33 Engineer Regiment to have greater presence in Afghanistan

PUBLISHED: 09:10 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 22:10 31 May 2010

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THE regiment of Royal Engineers based at the Carver Barracks in Wimbish is preparing to ramp up its presence in Afghanistan, the Reporter has been told. The deployment of Lt Col David Southall MBE will be the first time 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) h

THE regiment of Royal Engineers based at the Carver Barracks in Wimbish is preparing to ramp up its presence in Afghanistan, the Reporter has been told.

The deployment of Lt Col David Southall MBE will be the first time 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) has sent a commanding officer to the war zone.

He will lead the Counter IED Task Force which is responsible for ridding Afghanistan's Helmand Province of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The specialist bomb-disposal 33 Engineer Regiment, which was granted the freedom of Uttlesford last year, will also be upping the number of troops it has committed to the fight against the Taliban.

The regiment's 49 Field Squadron has been in theatre for the last six months and is preparing to return home. They will be replaced by 21 Field Squadron.

Also heading out to Afghanistan is senior soldier at the barracks, Justin Spreadborough, who will be deployed as the Counter IED Task Force regimental sergeant major (RSM) - another first for the regiment.

On the eve of his deployment RSM Spreadborough, 40, spoke exclusively to the Reporter.

"Specifically our guys will be called upon to clear routes which could be littered with explosives," he said. "Searching for these devices is probably the highest risk element to the job and generally reflects our casualty cost."

Since 2003 the regiment has lost two soldiers - both to roadside bombs. Cpl Loren Marlton-Thomas was killed in November and Sapper David Watson in January. A number of others have been injured including a soldier who lost three limbs.

Despite the casualties, RSM Spreadborough said that soldiers from the regiment were "at the forefront of some major success is Afghanistan".

"The work is essential to provide manoeuvrability for our battle groups, but also it is helping the indigenous people who live in fear of getting their limbs blown off," he said.

"We want to make the IED irrelevant to the insurgent. They are used as a weapon of last resort because they can't beat us conventionally, but it has a psychological affect on the people they are trying to influence. The local population don't want it and our work will help regain the trust of the people.

"It shows a change in our mindset that the commanding officer has been deployed. The next six months to a year will be crucial, but we have the resources and the manpower to do the job."

The soldier, who has been RSM at the barracks since 2008, said he is looking forward to going out to the country.

"When you've done all the training you want to get out there and do your job because you know you can make a difference," he said.

"Previously I have deployed to places including Sierra Leone and Iraq and I can use those experiences to help our guys get through their tour safely."

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