The local community is waiting to see what role pilots and crew from Odiham will play in the conflict, which started early Thursday morning.

About 650 crew from RAF Odiham will be helping in the war on Iraq.

Five RAF Odiham based Chinook helicopters were in the Gulf aboard HMS Ark Royal, while another 15 were in Kuwait ready to move British troops and equipment towards the Iraqi border.

The highly versatile helicopters will be involved in any front line action and have also been helping to transport vital back-up crew such as technicians, logisticians, refullers, caterers and medics.

They have also helped transport air traffic controllers, along with engineers to build hard standings for aircraft and to carry out any repairs and replacements.

About 60 women from RAF Odiham are in the Gulf.

Most of the crew have been away from RAF Odiham for about six weeks, putting pressure on their families, who are eagerly waiting for their safe return.

Officer commanding administration at RAF Odiham, Wing Commander Sheila Haughton, said one of the main tasks was to look after the families who are left behind.

“Servicemen and women can phone their families using welfare telephones, which are provided wherever they are deployed,” she said.

“However, this is sometimes not possible for security reasons and that’s when the support of the station is all the more important.

“We try to provide support through our regular briefings in the community centre and by sending newsletters to friends and relations wherever they are.

information about up-coming events and point-of-contact information but most importantly they provide news from loved ones and an insight into life in the desert and on board ship.

“Regular briefings are a valuable opportunity for the families to get together to discuss any worries they may have.

“All families have a point of contact who they can call if they have any concerns or issues that need to be urgently addressed at home.

“Activities are arranged for children and teenagers and the station is currently trying to set up a help scheme manned by volunteers from those left behind to help with tasks such as shopping and cutting lawns.

“RAF Odiham has good communications with local headteachers who, as always, provide the station with valuable support.

“All personnel, whether on board ship or in the desert, will be glad when the current period of uncertainty is over and they all look forward to getting home safely as soon as possible.”