Video: Suffolk-based gunners head for war zone

MORE than 100 Suffolk-based gunners have set off on a six-month mission to protect an airbase from insurgents in Afghanistan.

Laurence Cawley

MORE than 100 Suffolk-based gunners have set off on a six-month mission to protect an airbase from insurgents in Afghanistan.

The 140-strong detachment from 2 Squadron RAF Regiment were yesterday packing up their kit and going through passport control at RAF Honington before heading off by coach to RAF Brize Norton for the flight to Kandahar Airbase.

They will be replacing members of 27 Squadron RAF Regiment, which is also based at RAF Honington. During 27 Squadron's tour, one person was so badly injured he had to have a limb amputated.

Once there, 2 Squadron will be responsible for maintaining base security which could include directly engaging militants armed with rockets or clearing up mines.

Sgt Tom Foskett, 29, whose family lives in Thetford, said morale was “fine” amongst the gunners, who had just enjoyed a “long weekend” away from base.

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“I am almost a father figure to the lads, so if they do have any problems they can either go to their junior NCOs or they can come to me and we will take it from there. They are all fully aware of their jobs and responsibilities.”

For SAC Ashley Watson, 25, of Mulbarton, this will be his second tour in Afghanistan. Over the coming months, SAC Watson will have to combine his military duties with organising his wedding later in the year.

He said when he returned to the UK he would be getting married during a period of leave and then returning to his duties with a ring on his finger, something he said would be “a shock to the system”.

He told how on his last tour in Afghanistan the lives of his unit were saved by a US Predator drone which detected he and his fellow gunners were approaching a Taliban ambush.

For Senior Aircraftman Chris Denby, 27, of Lowestoft, this will be his first tour.

“I am a bit nervous and quite excited at the same time,” he said, adding the risk from explosive devices and small arms fire were “on your mind”. He said he would be following the advice from more experienced gunners who had been on tours before.

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