Page last updated at 19:22 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 20:22 UK

Marines training for Afghan tour

Military vehicles on exercise on Salisbury Plain (Crown copyright)
The military exercise is one of the largest to be held in the UK

Up to 5,800 Royal Marines are continuing one of the largest tri-service exercises to be held in the UK ahead of deployment to Afghanistan.

Three Commando Brigade Royal Marines, including members of 42 Commando, based near Plymouth, have been training on Salisbury Plain.

The aim is to simulate the conditions in Afghanistan as closely as possible.

For seven out of 10 of the 42 Commando marines, this will be their first foreign posting.

It's mixed emotions, I could lose a leg, I could die
Gunner Liam Howe

The marines will be joining a multi-national force in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in an operation called Herrick 9.

Grant Blackford, from Plymouth, has a wife and two young children. This will be his second deployment to Afghanistan.

He said he was well aware that he could be killed or injured.

He said: "For anyone who says they don't think about it, I don't agree with them.

"It's always going to be there in the back of your mind."

For Private Nick Knapman, from Looe, Cornwall, just out of training, this will be his first active service.

He said: "We haven't had any family in the forces before. My parents are proud of what I'm doing, but also nervous. They don't know what to expect."


The Royal Marines will be deployed to Afghanistan in the autumn

Gunner Liam Howe, from the Army's Plymouth-based 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, will also be deployed with the marines.

He said it was a case of "mixed emotions".

"I could lose a leg, I could die. And there's my parents as well, they don't want me to go out there."

Major Neil Willson, 42 Commando's chief of staff, said: "The main aim of the exercise is to grapple with the complexity of the environment we'll be working with in Afghanistan.

"This will range from full-on war fighting, down to the reconstruction and development so important to our role."

Three Commando Brigade, including reservists, and the 42 Commando group will be in Afghanistan for six months.

The changeover will begin in September and continue through until October.

Soldiers prepare for Afghanistan
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08 Jul 08 |  Wiltshire
Marines undergo training
10 Jul 08 |  England
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09 Jul 08 |  Tayside and Central

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