CHESTER based TA soldiers have put their civilian jobs on hold to deploy to Afghanistan.
Ahead of their tour the soldiers from C Squadron, the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry gathered at Venning Barracks, Donnington for a pre-deployment church service.
The soldiers are part of a 36 strong unit - the regiment’s largest operational deployment since 1992.
Other soldiers deploying are from the regiment’s squadrons in Telford, Chester, Wigan and Hereford.
Their role while deployed will be base surveillance at the forward operating bases. It will be their responsibility to monitor and evaluate the information they gather from the surrounding areas to help provide situational awareness and ground surveillance to the commanders and troops out on the ground.
The soldiers are part of a range of ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) assets currently deployed in Afghanistan.
ISTAR aircraft are used by the RAF to gather intelligence from the sky. The aircraft are used to capture the image on the ground to detect insurgent activity and spot potential IEDS. Other ISTAR capabilities include The Desert Hawk.
A remote-controlled surveillance aircraft, it records video night and day, sending it directly to troops on the ground and providing vital surveillance capability on the front line.
The pre-deployment service was led by the Rev Stephen Pratt. He said: “It was the soldiers themselves that suggested we had a church service before they deployed.
“The service was a chance for us to show our Regimental support to the families and the soldiers themselves, so they know whilst they are away we are thinking of them and they will be in our prayers.”
Lance Corporal Grace McGaw, 24, from Handbridge has been in the TA three years. This will be her first operational deployment.
A customer service advisor at the M&S Money contact centre, she leaves behind her fiancé Corporal Les Howard, a soldier with the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment who she meet on her annual camp.
He said: “I’m happy for her; it’s what she wants to do. I hope all goes well, I’m very proud of her and I’ll be waiting for her when she gets back.”
If she enjoys her tour, LCpl McGaw will consider joining the regular Army on her return.
“It’s an opportunity to gain experience, which is important if I want to progress my career. It will stand me in good stead for promotion and the skills I gain I’ll be able to use when I get back.
“I’m not treated any different to a male soldier. I still have to carry the same kit; the same high standard is expected of me. I’ll just go out there and get on with the job.”
Regimental welfare officer, Captain Neil Trevor, said: “The overriding emotions for the soldiers are excitement and apprehension. They are leaving friends and family behind which is never easy, but they are well prepared and will deliver what is asked of them. We wish them all a good tour and look forward to welcoming them safely home.”