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VIDEO - Clearing routes for allied troops

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Before the 21 Engineers left Ripon for Afghanistan troops spent months in training and preparation.

Four squadrons went through specialist training for the roles they were to face and one of those - 1st Armoured Engineers Squadron, or Dog Squadron - trained for one of the most high-pressure and critical of the Army’s jobs in Helmand.

Dog Squadron – which earnt its nickname when as an armoured engineer squadron they relied on strong stocky horses to carry their equipment, dubbed “dogs of horses” - have become “Talisman” squadron, and clear routes for British forces in Helmand.

Dog Squadron is dispatched across the province to search for and destroy roadside bombs, clearing roads for safe travel around the area.

It is a vital job, said the squadron’s officer commanding Major Pete Young.

“Our job is looking for bombs, and the fact that the guys are being that brave and going out there putting themselves in harm’s way makes me proud of them,”

Unlike other units, the Talisman squadron is not seeing its work being handed over to Afghan forces, he added.

“In general, when the British Army go out, they need us and we go with them.”

High-tech search equipment - from ground scanning devices to robots and even a remote-controlled Land Rover that mean human operators can work from a safe distance while the machines are sent into the danger zone.

Spending days scanning monitors and screens in the search teams’ vehicles, makes for “eye-bleeding stuff”, Cpl Sean Storey said.

But after the technology has done its job the toughest part of the search falls to sappers trained to scan the ground with metal detectors, drop to the ground and painstakingly brush through the dirt to uncover the bomb.

Their jobs can takes weeks at a time to complete, and the camaraderie inside the armoured trucks is crucial, said Lance Corporal Scott Graham.

Twenty-year-old LCpl Graham was born and brought up in Ripon when dad Mark Graham was posted to the Royal Engineer base in the city.

Sixteen years later - after school at Holy Trinity primary schools and Ripon College he went to Harrogate Army Foundation Colllege (AFC) and joined his father’s old corps.

“My dad’s very proud I’m in the Engineers. He tells all his mates ,” he said.

Like Scott, his father joined up at 16 and rose to the rank of Major before he left the Army.

And while none of Scott’s five brothers are in the forces both his mum and step-dad work with with the forces.

Mum Tracie Richards works at Harrogate AFC’s PRI shop selling military kit while step-dad Graham Richards is based at the college – as Sergeant Major of Scott’s old unit.

His mum and brothers too are proud of Scott’s acheivements, he said.

“They’re all proud of me, but mum worries constantly.”

 

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