campaign. “Any soldier will tell you we're doing a good job out there,” he said. “But it comes at a cost.

“Afghanistan is far safer now than it was when we arrived. If we leave, it would become a rogue state and the pressure on surrounding countries like Pakistan would be too much.”

WITH Remembrance Sunday tomorrow, Mr Ross, whose father fought in Korea, stressed the importance of acknowledging the work done by our active forces as well as those who have fought and fallen in past conflicts.

“I've seen many things changed during my time in the army but the comradeship always stays the same,” he said.

“These are young men and women aged 18 and 19 and they're as good as I've seen. We really should be proud of them. What they achieve is no different to that of generations before them.

“The public have always been behind our soldiers and remembered those who have died, but now more than ever they are being recognised for what they do.”

Tomorrow's Remembrance Sunday service will see a wreath laid at the Christchurch Park cenotaph to honour the six servicemen killed in conflicts since 1945.

The names of the six, who were added to the Cenotaph in May, are:

Lieutenant Brian Swinbanks - of the Royal Engineers - killed in Korea in 1951

Private Ray McDonald - of the Royal Norfolk Regiment - killed in Korea in 1952

Lance Bombardier Maurice Brettell - of the Royal Artillery - killed in Korea in 1952

Flying Officer Kenneth W. Banyard - of the Royal Air Force - killed in Cyprus in 1956

Private Gary I. Barnes - of the Parachute Regiment - killed in Northern Ireland in 1979

Private Aaron McClure - of the Royal Anglian Regiment - killed in Afghanistan in 2007

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