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British Army news story



Here‘s how it can be for some of the lads in other forces....(from Glasgow Herald)

Troops heading from Basra to Belfast face only five days‘ leave
SCOTTISH soldiers who have just spent six months on duty in Iraq could receive as little as five days‘ leave when they return to the UK.

The 506 officers and men of the King‘s Own Scottish Borderers are to begin immediate retraining for an operational tour in Northern Ireland scheduled to begin in January, only six weeks after they fly back from Basra.

The troops would be returning in mid-November from Iraq‘s summer heat, and Clive Fairweather, a former divisional colonel representing Scotland‘s six surviving infantry regiments, yesterday described the almost back-to-back de-ployments as "madness".

He said they would sap morale and could damage manning levels in the division‘s second-best recruited unit. Some of the soldiers would have had only two weeks‘ leave in the past 18 months.

As The Herald revealed last month, one Scottish regiment faces the axe or two others will be forced into an unwanted amalgamation under Ministry of Defence proposals to "streamline" the army by five infantry battalions.

A KOSB officer said last night: "Those who need specialist training for the tour in Ireland will be back with their families for just five days before they leave again on courses. The bulk of the battalion will need at least a month to rerole for the switch."

He listed the regiment‘s recent duties, including a six-month emergency tour in South Armagh, training in Canada, and foot-and-mouth duty. "We were hauled off next on Operation Fresco, the forces‘ standby cover for the firemen‘s strike. Within a couple of months of that, we were designated an immediate reserve battalion and underwent refresher training for Iraq. In June, we were posted out there as part of the replacement brigade for the guys who had actually fought the war.

"Many of the soldiers have only managed to be on leave with their wives and kids for about two weeks in the last 12 to 18 months. Operations are not the problem. It‘s the separation which imposes intolerable strains."

Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Hogg, the KOSB regimental secretary, confirmed the turn-around time for some could be as little as five days.

"Others may have a week or two before the general training kicks in. The real problem seems to be that the pace of life for the regiment has been continuously heavy for the last few years and involves extended periods away from home."

Colonel Fairweather added: "This illustrates the lunacy of a government policy which envisages disbanding four or five infantry units to save cash at a time when soldiers are already overstretched and facing constant separation."

The MoD said no-one would lose out on leave. "They will all be able to take the time they are due once they are settled into their barracks in Northern Ireland."