AFGHANISTAN DIARY: Armed Forces Minister pays tribute to troops on frontline base visit

PUBLISHED: 12:03 30 July 2009 | UPDATED: 09:11 02 June 2010

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ARCHANT reporter ALISTAIR NELSON is part-way through a trip to Afghanistan with Armed Forces Minister, Bill Rammell MP. On Tuesday, Mr Rammell met soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers to pay tribute to their work.

ARCHANT reporter ALISTAIR NELSON is part-way through a trip to Afghanistan with Armed Forces Minister, Bill Rammell MP.

On Tuesday, Mr Rammell met soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers to pay tribute to their work.

A VISIT to a frontline military base in Afghanistan has given Harlow MP Bill Rammell the chance to pay tribute to British troops.

The Armed Forces Minister arrived at the Musa Qala forward operating base in Helmand Province on Tuesday.

Mr Rammell met soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers battalion which has lost two men during the course of the fighting. The body of Cpl Joseph Etchells, who was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol, was taken back to the UK on Monday.

Warrant officer Dennis Harrington, 41, said: "We held a service for Joseph last night which was very emotional, but you have to draw a line under it and move on. You can't afford to dwell on what's happened.

"We are a close community at the camp, so we support each other, and morale is quite good. Everyone knows there are risks."

Harlow MP Mr Rammell said: "All of the soldiers work under very challenging conditions, but after meeting the troops there is no doubting their dedication and professionalism.

"After coming here I have seen for myself the demonstrable progress which is being made against the Taliban."

The town of Musa Qala was under the control of the Taliban until 2007 when they were driven out by British troops working as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Despite being firmly under ISAF control, the base still faces a risk from the Taliban threat. A rocket had been fired at the base as recently as Saturday, but fell just short of the perimeter. At Musa Qala the soldiers live with the knowledge that the insurgents could attack at any time.

"If you here a rocket you just have to hit the deck," said SWO Harrington. "But fortunately the base doesn't get attacked that frequently, usually a rocket is fired in every month or so."

Mr Rammell finished his visit at Musa Qala with a trip out of the base and into the town. Accompanied by an armed escort of soldiers and an interpreter, the Minister spoke with some of the Afghan people working in the town's market.

"It was really good to out among the ordinary Afghan people and the conversations I had were generally all very positive," he said. "They told me that security had improved and they spoke positively about the country's upcoming election.


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