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Viking Operators Return from Helmand

Royal Marines, escorted by a Viking armoured vehicle, patrol through the narrow streets of Gereshk (Archive picture)

15th Jun 2009

Royal Marines, escorted by a Viking armoured vehicle, patrol through the narrow streets of Gereshk (Archive picture)

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Personnel from the Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, who operate the Viking all-terrain vehicle, returned from their most recent six-month deployment to Afghanistan to RAF Brize Norton on Saturday 13 June 2009.

Based at Camp Bastion, the unit was responsible for operating the Royal Marines' Viking all-terrain armoured vehicle throughout Helmand province.

Vikings are amphibious, armoured vehicles, capable of operating anywhere in the world. In Afghanistan, they support troops involved in close combat, allowing them to manoeuvre swiftly and securely around the battlefield.

The 107 men of the Armoured Support Group were led by Major Richard Hopkins who described his men as having developed a 'formidable reputation' over their tour; he noted accolades his men received in the last few days from those that they supported, describing them as 'everything that epitomised the best of the British Armed Forces'.

Lieutenant Colonel Rex Barnes, the Commanding Officer of 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, in overall charge of the Armoured Support Group, said:

"The men of the Armoured Support Group have performed phenomenally. For many of them this was their third or fourth tour of Afghanistan.

"I'm delighted to welcome them back; they performed sterling work and can now look forward to some well deserved leave."
Men of the Armoured Support Group first deployed to Afghanistan in September 2006 and there are few men in the group who are not familiar with the ground in which they operated.

Having returned from Afghanistan himself in January this year, Warrant Officer Kevin Moss describes them as people that 'always rise to the challenge':

"You can put your life in their hands," he said. "Their capabilities, their professionalism, their ability to get the job done no matter what - that's what I'll remember."

Two Royal Marines, Marine Jason Mackie and Lance Corporal Robert Richards, lost their lives whilst serving with the Armoured Support Group. Their funerals were held last week.

Lt Col Barnes added as the personnel returned to Brize Norton on Saturday:

"Whilst we welcome their arrival this evening, we remember Lance Corporal Richards and Marine Mackie who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Our thoughts are also with our many wounded who are still receiving treatment."

Major Hopkins concluded:

"We have paid a high price for the contribution we have made to the people of Afghanistan and lost two exceptional men. Their spirit will live on for many years to come in our unit ethos; they will never be forgotten for their contribution to our lives and unit."

The returning personnel were reunited with their families on Saturday evening at their home base, Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.


Enlarge +Royal Marines, escorted by a Viking armoured vehicle, patrol through the narrow streets of Gereshk (Archive picture)