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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Soldiers prepare for Iraq mission
British soldier in Basra
Staffordshire soldiers will be patrolling the southern city of Basra
An army commander has said spirit was "alive and well" among his men despite a second tour of Iraq in two years.

Lt Col Tim Sandiford, the leader of the 1st Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment, said the 500 soldiers intended to "make a difference".

"The short tour interval did not see us put the bunting out, but neither was it greeted with a collapse of morale or mass resignations," he said.

The regiment, which suffered three deaths last year, is leaving for Basra.

It is just one year since the regiment returned from its first tour of Iraq.

Lt Col Sandiford said: "We intend to make a difference - we have given too much in blood, sweat and tears to do otherwise."

It's about time we came home
Cpl John Grazier, Staffordshire Regiment

He was speaking following reports that many soldiers had left the regiment after the announcement of the latest tour, which it is thought will last about seven months.

He said 34 soldiers in his regiment had requested to leave the army since the announcement.

But a further 38 had withdrawn applications to leave or postponed them until after the tour since the announcement, he added.

However, as the regiment prepared to leave for the Middle East, there was concern about the mission.

'A bit scared'

Cpl John Grazier, 35, from Rugeley, Staffs, said he thought it was time to pull out of Iraq.

"Someone had to say what [head of the army] General [Sir Richard] Dannatt said. It's been a long time coming.

"We shouldn't be there, we've had long enough to get things back to normal. It's about time we came home."

About 500 soldiers from the battalion, currently based at Tidworth in Wiltshire, will begin deploying this week to Basra.

Pte Neil Lambie, 18, said: "I'm a bit scared because it's my first tour and I don't know what will happen."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See an interview with Lt Col Tim Sandiford



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