More airmen to Afghanistan

More than 100 airmen from RAF Honington yesterday flew into a war-torn Afghanistan to begin a gruelling six-month tour.

More than 100 airmen from RAF Honington yesterday flew into a war-torn Afghanistan to begin a gruelling six-month tour.

The 140 members of 2 Squadron RAF Regiment gathered at the Suffolk base on Monday after a long weekend of goodbyes to family and friends and flew to Brize Norton in Oxfordshire which left in the early hours of yesterday morning .

The men, and one woman, will be stationed at Kandahar Airbase in south east Afghanistan where they will form part of the force protection team which patrols outside the wire.

They will prevent Taliban and Al Qaida missiles attacking outgoing coalition aircraft - a dangerous and hands-on job.

Sharon Hornby, 40, an orderly room clerk from Mildenhall, is the only woman in the regiment and will carry out HR duties in Afghanistan. This will be her fourth time at the Kandahar airbase.

“It is reassuring in a way because you know the layout of the camp but it's still new and it's quite scary because people are dying out there,” she said.

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“I'm married to an RAF guy so I know quite a lot of them and so I don't notice much difference being the only woman. In the big scheme of things you're wearing the same uniform but they will look after you and take care of you. I think really we just all want to get out there. You're at the stage where you just want to go and get on with the job.”

The regiment will be led by Squadron Leader Matt Carter, awarded the Military Cross following an operation against Taliban forces in Helmand in 2006.

Second in command will be deputy squadron commander Flight Lieutenant Mike Dewar who previously served in Iraq, Africa and Kuwait.

Speaking of leaving behind his wife and two sons, aged nine and six, he said: “It's pretty difficult. In the past when I've gone out before my boys have been younger but now they understand.

“I try to explain it the best I can, that we've got good equipment, and I'll send lots of letters and e-mails home.”

The departure of 2 Squadron takes place just a week before 27 Squadron RAF Regiment returns home to Honington, near Bury St Edmunds, following its six month tour.

The squadron will become the most recent unit with Suffolk links to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Other local deployments include the Royal Anglian Regiment, whose regimental headquarters are in Bury St Edmunds, which currently has its 1st Battalion stationed in Helmand Province.

Fighter pilots from RAF Lakenheath are currently on a four month deployment in south east Asia from where missions are being flown over Afghanistan.