Soldiers from Peterborough and across the east of England have made an emotional return home after spending six months on duty in Afghanistan.
The final returning tranche of 75 soldiers were greeted with cheers and hugs as they arrived at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich.
The Royal Anglians, nicknamed ‘the Vikings’, deployed with more than 200 officers and soldiers on Operation TORAL in Febuary this year. This deployment included 25 Army Reservists from the Battalion’s paired Army Reserve Unit, 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment. The Reserve platoon deployed as part of the Battalion’s ‘A’ (Norfolk) Company, having mobilised in September 2014 to train in readiness for the deployment.
A total of 146 soldiers have already returned home on earlier flights including 75 soldiers who returned on Saturday evening.
Operation TORAL is the UK’s military contribution to NATO’s ‘Resolute Support Mission’. Following the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, NATO has embarked on a new type of mission, to ‘Train, Advise and Assist.’
During their six-month deployment the Vikings formed the Kabul Protection Unit (KPU) within the Kabul Security Force (KSF). Led and commanded by the Commanding Officer of 1 Royal Anglian, Lieutenant Colonel Dominic Biddick, the unit provides protection and the tactical coordination of the movement of all coalition forces across the city and provides incident response capabilities in Kabul where coalition forces are affected.
The Kabul Protection Unit is a combined UK and US unit and this was the first time since the Korean War that US troops have been integrated at such a level under British command.
On a daily basis ‘The Vikings’ protected and enabled hundreds of advisors to enable them to pass on their knowledge to their Afghan counterparts.
The Royal Anglians also had responsibility for the security of advisors and mentors at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy. Afghan soldiers are trained at the Academy in key leadership and tactical skills and, once trained, go on to help the Afghan National Army maintain the security of its own country.
The Officer Academy was opened in 2012 to enable Afghan instructors train fellow Afghan soldiers. Guiding and supporting the Afghan instructors is a cohort of soldiers from the UK, Australia, Denmark, Norway and New Zealand.
The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dominic Biddick, said: “Our men have performed outstandingly well again, fulfilling a mission in Kabul that is very different from our previous experiences in Helmand.
“1 Royal Anglian formed the core of the new Kabul Security Force, a UK-led multinational team of British, American, Australian and Mongolian soldiers.
“As part of the NATO Resolute Support mission, this force has protected more than 7000 coalition personnel providing critical advice and assistance to the Government of Afghanistan.
“I am extremely proud of what our soldiers have achieved, and I hope that the people in the Battalion’s counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire are too.
“This was 1 Royal Anglian’s sixth operational tour since 9/11, and at the same time as we were deployed in Afghanistan we also had men from C (Essex) Company serving in Mali, training the Malian Armed Forces.
““After another big year my priority is now to give the men some time to recover, starting with some well earned leave and time with their families and friends.”