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Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010
The Irish Guards in Kenya
By Amanda Dellor and Faye Harland
BBC Berkshire Reporters

Army truck
A truck rolls along a dirt track in Kenya where the Irish Guards train

The sweltering heat, the dust on the ground and shacks for toilets - these are just some of the conditions Irish Guards face while training.

And BBC Radio Berkshire's Faye Harland travelled out to Kenya to stay with the Windsor-based soldiers.

They were in the middle of a six week exercise where the British Army has a permanent training centre.

The exercise is part of their training before they deploy to Afghanistan in the autumn.


Faye Harland
Faye Harland meets school children in Kenya

The aim is to recreate, as far as possible, the conditions they might face in Afghanistan - they are working in fierce heat, they have other parts of the army and RAF there to support them, just as it will be in Afghnaistan, and they even have soldiers from other regiments playing the role of the enemy.

The Irish Guards always celebrate St Patrick's Day wherever they are in the world - and each soldier is presented with shamrock.

So this time they held a big parade in Kenya.

Faye spoke to BBC Radio Berkshire on the day. She said: "It's St Patrick's Day with a difference out here. 650 Irish Guards are in front of me, and there are another 600 supporting troops lining up for the parade.

"Wherever they are in the world, they make the effort.

"It's been celebrated in Iraq, next year they'll be celebrating it in Afghanistan.

"Today they are having a break from training. They're parading and the Colonel has flown in especially and will be presenting shamrocks to all of the troops.

Faye Harland
Faye stayed in a basic tent with the soldiers

"In front of me is a sea of soldiers in full uniform in 38 degrees and behind them the mountains of the Samburu National Park - a very surreal sight."

While Faye was out there she described how conditions were so fierce medical assistance was required.

"They're trying to recreate some of the conditions they'll be facing out there," Faye said. "In the past week, seven people have been treated for heat exhaustion. So the medics are very much part of the exercise.

"They're also working with other parts of the Army and RAF, and working with the Puma helicopters that are based at RAF Benson. It's all about learning how they work together as a unit."

They are also doing some community work while they are there - one of their Majors identified a school where they are finding it very hard to retain teachers because the standard of accommodation is so bad.

As a result they have just three teachers for 120 children.

The school is an hour and a half by jeep from the nearest road and some of the children do a 14km round trip by foot to go there.

Around 20 soldiers from the Irish Guards, who are usually based at Victoria Barracks in Windsor, REME and the Royal Engineers are building a new accommodation block for the school - it should be ready for use on April 2.

But it was not all about work for Faye who saw lots of wildlife and took hundreds of photographs.

BBC Berkshire will be running several special features on the Irish Guards in Kenya throughout March 2010, so keep coming back for more.

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