East Yorkshire soldiers to spend Christmas on Afghanistan frontline
SOLDIERS from East Yorkshire are spending precious time with their families before they deploy to Afghanistan next week.
The Royal Dragoon Guards will spend Christmas on the frontline in Helmand province.
Sergeant Richard "Spud" Smith said his colleagues are "determined to get the job done" and return safely to their loved ones.
The unit is due to fly from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to Camp Bastion, then on to forward operating bases, on Thursday.
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Sergeant Smith, 28, said: "We all just want to go out there now and do what we have spent months training for.
"We are ready and equipped."
Sergeant Smith and his wife Michelle have a son, Liam, 12, and Aaliyah, 9, and live in Holderness Road, east Hull,
He said: "It's going to be hard being away at Christmas.
"But I made sure I got all the presents sorted and wrapped so they will have them all on Christmas morning."
Sergeant Smith will form part of what is known as the "Warthog Group", which will be based at Forward Operating Base Price in the Upper Gereshk Valley.
The Warthog is an armoured personnel carrier.
Sergeant Smith said: "Our taskings will be varied.
"We will be working closely with the Brigade Reconnissance Force (BRF)."
The BRF, considered the cream of the brigade, is often called on to destroy buildings and weapons and target high-profile members of the Taliban.
"Because we have armoured personnel carriers we will be doing a lot of work with them," said Sergeant Smith.
It will be Sergeant Smith's first tour of Afghanistan.
"I am from the Iraq era and so missed the last tour of Afghanistan," he said. "Everyone talks about it. It will be good to finally go out there and see the place for myself."
The unit, which recruits heavily from Hull and the East Riding, has conducted several large-scale training exercises to help prepare them for the tour.
Sergeant Smith said: "The lads have performed very well in training and I am sure they will perform well when we are out there too."
Sergeant Smith's friend and colleague, Corporal Matthew Stenton, 23, was killed during the unit's previous tour of duty in 2010.
Corporal Stenton, of Bridlington, was awarded a posthumous Military Cross – one of Britain's highest gallantry medals – for driving his Viking armoured vehicle into a hail of bullets to save a critically injured comrade.
Sergeant Smith said previously: "A lot of the blokes heading out there were with Matthew when he was killed.
"We will be doing the same job as Matthew, but using a Warthog, which has largely replaced the Viking in Afghanistan."
Corporal Matthew Stenton was killed just three weeks into his six-month tour of duty.
Meanwhile, 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment are due to return to the UK later this month.
Eight members of the infantry battalion, including Private Gregg Stone, 20, of Atwick, near Hornsea, have been killed during the tour.