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Volunteers off to Kabul

A NORTH Camp man is set to swap the dole queue for the dangerous streets of Kabul after volunteering to fight the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.

Andy Yates will be joining bankers, doctors, accountants, fork lift operators, van drivers and even a male stripper, who, in just over a month, will be helping to protect more than 300 British troops in Afghanistan.

Brave Andy is one of 54 members of the newly-formed Royal Rifle Volunteers Regiment, who prove that the Territorial Army is more than just a part-time job.

For them, the Territorial Army is a way of life, which has seen them volunteer for the first major TA deployment abroad since the Second World War.

After a month of intensive training, the brothers in arms will find themselves in ravaged Kabul fighting the bitter winter temperatures as they guard against the threat of Al-Qa’eda and Taliban terrorist strikes against peace-keeping forces.

The reasons for volunteering for the three-month mission are as wide-ranging as their occupations.

Some have given up work, while others have been given six months leave from their full-time jobs.

A few recruits have already served with the regular forces, while their comrades are new to army life.

However, for each there is one common denominator: to make a difference.

For Andy it is a chance to see military action after his career was cruelly cut short by illness.

Andy, unemployed before volunteering for the mission, was a Royal Marine until he was forced by illness to quit just two years into his career.

The 28-year-old explained: “I joined the marines when I was 18 years old, but had to leave when I was 20 because I got pneumonia.

“It was pretty gutting to have to leave, and I haven’t really worked since then.

“But I did join the TA, and felt that I was really part of something important.

“I was able to use the skills I’d learnt in the marines. But the best part is being with a top bunch of lads, from all sorts of backgrounds.

“Unlike the regular forces, where it would be unusual to find educated men among the ranks, I work side by side with accountants, bankers and even a doctor.

“We are all the same. We are all committed to doing our bit and I’m looking forward to going to Kabul.

“It’s good to be able to get back in the swing of things.”

On Tuesday he found himself braving freezing temperatures getting acquainted with the army’s new ‘no jam’ SA82 rifle at Brunswick camp, Pirbright.

Andy’s mission will include tightening security for the camp’s 360 British soldiers and enforcing the law to protect the 1.5 million residents and refugees who have flooded the city since the Taliban lost control a year ago.

His commanding officer, Lt Col Roddy Winser said: “Although this action is not directly related to the situation in Iraq, it is all linked.

“We are still fighting a war against Al-Qa’eda, the Taliban and other fundamentalist factions.

“It is a great opportunity to prove that the Territorial Army is integral, reliable and useful as an important part of the British Army and the war against terrorism.”

After a further three weeks intensive training at Chilwell and in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, the company will be deployed at Camp Souter in Kabul.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced this week that up to 1,500 British Army reservists woudl be called up in readiness for action against Iraq.


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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