[A-List] Afghanistan: Biggles meets Vera Lynn
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Mar 19 23:33:27 MST 2002
Commandos straining at the leash to take on al Qaeda
The Herald, 20 March 2002
ONE of the world's toughest fighting forces is
carrying out final preparations on a high-security
site on the Angus coast before confronting the
guerrillas of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The men of 45 Commando from Condor, Arbroath,
are geared towards being ready for "anything, any
time, anywhere", and on Monday they were told
they would be involved in offensive operations for
the first time since the Falklands war.
The Americans believe the marines' unique skills
will be key to overcoming the remaining opposition
Yesterday they tested their new, improved, SA-80
close combat rifles on the Barry Buddon range
near their base, but within four weeks they will have
terrorists in their sights at heights of more than
8000ft in hostile mountains.
Even though they know that it could involve fighting
at close quarters, the marines are anxious to be
Their particular expertise is fighting in the toughest
conditions in the world and since their return from
training in the deserts of Oman last year, they have
been training in the mountains of Scotland.
To a man, they are confident of their ability, but
aware of the dangers they face. When Geoff Hoon,
the defence secretary, made the announcement
that 1700 marines would join American forces, he
gave a stark warning that there might be
"The men of 45 Commando have trained for many
years and since they came back from Oman they
have been held on a short leash for just such
operations," said Major Richard King, the
commanding officer of X-ray company which, along
with Yankee company, is expected to fly to Bagram
within two or three weeks.
Whisky and Zulu companies are already on board
HMS Ocean off the Pakistan coast.
Corporal Peter Curley, 36, may miss the birth of his
first child as he leads mountain operations.
His wife Kerry, 31, is expecting a baby in May and
he has no idea if he will be back home by then.
"She has been with me since I have been in the
corps, so she knows the score," he said. "She
knows I have to go and do it, and she gets worried,
but she understands. She is a marine wife."
Michael MacCorquodale, 23, from Ayr, said he had
joined the marines four-and-a-half years ago
because of the challenge and the travel.
"There is definitely not a gung-ho attitude," he said.
"Everyone has a realistic attitude and knows what
we have to do. "
He leaves behind girlfriend Claire Anderson in
Glasgow. "She is a bit apprehensive, but all I can
do is try to give her confidence and reassure her."
Sergeant Stephen Trench, 37, from Harrogate, said
the mood in the camp had been good.
He is keen to put his 18 years of training into
operation and to "prove what the marines are
While the intense training has made the marines
eager for action, the mood at The Hive, the social
gathering point for wives in Arbroath, is more
subdued and anxious.
In the weeks ahead they will dread a visit from a
"He is the guy they don't want to see," said Colour
Sergeant Hugh Gallagher, 47, the welfare officer,
who will ensure that families are provided with as
much information as possible and help to keep up
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michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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