Over 100 Highlanders from 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) received an emotional and rapturous welcome when they returned to their base this weekend from Afghanistan.
They were the last members of the battalion to return from a gruelling six-and-a-half month tour in central Helmand where they supported 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines in preparing the Afghan National Army and Police to fully take over security operations in the country in 2015.
The men and women of 4 SCOTS, which recruits from across Scotland and around the UK, met their families and friends as they arrived at their barracks in Fallingbostel, Germany, after a long flight from Cyprus where they spent their decompression.
500 soldiers from 4 SCOTS deployed to Afghanistan in March as Combined Force Lashkar Gah and conducted operations in support of the Afghan Government across the largest district in Helmand, ranging from the dense Green Zone and farmland of Babaji, through to the deserts and smallholdings of Yakshal and the Arghandab River Valley.
C Squadron from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and B Company from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment made up the remainder of the Combined Force.
During their deployment 4 SCOTS handed over responsibility for security in central Lashkar Gah to the Afghan National Security Forces and then continued to support them as they pushed into areas on the outskirts of the district to further strengthen the security footprint.
The tour also involved rough living conditions and long patrols in remote locations in baking hot temperatures.
Commanding Officer of 4 SCOTS, Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Aitken, said:
It is only at the end of the tour that it is possible to see the achievements of the battalion. We have overseen the first district to be transitioned to the Afghan National Security Forces and have forced the insurgents onto the back foot.
The battalion has taken the fight to the enemy of the people of Helmand and as a result witnessed a 63 per cent reduction in attacks. There is a palpable sense of momentum. This has not been without cost. Two soldiers - Corporal Mike Pike and Highlander Scott McLaren - made the ultimate sacrifice with many more wounded.
Despite this, not once did the Jocks take a backwards step, but they continued in the strongest traditions of our Highland forefathers.
4 SCOTS personnel also took part in numerous partnered operations with the Afghan security forces across Helmand, helping to improve their confidence and working practices.
A Company were the Operations Company tasked across Helmand, and B Company were based in the Loy Adera and Babaji area to the west of Lashkar Gah, with their headquarters at Patrol Base Nahidullah.
D Company were centred on Checkpoint Yellow 14, with the majority of their operations carried out in the Bolan district, while the battle group headquarters were based at Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah.
4 SCOTS personnel will be presented with their campaign medals at a special ceremony at their barracks on Thursday 27 October 2011 before starting four weeks of well-earned post-tour leave when many of them will return to their homes in Scotland to spend time with friends and family.
The battalion will then regroup to hold two homecoming parades in Aberdeen and Inverness on 1 and 2 December 2011, respectively.