THE snow covered countryside of Salisbury plain is as far away from the arid tundra of the Afghan desert but it is against this backdrop the final Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX) for 19 Light Brigade (Lt Bde) is being conducted.
Based at Thiepval Barracks the brigade, which will provide the core of the next Task Force Helmand (TFH), will deploy on a six-month tour to the southern Afghan province. The exercise attempts to create as closely as possible an environment that replicates the challenges that everyone in the brigade from the ordinary soldier to the brigadier himself will face in Afghanistan. Whilst based in Helmand the Task Force will conduct operations to contain threats to security in the region whilst enabling and facilitating Afghan civil development. T o that end over the last five months component parts of the Task Force have conducted comprehensive theatre specific and collective training including language skills, cultural awareness and driver training.
In charge of 19 Lt Bde is Brigadier Tim Radford. "This is the first brigade deployment from Northern Ireland since WW2," he said.
"It's been a very busy time but the training progress has been good. We have done regimental training throughout Belize, Kenya and Germany. We've also done some training in UK as well — and this is the final bit." Brigadier Radford is well aware of the stresses that his troops will be under but is confident that families will get all the sup-
port they need when their loved ones are away: "It is very difficult being away from your loved ones but we've got a very good welfare package which is being run by 38 Irish Bde back in Northern Ireland," he explained.
* To see more photos of 19th Light Brigade preparing for their tour in Afghanistan, log onto www.lisburntoday.co.uk.