Troops close bases on last Afghan tour

Troops from the West Midlands and Staffordshire have closed or handed over the bases they have been operating from on their final operational tour in Afghanistan.

Members of the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment – formerly The Staffords – closed the main operating base called Price that is close to the strategically-important town of Gereshk in trouble-torn Helmand Province, where its C Company has been based.

Meanwhile, the battalion’s A Company has handed over control of its Patrol Base – Lashkar Gah Durai at a key intersection on Highway 1, the region’s main road artery – to Afghan forces.

Both companies had spent weeks gradually shrinking the size of the bases and Combat Logistic Patrols delivered the last of the equipment and materiel to Camp Bastion, the main base for UK troops.

Mercian troops took part in a handover ceremony at the weekend before pulling back to Camp Bastion where they will now spend time biologically cleaning the fighting vehicles they have been using.

The vehicles and troops will then come home as army chiefs prepare for the final stages of the operation that will see all British combat troops leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Brigadier James Woodham, Commander Task Force Helmand, said: “The handover of these bases represents an historic moment in the UK’s military campaign in Afghanistan. This was a complex and significant operation.”

There is now only one patrol base being used by British troops outside Camp Bastion. At the height of the conflict there were 137.

3Mercian soldiers spoke of their feelings as the last tour nears its end.

Private Josh Burt, 24, of Stoke-on-Trent, admitted the departure from Helmand would bring a range of feelings.

Pte Burt said: “Obviously there’s feelings here, because we’ve lost blokes.

“But on the other side, everyone just wants to go home and it’s a job well done for us.”