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Joy at soldiers' return

PUBLISHED: 07:48 09 June 2003 | UPDATED: 13:59 03 March 2010

IT was an emotional reunion and one they had anxiously awaited for the past three months.

Last night more than 80 soldiers from 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (7 Battalion REME) returned to Wattisham Airfield to be reunited with their loved ones after serving in the Gulf.

IT was an emotional reunion and one they had anxiously awaited for the past three months.

Last night more than 80 soldiers from 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (7 Battalion REME) returned to Wattisham Airfield to be reunited with their loved ones after serving in the Gulf.

The soldiers, part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, were among the first British forces to arrive in Kuwait in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and have been away from home for the past three months.

The battalion was responsible for providing technical helicopter maintenance support to 16 Air Assault Brigade-deployed aviation unit 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.

Later in the operation, the unit moved into Iraq and was initially based around the Ramala oil field before moving to the Maysan Province.

For brothers Rory, nine, and Connor, 12, the excitement was too much to bear and the youngsters burst forward to hug their father, Captain Graham Quant, as soon as he emerged from the coach. Capt Quant, who lives with his wife Jan, at Rendlesham, said: "It is fantastic to be back and I've been looking forward to it for a long time.

"Since the war finished, everyone was itching to get away, but we could not leave as there was still a job to be done in Iraq. Everyone has been living in tents and on rations for 50 days, but everybody made the best of what they had."

Capt Quant flew out to Kuwait on Valentine's Day before moving into Almarah, Iraq, as the war began.

His arms may have been weighed down by his heavy rucksack, but that did not stop Company Sgt Major Jonathan Jones from whisking son Nathan, four, and daughter Abigail, one, into the air as soon as he saw them.

He was relieved to be home with wife Terri and his family after longing for the occasion for several weeks, adding: "It's fantastic to be home. Hearing about the daily grind at home was vital and also knowing what the kids and the family were up to."

Staff Sgt Paul Imrie and wife Keri are looking forward to taking their son Aiden, three, to Euro Disney next week.

"It's very emotional seeing them again. I was not going to be back until June 21, but I found out on Wednesday they had brought it forward so I was really happy. The first thing I did was phone home," said Staff Sgt Imrie.

His wife added: "I had to work today because I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's really great that he's home."

About 80 soldiers from the regiment returned home last night. A further 80 troops from the battalion are due to arrive back in Suffolk over the next few weeks.

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