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Royal Anglians train near home for Afghanistan

The soldiers, who are based in Wiltshire, undertook exercises at the Stanford Training Area (STANTA) in Norfolk last month. Norfolk is one of…

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The soldiers, who are based in Wiltshire, undertook exercises at the Stanford Training Area (STANTA) in Norfolk last month. Norfolk is one of the four East Anglia counties that the regiment recruits from.

The Stanford facility consists of forward operating bases, a rural village and an urban complex that replicate as closely as possible the situations, sights and smells which troops could face on operations in Afghanistan.

The exercises saw the Royal Anglians practising their patrolling skills in a network of high-walled, claustrophobic alleyways and in a bustling Afghan bazaar, all designed to test and develop their tactics, drills and procedures to prepare them for the real thing.

Supported by RAF personnel and artillery to make the exercises as realistic as possible, the soldiers faced mock insurgent attacks, and practised carrying out assaults and casualty evacuations.

The training also comprised non-combat exercises including classroom-based presentations on Afghan culture and language.

This was put into practice on the ground at STANTA when soldiers attended shuras, or meetings, acted out by UK-based Afghan nationals.

Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Mick Aston said:

This training is as good as it gets. It is really accurate in terms of what the guys could face in Afghanistan. All the guys enjoyed it; the real strength of this exercise is that it is a realistic, demanding and challenging scenario that tests all aspects of the soldiers and their skills.

STANTA is part of our home ground. It is close to our families and the support we have from the communities in East Anglia has been outstanding, so it is great to come here and train. Some of the guys can almost see their houses from the training area.

One such soldier is Private Michael Rudd, aged 26, whose mother lives three miles (5km) away in Watton:

I was hoping she’d drop me off a bacon sandwich but she hasn’t,” he smiled. “The training here has been great. It’s an opportunity to put what we have learnt into practice.

Private Rudd deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, but was injured just 29 days into his tour:

I was shot in the leg whilst carrying out a resupply to a vehicle. It broke my shin. I am determined to get back out there and do a full six-month tour.

His role during the training exercises saw him working in the operations room, helping to co-ordinate troop movements on the ground:

I plot the soldiers’ movements on a big map, so we know where all the guys are, and collate information from the guys on the ground and vice-versa. I enjoy it, I’m working my brain rather than my feet,” he said.

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment recruits from Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge. It last deployed to Afghanistan in the winter of 2009, returning home in April 2010. The regiment is based at Picton Barracks, Bulford Camp, Wiltshire.

Published 10 February 2012