British unit home after Afghan tour
October 18, 2007
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The British Army battalion that had three soldiers accidentally killed by an England-based U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jet in Afghanistan has returned home.
The 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment arrived at Elizabeth Barracks in southern England on Tuesday, according to a British Ministry of Defence spokesman.
The homecoming closes a six-month tour for the 600-troop battalion, which was stationed in the perilous Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
“The battalion led several high profile operations where they took the fight to the Taliban, successfully pushing them from their traditional heartlands,” stated a MOD press release. “This allowed much-needed reconstruction and development to take place in Helmand province.”
This tour marked the battalion’s second to Afghanistan since 2002, according to the unit’s official Web site. The unit also served in Basra in southern Iraq in 2005.
The battalion, known as the Vikings, suffered dozens of casualties and at least nine fatalities during its latest tour in Afghanistan, including three enlisted troops who died after being struck by a 500-pound bomb dropped from an F-15E fighter jet from RAF Lakenheath.
Pvts. Robert Foster, Aaron McClure and John Thrumble died in the Aug. 23 incident. Two other soldiers were injured.
The battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Stuart Carver, wrote a letter to the public that appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of the Norfolk Eastern Daily Press.
“There will not be a town in East Anglia that does not know someone who has been injured,” the letter states. “Despite the very real risk to life and limb, they have risked everything to make Afghanistan a better place.”
The 492nd Fighter Squadron returned recently to RAF Lakenheath from its tour in Afghanistan, where the fighter jets provided close-air support to coalition troops.
The Aug. 23 incident is still under investigation by the British Ministry of Defence and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.
The deaths were the first blamed on friendly fire for British troops serving in Afghanistan since the start of the war there in October 2001.
The Royal Anglian Regiment is based in Bury St. Edmunds, a medieval town of about 50,000 people roughly 20 miles from RAF Lakenheath. It is home to scores of American airmen stationed at nearby RAFs Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Feltwell.
The battalion is slated to participate in a homecoming parade through downtown Norwich on Nov. 22.