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Duke presents Royal Lancers with Afghanistan medals

His Royal Highness The Duke of York has presented personnel from the 9th/12th Royal Lancers with campaign medals following their return from a demanding six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

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During their tour, which took place between March and November, the soldiers took on a variety of roles in support of the NATO-led mission to prepare the Afghans to fully take over the security of their own country.

The Duke of York, who is the 9th/12th Royal Lancers’ Colonel-in-Chief, presented medals to members of the unit during a ceremony at their home barracks in Bergen-Hohne in northern Germany, on Thursday 8 December 2011, before attending a specially arranged reception with military personnel and their families.

Addressing the soldiers during the parade, His Royal Highness said:

I would like to offer my congratulations to you all on a very successful tour of Afghanistan. The value of what you have achieved and the work you have undertaken is extremely important not only to the people of the UK but also to the Afghan community.

Congratulations on a well-earned medal and also on an outstanding series of homecoming parades in the UK.

I would also like to pay tribute to your families. Without the support, love and affection of your families you couldn’t have done the job that you were asked to do. I wish you every success for your leave period and a happy Christmas and New Year.

9th/12th Royal Lancers are part of 7th Armoured Brigade - The Desert Rats, which supported 3 Commando Brigade during their deployment to Afghanistan.

Their roles included carrying out foot and vehicle patrols, often coming under enemy fire, and partnering members of the Afghan National Army, helping them to gain the experience and expertise they will need to successfully bring security and stability to their country.

Trooper Sean Jason Court was one of more than 250 members of 9th/12th Royal Lancers to deploy to Afghanistan. During his deployment he accompanied members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) on a variety of vehicle and foot patrols to gather intelligence on Taliban insurgent activity and the location of hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He said:

It was a great moment, receiving my medal, and I am proud of what we achieved out there. We met with many locals during our patrols in Afghanistan and built up a good rapport with many of them which often led to good tip-offs on the location of IEDs.

We observed ANA soldiers as they took the lead during patrols and over time built up a very good relationship with them.

We first started to feel like a unified Army with them after a patrol on a hot day in July when we came under contact and returned fire. When we returned to our base the Afghan commander had a nice cool bottle of coke waiting for us and we then had a good game of netball with them. In the following days they brought us food and included us in their Ramadan celebrations; we felt like colleagues.

They are improving massively, and while when we first arrived they were nervous about going out on patrols, by the time I left they were asking to go out, there was a really good vibe between us, and they were a good bunch of guys.

The parade, which was watched by families and included a specially arranged Royal Guard of Honour for the Duke, was a proud moment for Lieutenant Colonel Will Fooks, Commanding Officer of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers. He said:

This has been one of the toughest tours the regiment has deployed on. The soldiers have had to endure the scorching heat, austere conditions and a vicious and indiscriminate enemy.

What marks this deployment out from others are the advances that have been made in the Afghan warriors’ [soldiers’] ability to act independently [from us] and use their own initiative.

Working alongside the Afghan warriors has had its frustrations, but using all their ingenuity and diplomacy the Lancers have made significant progress.

Their Afghan partners now plan operations themselves, manage detailed patrol programmes, and can sustain themselves in the field for extended periods. This in turn has allowed security to be improved and expanded in the squadrons’ respective areas of operations; security which is increasingly being delivered by the Afghans themselves.

And with this more secure environment, new rural ‘parish councils’ have appeared and blossomed; this is significant because these councils are what give the local people a voice, which the insurgents had previously tried to deny them.

Now safely home after their tour, the men and women of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers will enjoy a period of well-earned post-tour leave, followed by their Christmas break, before returning to their base to begin training for their next potential mission.

Published 12 December 2011