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Royal Welsh soldiers prepare for Afghanistan

More than 300 soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh have recently been put through some final battlefield training scenarios in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

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Exercise Pashtun Tempest took place on Castlemartin Range in Pembrokeshire, West Wales - a training area used to stage combined arms live firing exercises.

In temperatures plunging below zero degrees Celsius, soldiers were faced with some of the most demanding and realistic scenarios available outside of theatre. One such scenario was the extraction of casualties while trying to avoid enemy improvised explosive devices.

The exercise had a whole host of supporting elements to make it even more realistic, with the soldiers able to call upon the support that they will get once they deploy, including the aid of an Apache helicopter overhead offering covering fire.

1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, based in Dale Barracks, Chester, will also undergo a final battle group training exercise on Salisbury Plain in the coming weeks in advance of their deployment. The battalion’s last tour of Afghanistan was at the end of 2009 and into 2010.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Webb, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, said his troops were trained to cope with varying climates and the direct contrast of the searing heat in Afghanistan would also present a challenge:

The soldiers are equipped with the skills they need to prepare them for the forthcoming tour and I’m very pleased with the way training has gone so far. We’ve already undergone individual training and our time in Pembrokeshire will, and has, further focused teamwork in platoons,” he said.

Afghanistan is still a dangerous place to be and when we deploy we need to recognise that.

However, looking at the progress achieved in the country since their last deployment, he added:

The Afghan National Security Forces are more capable than they were two years ago when the battalion last went to Afghanistan. The Afghan Government is also more capable than two years ago.

As we sense it all coming together it gives me confidence we are doing things right.

Lieutenant Colonel Webb said the battalion’s training progression meant that his soldiers would be in peak condition when the time came to deploy.

On return from operations in Afghanistan in 2010, the battalion joined 12 Mechanised Brigade and completed Exercise Askari Thunder in Kenya in April/May 2011.

Lieutenant Andrew Young said:

The standard of soldiers’ skills and drills and physical fitness is quite impressive at the moment. So their fitness will peak when they go out to Afghanistan.

Swansea soldier, Fusilier Ceri George, is preparing for his second tour of Afghanistan:

The training is a simulation of what we will be doing in Afghanistan,” he said.

Castlemartin Range covers an area of 2,400 hectares within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and contains a wide variety of flora, as well as some of the finest limestone coastal scenery in the UK. It also has archaeological and geological interest, with a fossil record of international significance.

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Published 3 February 2012