Skip to comments.UK TROOPS: 'Whatever happens out there, we will win'
Posted on 01/23/2003 5:18:34 PM PST by MadIvan
They scrambled around in the cold and mud for the television cameras, shouting instructions and pouring dummy ammunition into the advancing trees as though their lives depended on it.
The boys of 16 Air Assault Brigade were doing their bit in the media war against Saddam Hussein yesterday, putting on a show before departing for the Gulf.
There was confidence in abundance, especially from the men of 3 Bn The Parachute Regiment, one of the main constituents of the brigade, Britain's principal rapid-deployment force.
Major Mark Christie, the battalion's second-in-command, was typically Para when asked about the various kinds of operations his men might be asked to undertake.
"Whatever happens," he said, "we will win."
The brigade, based in Colchester, Essex, is one of Britain's main contributions to the American-dominated force being assembled in the Middle East. It travels by helicopter usually, but its two parachute battalions might just be used in a mass drop to seize key objectives in Iraq. Its third infantry unit is the air-mobile 1 Bn The Royal Irish Regiment.
Yesterday the brigade vehicles and helicopters were being loaded on to ships for the two-week voyage to the Gulf, or possibly the Eastern Mediterranean - if the Turks, so far reluctant to accept large numbers of Anglo-American troops, allow them passage into northern Iraq.
Its advance party has already left Britain, but the main body of men will not follow for some weeks, after more, intensive training.
The paratroopers' relief at being released from fire-fighting duties was plain. Only two days ago they were manning Green Goddesses in Essex and Hertfordshire, covering for striking firemen. "It was interesting for a day or so," said Major Christie. "But Paras are not very good at sitting around."
When call-outs came, they were mostly minor. On one occasion, a group of Paras put a fire out with their feet.
Lt Col John Lorimer, the CO of the battalion, was confident that his men would acquit themselves well, whether they were used in a mopping-up role, or in post-war peace-keeping or street fighting in Basra or Baghdad.
His men, he said, were trained and equipped to fight and survive in a modern chemical warfare environment, but no British soldier has so far had to do so.
He deftly deflected a question about his men coming back in body bags.
"Morale is high. Some of the men are as young as 18, but they know their job. They know what they came into the Army to do."
The Rev Cole Maynard, padre of 3 Para, said a few more men than usual had sought his advice since the announcement of 16 Air Assault's deployment.
"From my view, this is a just war," said the Mr Maynard, a Baptist. "Saddam is a man who has systematically killed those who oppose him."
The betting yesterday was that the brigade would enter Iraq from the south, working as a mobile complement to British ground forces, or as an adjunct to US airborne formations, striking deep into enemy territory.
The Air Assault brigade travels light; its firepower includes Landrover-mounted Milan anti-tank missiles, mortars and heavy machineguns. Its punch resides in a regiment of 105mm guns, and the Lynx anti-tank helicopters of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.
Officers were upbeat about their equipment - so often the subject of doubts. The much-derided SA80 assault rifle is now, they say, a virtually new weapon after modifications to remedy its vulnerability to jamming.
The infantry are now equipped with reliable radios, and the ancient and insecure Clansman radio, still in service because of procurement failures, has been equipped with a bolt-on scrambler to stop it being a public address system to the Iraqis.
The only doubt concerned domestic public opinion. One Para explained: "The boys aren't worried that a lot of the public are against a war. Just that they might stop it."
With you at the first, with you to the last.
I sure do hope that the SA-80 has really truly been fixed. I read some bad things about it here on FR.
I think they need something a little heavier for Ents.
Gotta love that.
And who knows where the SAS bricks are at this moment.
Note Ark Royal is without CAP. This is only tolerable if it is relying on CAP from an allied carrier.
An interesting joint exercise.
There are a lot of people both here and abroad who believe that we Americans and Brits want to take over the world. What they fail to realize is that if we were at all interested we could have done it already with troops like these!
See, told ye!!! ;-)