Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Hugs for a hero as daddy comes marching home. These two sons of a soldier could barely contain their joy as their father returned from Afghanistan.
And after a grueling six month tour, the sons of Staff Sergeant Kevin Vaughan decided it was best for dad that they helped lighten the load by carrying his kit from the plane at Carver Barracks in Essex yesterday.
Sgt Vaughan's two boys Owen, five, and Bradley, six, rushed to their father and then put on his kit as 75 Royal Engineer and Royal Logistic Corps bomb disposal and search specialists returned to base.
The bomb experts, who were part of the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, were responsible for removing all explosive ordnance and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the region.
The incredible heroism of Sgt Vaughan and his comrades was highlighted yesterday by the commander who led British forces' bloodiest tour of Afghanistan since the mission began.
Brigadier Tim Radford, praised the 'most extraordinary courage and resolve' of his troops from 19 Light Brigade.
Brigadier Radford said the men and women of 19 Light Brigade had been 'tested to the extreme' but had 'delivered'.
He handed over control of Task Force Helmand to Brigadier James Cowan over the weekend, landing at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, at 9.25am along with 60 members of the brigade.
Stepping on to the concrete at the Carterton base, he said: 'Tragically we have lost 66 brave men over this summer period and many more have been wounded and it's been a very hard tour and our thoughts, particularly at this time, go out to the family and the friends of those who have suffered.
'It's been a long tour and its been a tour where we have seen things changed and we have faced an enemy who do not want to fight us force on force, but want to lay improvised explosive devises to halt us in our path.
'This summer we have had a total of 1,800 improvised explosive devices laid in our path so we have had to adapt quickly and that's never been seen before in Helmand.'
Soldiers from the 19th Light Brigade embraced members of their families in emotional scenes after the end of their six-month tour of duty in Helmand Province.
Brigadier Radford said the brigade had worked successfully to push the Taliban away from country's population centres.
'We've pushed them away from those areas where they could have intimidated and struck fear into the Afghan people,' he said.
Highlighting achievements made during the volatile election period, he added: 'It is important to mention the progress that has been made in terms of the Afghan national security forces.
'We worked really closely with them over the summer and on August 20 it was they who led the security for the election and we were in support of them and that is a real sign of progress.'
Recognising the support shown to troops, he thanked the people of Wootton Bassett, in Wiltshire, who have repeatedly lined the streets showing 'remarkable respect and dignity to my fallen who have come home'.
Turning to pay tribute to his own troops, who 'fought with the most extraordinary resolve and courage over the summer months', he added: 'They have been tested to the extreme but they have delivered.'
The 19 Light Brigade has been replaced by 11 Light Brigade.
It was revealed today that Barack Obama is sending an additional 13,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan beyond the 21,000 he announced publicly in March.
The additional forces are primarily support forces - such as engineers and medical personnel - bringing the total buildup Obama has approved for the war-torn nation to 34,000.