The duchess, who is Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion The Rifles (4 Rifles), was the guest of honour and inspecting officer at the battalion’s muster parade in the town, marking the end of its four-month deployment as part of Operation Shader.
The battalion are the first British Army unit to deploy to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western province of Al Anbar.
Lying in the valley of the Euphrates River, it was once the second-largest US military base during the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The air base is now home to a coalition of Danish, Iraqi, US and now British troops there to support the Iraqi forces in their fight to purge their country of “Daesh”, an Arabic language acronym for the so-called Islamic State.
The government announced in June last year that the UK had an “enduring commitment” to assisting Iraq, while also revealing its intention to deploy more British troops to train and mentor the country’s forces.
In October, half of the 4 Rifles battalion’s soldiers left their base at Normandy Barracks in Aldershot to deploy to Al Asad Air Base.
During their four months in Iraq, the battalion’s duties were two-fold. Its first task was to train and mentor the Iraqi forces under the Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) program.
The battalion also provided a security force (SECFOR) for Camp Havoc, home to the coalition forces in the heart of the air base.
Those troops assigned to BPC duties provided bespoke training for members of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force, as well as the country’s Border Guard Police.
This targeted training included how to mount vehicle check points, searching techniques, weapon handling, shooting and battlefield first-aid drills.
SECFOR troops operated alongside their coalition partners in manning sangers (temporary fortified positions) and sentry posts.
They also mounted foot patrols with incursions deeper into the outlying perimeter of the base in heavily armoured vehicles.
This was a second trip to Aldershot in three months for the duchess, who met family members of deployed 4 Rifles soldiers at Normandy Barracks in November.
She also placed a posy on a memorial wall which bears the names of those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, before walking past two buglers and attending a reception.