Parcels so essential

Parcels to troops have long been a comfort to troops in the front line – especially as supply lines string out over miles as troops advance and campaigns draw on.

Parcels to troops have long been a comfort to troops in the front line – especially as supply lines string out over miles as troops advance and campaigns draw on.

During the first Gulf war, anonymous welfare parcels showed how much the people back home cared about the British forces' mission to liberate Kuwait. Their absence this time was taken by many of the troops here to be an indication of a widespread lack of public support.

But now the Evening Star has teamed up with Asda to rally behind the efforts of the soldiers out here – those serving with 3 Regiment Army Air Corps have spoken of their delight at the gesture.

The unit's commander, Lieutenant Colonel George Butler told how parcels would provide "an enormous morale boost" to his Wattisham-based men.

"It would be great. I would support any initiative that improves the morale of our soldiers and it's good that people in our local area back home are thinking of us. I'm very grateful for their support and encouragement both to our soldiers who are deployed out here and also the families back home in Suffolk. I am very grateful for Asda and the Evening Star's support."

In this second Gulf War, essentials such as basic food, water, fuel and ammunition are now the logisticians priority to be ferried by land and air from as a far back as Kuwait City, a distance of more than 200km.

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This week's lull in the fighting on the ground means that these routes and the chain of supply running along them can be consolidated.

But when the fundamental fuel of a fighting machine takes centre stage, it is the everyday items that may be taken for granted in the UK which gain a new significance.

Sgt Major Andy Smith, 41, of Stowmarket, who receives regular parcels from his wife Jackie, said: "They become the little luxuries that make a soldiers' life more comfortable. They contain the real niceties."

Wet wipes, lip salve and cotton buds and other toiletries to combat the heat and dirty conditions of the desert; shaving equipment to keep clean and maintain a tight fit of respirators in case of chemical or biological attack; orange squash to rinse the taste of the 24 hour ration pack's powdered cordials nicknamed 'screech' by the troops on account of the sound it provokes when drunk. Believe me, it's nasty.

So far British forces have existed on a combination of American rations – Meals Ready to Eat, known as MREs – and the British Armed Forces 24 hour ration packs, which provide enough calories, nutrients and vitamins to keep an active service man or woman fit and healthy to do their job.

But they can get boring. Though there are eight types of menu, excluding the vegetarian and halal options, in today's enlightened fighting force, there seems to be a preponderance of the pork casserole option. And there is only so many times you can fork this boil-in-the-bag into your mouth.

So ketchups and any other condiments to spice up the drab food will always be appreciated.

Reading matter too – such as magazines and newspapers, however old - give the soldiers a reminder of the lives that were put on hold when they left for the Gulf. It is funny how celebrity trivia becomes compulsive reading when BBC World Service talks of nothing else but developments on the war.

Everyone, particularly in a war zone, needs an escape.

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