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Troops are in our thoughts

THE people of Aldershot and Farnborough are getting behind troops from the garrison who are set to be at the forefront of the military assault on Iraq.

Some 2,500 soldiers from Aldershot, many with families living locally, were poised to attack Iraq this week as allied air strikes were launched shortly after George W Bush’s 1am deadline on Thursday morning.

Airborne artillery and engineers will be providing frontline support to British and American troops attacking from Kuwait.

As the last realistic hopes for peace ran out on Tuesday, the soldiers of Aldershot's 7 (Para) Royal Horse Artillery moved into forward positions on the Iraqi border ready for the assault.

Many people in Aldershot and Farnborough remain unconvinced of the need for war. But now that it has started, the community is getting behind army. They want a quick war with the least possible casualties and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

About a third of the garrison has been deployed to the Gulf. Almost every unit in Aldershot has individuals on operations in the Middle East.

Garrison Commander Colonel Stephen Oxlade this week sent a message of support to the troops. He said: "Some 50% of the Aldershot Garrison is deployed. The thoughts of the soldiers and families remaining are very much with those in the Gulf area.

"We send them every good wish and good fortune for the forthcoming operation. Good luck, Godspeed."

When a ground invasion is launched, Aldershot soldiers will be among the first to cross the Iraqi border as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.

As an airborne battalion with light artillery, 7 RHA are likely to be in the front line to provide artillery fire for advancing infantry where it is needed.

They will probably be taken in to battle by Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham, rather than parachuting in.

Soldiers from 9 (Para) Squadron, Royal Engineers could also advance with the front line in 16 Air Assault Brigade, providing engineer support to the infantry.

Their role is to ensure allied forces can move troops, equipment and supplies to where it is needed, and to prevent the enemy from doing the same.

This could see soldiers clearing mines, possible putting them ahead of advancing troops at times, destroying enemy positions and booby traps as well as repairing roads and bridges and allied positions.

And members of 10 Transport Regiment the Royal Logistic Corps will carry out a vital role by moving heavy equipment and machinery, such as tanks, as well as massive quantities of ammunition and food supplies.

The staff of 4 General Support Medical Regiment are also ready for action.

Their role so far has been to keep troops fighting fit by taking care of minor injuries arising from the building of the camps and soldiers who are suffering eye trouble as a result of the sandstorms.

But the medics will also be preparing to deal with combat injuries in the field as well as treating injured troops behind the front line.

A variety of jobs face members of 101 Dog Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps, who could find themselves on guard duty through to carrying out ordnance work.

Twenty RAF Chinooks from Odiham have also been deployed to Kuwait.

They could be involved in ferrying 16 Air Assault Brigade into position and constantly resupplying the forward and removing casualties to rear positions.

British troops around 40,000 servicemen and women are deployed in total are likely to attack the south of Iraq up to the city of Basra while the Americans are likely to take Baghdad.

And while troops prepare for action in the Gulf, local security is being reviewed.

Aldershot Police Chief Inspector Neil Sherrington said threat assessments had been carried out nationally to determine the levels of security needed across the country.

He said: "We, the force itself, respond to the threat assessments that are given to all police forces nationally. We can obviously raise security in relation to the information we are given through the assessments."

Chief Insp Sherrington confirmed a national, force-wide and local security policy is in place but was keen to stress this was not out of the ordinary.

He said: "This is a system that is working all the time, as there have been different threats at different times, and has existed since I've been in the police force. It's a well established and tried system and has not been put in place as a result of current events."


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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