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'Honourable Warriors' of 42 Commando Group come home

Men of 42 Commando

17th Apr 2009

Men of 42 Commando

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Royal Marines and soldiers from 42 Commando Group, based at Bickleigh, Devon, returned home via Exeter Airport yesterday following the end of their seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Led by their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Stickland RM, 550 Royal Marines and soldiers attached to the Commando Group were deployed to Afghanistan, working not just in Helmand but across the whole of southern Afghanistan and as far north as the capital city, Kabul.

Since September 2008 the unit has been deployed as a Manoeuvre Battle Group working directly to the Regional Command (South), together with the Dutch, Canadians and Americans, primarily using helicopter insertion to assault insurgent safe havens - striking at the heart of the insurgency.

The highly effective manner in which the Commando Group has operated magnified the size of its contribution, conducting no less than 19 Battle Group-level aviation assaults shocking and dislocating their foe. Huge stockpiles of weapons, equipment and drugs have been unearthed across the South, significantly degrading insurgent capability.

Such huge success has, however, come at a price. The Plymouth-based Commando unit lost Marine Georgie Sparks and Marine Tony Evans in Nad e-Ali in the late autumn and, on Christmas Eve, Lance Corporal Ben Whatley was killed in action in the same area. Corporal Rob Dearing from the Commando Logistic Regiment, but attached to 42 Commando, had been tragically killed but a few days before.

Lt Col Charlie Stickland RM said:

"42 Commando Group have given their all to our part of the Afghan Campaign and have had an enormous impact across all of southern Afghanistan. We mourn and will remember our fallen and feel very comfortable stating that as 'Honourable Warriors' we have made a difference.

"I pay tribute to my Marines and those that supported them - to their robustness, strength of human spirit, their trust in each other and agility to dance from 'fire fight' to drinking tea with the elders and back again at a moment's notice. They have soldiered in some of the most extraordinary and vexed of circumstances and never let me down."

The Commando Group finished its long deployment on a high when last month it completed a daring raid and particularly kinetic operation into the area of Marjah, in Helmand province, a hotbed of huge value and significance to the insurgency.

Among those arriving home yesterday was Corporal Jonathan Owen, aged 26, who was reunited with his wife and four children at Exeter Airport. He said:

"I'm so happy to be back. It is always tough being away from your family so a welcome like this is even more special."

The men of 42 Commando Group will now proceed on a period of post-operational tour leave. They will march through Plymouth on the morning of 7 May 2009 to mark their homecoming.



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