Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 16:33 UK

Scots troops head to Afghanistan

The men preparing to leave
This is the third tour of duty in Afghanistan for 45 Commando

Royal Marines from 45 Commando are heading to Afghanistan for the unit's third tour of duty in the country.

About 80 men from Zulu Company are setting off from their base at Arbroath to spend six months in the Sangin area.

Whiskey Company headed off last week and the remainder of the 700 troops will follow over the next fortnight.

The marines from RM Condor will protect reconstruction teams, support the Afghan national army and police, and restrict Taliban movement.

The marines of 45 Commando spearheaded the first military operations in Afghanistan in 2002, as part of an International Security Assistance Force.

They returned in 2006 to train Afghan troops and protect teams building schools, hospitals, and play parks.

Commanding officer Lt Col Jim Morris said the group were well prepared for the latest operation.

"We've done six months of extensive training for this tour, as well as specialist training for specific roles, such as driver, sniper and signaller," he said.

Once the guys get a feel for the locals and get them onside then I think they'll relax into it
Sgt Maj Kev Cheeseman

"So we're fit, focussed and ready for the challenges and rigours of Helmand.

"45 Commando has considerable experience of operating in Afghanistan, so we're hoping to build on our past successes there, and make a real difference.

"I'm proud of the men and their families, this is what they do, this is their job and they just get on with it."

This will be Sgt Maj Kev Cheeseman's second tour in Afghanistan. He said: "I was out there two years ago, so obviously know the lie of the land and pass onto my commanding officer the expertise of what we learnt last time and brought that forward into the training."

Sgt Maj Cheeseman recognised there may be challenges for some of the newer members of 45 Commando.

"Integrating with the locals, because that's our primary role," he said.

"Once the guys get a feel for the locals and get them onside then I think they'll relax into it, that'll be the biggest challenge initially."

Scott Geddes, 19, from Perth, is heading to Helmand for the first time.

He said: "I'm really looking forward to it, we've done a lot of training so now it's just putting all the training into practice.

"We've been training for the last four or five months so it all eventually comes together pretty well."

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