ALDERSHOT troops were among those flying to the Gulf this week as part of the UK’s preparations for a possible war with Iraq.

Soldiers from 9 (Para) Squadron, Royal Engineers, were among those leaving RAF Brize Norton as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade on Wednesday morning. Their role will depend on what happens over the coming weeks.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “In a fighting role, they will go ahead and secure roads, diffuse ammunition and ordnance work and then they will do other things like dig toilets and build camps.

“If they are carrying out a peaceful role, their work will be more along the lines of infrastructure support, which means building schools, repairing water supplies if they have been disrupted and reinforcing existing infra-structure, such as hospitals.”

They are the last of the Aldershot troops being sent to the region.

Members of 7 (Para) Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, precede them and 10 Transport Regiment along with 4 General Support Medical Regiment and 101 Dog Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps, have all flown out to the Gulf as part of 102 Logistics Brigade in the past three weeks.

About 600 soldiers in total, including members of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment and 23 Engineer Regiment, left the Oxfordshire base on three Kuwait bound flights in the early hours of the morning.

Also in the News area, the RAF is making a substantial contribution to the military build-up by sending 20 Chinooks to Kuwait.

Five are already in the Gulf aboard HMS Ark Royal.

Others were taken aboard aircraft from RAF Brize Norton and the rest flew out directly from Odiham.

These were joined by seven Army Air Corps, 657 Sqn Lynx helicopters, which are also stationed at the Odiham base.

Each Chinook left the base with two pilots and two crewmen on board, although each is equipped to carry up to 44 people with a capacity for lifting 800 tons of equipment.

The Odiham commitment also includes air crew, ground engineers, suppliers, logisticians, medics and communications staff.

They could be involved in frontline action, as well as transporting vital back-up crew, such as technicians, refuellers and caterers.

Earlier this month, defence secretary Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons the RAF could be expected to play a significant part in the opening phase of any action, but stressed the forces would also be able to carry out a humanitarian role if required.