DOZENS of soldiers have been greeted by family and friends as they returned to Yorkshire from Afghanistan in time for Christmas.
The troops from Burma Company of 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (1 LANCS) are the first batch of personnel to return from Helmand Province as part of the Government’s decision to reduce the British commitment in Afghanistan by 500 soldiers.
They arrived at their base at a freezing Catterick Garrison, in North Yorkshire, late last night.
Kingsman Kurt Pollock, 27, from Lancaster, said his wife was expecting their second baby.
He said: “We went to the area but the Afghan police had pretty much been leading most of the operations anyway.
“We’re coming home early because the job has been done.
“I’m chuffed about going home, I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and son, as well as look at the photographs of the scan of the baby on the way.”
Sergeant Rob McCormack, 27, from Preston, said: “The troops are generally happy about going home, however they still have friends out here so sometimes they have the feeling that they want to stay with them.
“Through the welfare system my wife has been told we’re going home and she’s very happy I’m coming back to see her and the dog.”
Kingsman Kurtis Done, 19, from Kirby, Liverpool, said: “I think my mum is more excited than I am.”
He said: “I feel the tour has been worthwhile.
“We didn’t get into any conflict with the enemy because we were doing a proper job.”
1 LANCS are part of Task Force Helmand which is currently led by the British Army’s 4th Mechanized Brigade, known as The Black Rats.
The Army said the soldiers have returned as their patrol base has been closed and the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) have taken responsibility for security in the region.
They were based at Patrol Base Nahidullah in the Lashkar Gah district where their role was to advise, train and support the police.
Nahidullah is the first base of its size shut in Task Force Helmand’s Area of Operations, the Army said.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced last year that 500 British personnel would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.
The Commander of 4th Mechanized Brigade, Brigadier Bob Bruce said: “In terms of the campaign this is the most obvious example of progress during our tour so far.
“The important thing has been enabling the Afghans to take a firm hand on the security situation in this area allowing the Task Force to close Nahidullah.”
Burma Company commanding officer Major Ed Fraser said: “This area was hard fought over but a very active police force has come in over the last couple of years. There are over 200 police officers serving here and they have security locked down effectively.
“The police are ready to take on the security of the area. They are running their own operations independently, they have asked for little bits of support but they were operating very much on their own from the beginning of October.”
The returning troops are now going on leave. They will then provide support the battle groups deploying to Afghanistan in April 2013.
This is when the rest of Burma Company will return to the UK.