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Sunday, 19 August, 2001, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Troops keen for Macedonia mission
British soldiers
British soldiers board a plane for Macedonia
British troops say they are looking forward to putting their training into practice as the go "into the unknown" on their mission to Macedonia.

Soldiers are being flown to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, to assist with the Nato weapons collection mission, Operation Essential Harvest.

An advance party of British soldiers arrived there on Friday and have started to establish a command headquarters on the ground.

Since then regular flights from both RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire have transported troops and equipment to the troubled region.

We're going into the unknown. There are certain elements that always live in you mind

Staff Sergeant Roger Smith
Soldiers flying from RAF Lyneham on Sunday were pleased to be embarking on their 30-day mission.

Staff Sergeant Roger Smith, 33, a Kosovo veteran and member of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, said he was out with a scouts' camping trip when he was recalled for duty on Thursday.

"It was quite a shock and it was just a case of pack the bags and jump in the car," he said.

"Most of the blokes look forward to this sort of mission. We're pleased to be able to get out there and do the job we've trained for.

"We're going into the unknown. There are certain elements that always live in you mind."

You get excited going out there but I'll miss the people back home

Lance Corporal Edward Wolfe
Lance Corporal Edward Wolfe, 22, from Taunton, Somerset, who is a member of 50 Squadron, said: "I was in Kosovo for five or six months before.

"We're not sure what is out there this time but we are going to do a job. You get excited going out there but I'll miss the people back home."

Busy schedule

Ten flights left Lyneham on Saturday, with seven more scheduled for Sunday and four on Monday.

After a flight averaging just under five hours, the planes are unloaded and return to Lyneham an hour later.

A total of 160 tons of equipment is being transported in Hercules C130 aircraft, fitted with infra-red counter measures in case of attack.

Troops boarding C-117 transport plane
C-117 Globemaster planes are transporting troops from Brize Norton
Vehicles including helicopters, Land Rovers, trucks and trailers are being sent.

Lyneham station commander Group Captain Steve Duffill said a typical load would include two Land Rovers, two trailers and about eight personnel.

"We are delighted to be supporting another Nato initiative," he said. "There is a real buzz about the place.

"The crews get intelligence briefings each and every day and when we've given that we decide whether it is safe for them to operate.

"Skopje at the moment is fairly benign. The situation there is not one that threatens us at all."

Personnel from the Royal Signals Corps, Royal Logistics Corps and 16 Close Support Medical Regiment are being transported in planes crewed by members of 30, 47 and 70 Squadrons.

RAF operations and movements staff and engineers are also taking part in the airlift operation.

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See also:

17 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia mission 'too short'
16 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia: The mission
20 Mar 01 | Europe
The military balance
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