City soldiers back from Afghanistan
VOLUNTEER soldiers based in the city have returned from the frontline in Afghanistan this week.
The servicemen, who are part of Exeter's TA regiment, have just finished six months on the battalion's latest tour of Helmand Province – known as Herrick 16.
A total of 11 soldiers from Exeter's Wyvern Barracks have been reunited with their families – a smaller number than on previous tours.
The commanding officer of 6 Rifles said he was delighted to welcome the soldiers back home. Unlike previous tours, 6 Rifles did not suffer any fatalities but two soldiers did sustain injuries during operations.
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Exeter Rifleman Josh Santer was reunited with his girlfriend for the first time in six months on Tuesday.
He told the Echo: "This was my first tour of Afghanistan as I was serving in the Nad-e-ali area.
"The threat of improvised explosive devices is one of the biggest threats to us out there, but you don't have to think about what you're doing as it is one of the biggest things we train for – you naturally look for the signs when you're on patrol.
"One of our main focuses was the police training and building up their standards. It's very weird being back home. I'm still on Afghanistan time – you get used to working with not much sleep."
Commanding Officer of 6 Rifles, Lieutenant Colonel Nev Holmes, said: "The lads have been out on Herrick 16 with 3 Rifles. They have been carrying out a range of tasks, from mentoring the Afghan national security army to reassurance patrols. We have had two injuries during this tour involving 6 Rifles. Both of them will hopefully make a full recovery.
"I am absolutely delighted the soldiers are returning from Afghanistan – six months is a long time to be away from the battalion."
The skills and life experience that the volunteer soldiers bring to operations has increasingly come to the fore, with the TA taking on a more integrated role on the frontline recently.
Lt Col Holmes added: "These soldiers come from a range of backgrounds and will also be returning to their civilian jobs. Apart from their physical presence, what they bring is maturity and a worldly experience."
The soldiers spent a short time going through the decompression process in Cyprus before returning to the UK.
Lt Col said: "They go through the same process as the regulars. They then get about four weeks off and then we welcome them back to 6 Rifles, who will be the richer for their experience."
The soldiers have been serving alongside their regular counterparts from Edinburgh-based 3 Rifles.