Homecoming for members of army air corp

NEARLY 100 weary soldiers received a warm welcome from their families last night upon their return to Suffolk following a four month stint in Afghanistan.

Elliot Furniss

NEARLY 100 weary soldiers received a warm welcome from their families last night upon their return to Suffolk following a four month stint in Afghanistan.

A cold beer, warm bath and nice cup of tea were among the things at the top of the “to do” list for many of the young men and women who had arrived back at Wattisham Airfield on two coaches at about 8.15pm.

The group of helicopter pilots and ground crew from 3 Regiment Army Air Corps had spent more than three days travelling back from the troubled Helmand Province, including a brief stop in Cyprus along the way.

Corporal Russell Marriott was met from the coach by his wife Fran and their children Alfie, four, and Harry, 18 months, and he said they had changed so much since he left last September.

He said: “It's amazing to finally get back and see the boys and Fran again. Now I want to have a cup of tea - with real milk.

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“We left three days ago and it's taken a long time to get here. The boys have changed so much and it's great to see them.”

Also reunited with his two sons was Sergeant Stephen Amiss, who said that it had felt like he had been away for a very long time.

He said: “We definitely couldn't ask for a better return. To be honest, I just want to be with my kids and wife and get back to normal and the home life.”

Sgt Amiss's wife Liz said she and sons Luke, four, and Jake, 20 months, had been “counting the sleeps” until he came home.

She said: “It was really tough at Christmas with the little kids. I could hardly sleep last night - it's like Christmas when you're a child and you've got so much adrenaline going. It's just out of this world, thinking that he's back.”

Another part of the welcoming party was Major Rob Baxter, commanding officer of 73 Aviation Company 7 Battalion REME, who said the conditions the soldiers had faced in Afghanistan had been “as harsh as you could imagine”.

He said: “I'm keen to say 'hi' to them and show a friendly face. They will soon be back in the fold after some well-deserved time off.

“The conditions are as harsh as you could imagine for everybody out there in theatre and these guys do an outstanding job in achieving the results and supporting the guys on the ground, who it's our job to look after.”

The 95 soldiers were all from 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, which currently has the responsibility to fly and service the Apache attack helicopter in Helmand.

Their three primary roles are to escort other aircraft, carry out pre-planned operations and provide “reactive assistance” to troops coming under fire.