SOLDIERS from Aldershot’s 101 Logistic Brigade have flown to the Gulf to support the international operation to bring humanitarian aid to Iraq.
Based at Buller Barracks, soldiers from Signal Squadron flew to Kuwait from RAF Brize Norton on Friday and were joined by brigade headquarters staff yesterday (Monday).
In total, 150 soldiers have been deployed to the Gulf to replace 102 Logistic Brigade — which is usually based in Germany.
The troops will be heavily involved in the arrival of humanitarian aid at the port of Umm Qsar and the distribution of supplies across Iraq.
The HQ will help provide logistic support to all three services in Iraq covering the provision of water, food, fuel and equipment to all troops stationed there, along with medical support to troops on the ground.
Overseeing the operation will be brigade commander, Brigadier Ian Dale.
He said: “There will be several lines of development that I will be pursuing out there. The first is to provide logistic support to the British troops in terms of water, food, equipment and so on.
“The second is on a joint platform, a tri-service operation enabling the force change over. We are going to be withdrawing elements who have been there since the outset which is a gradual evolution of the force structure taking place throughout the summer.”
He continued: “Another line of development is to provide support to the coalition as a whole.
“The fourth aspect is very much a humanitarian issue. We already have 10 Regt out there and their primary role right now is to provide humanitarian support to the local population.
“We’re doing that until other agencies can get themselves back into the Gulf and back in theatre to do what they do best, and as soon as that begins to kick in our involvement will diminish.”
The brigade expects to be in Iraq until Christmas and, with a wife and two teenage daughters, Brig Dale appreciates that it is a long time to be away from home.
He said: “I think my own daughters are used to it. We are constantly mentally preparing for the possibility of being deployed.
“The more notice you get of a deployment, the better but often it is the case of a quick deployment at short notice. That’s to be expected and I don’t mind that. It’s what we join up for.”
With the focus now on humanitarian missions, what is the perceived level of risk to troops?
Brig Dale said: “We are still alert to possible pockets of resistance because a lot of Republican Guard and Saddam’s special forces have just disappeared and there’s no evidence that they have gone completely, or for good.
“But, the number of contacts have reduced considerably and that’s why I think it’s time for us to progress and for the other aid agencies to work on getting back into the country.”
Half of the brigade is already in Iraq where they have been supporting 102 Logistic Brigade.
And Brig Dale said those left behind had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get involved.
He said: “When half the brigade went and the other half didn’t, the half that didn’t were gutted. So I think they are quite pleased to be going now.”