Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Medals for 100 weekly warriors who braved the hell of Helmand

Soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment have been presented with their campaign medals for service in Afghanistan.

A special ceremony was held at Hillsborough Castle on Saturday to honour the 100 TA soldiers who swapped Civvy Street for six months on the front line in Helmand Province.

The medals awarded in recognition of characteristic courage in the most perilous environment were presented by Lord Brookeborough.

And the teachers, taxi drivers and civil servants were joined by proud relatives and local dignitaries for the service.

The ‘weekly warriors’ — who returned to a hero’s welcome in Belfast on Monday — have spent six months in Helmand Province, one of the most hostile places on the planet, where they came into regular ‘contact’ with the Taliban.

They were deployed in March along with their regular counterparts from 1 Royal Irish and were tasked with providing force security at the British Army headquarters in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion.

But they were also the first part time soldiers permitted to train and mentor the new Afghan National Army at outposts spread throughout Helmand.

Soldiers from 1 Royal Irish, based at Clive Barracks in Tern Hill, Shropshire, will receive their campaign medals at a ceremony next week.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Shrewsbury Abbey and will be followed by a parade to the Shirehall where the salute will be taken by the Lord Lieutenant.

Many families from Northern Ireland are expected to fly over to England to support the event.

Saturday’s medals ceremony was the first in a series of engagements taking place across Northern Ireland over the next month.

On October 31, the Royal Irish troops will parade through Ballymena and will be granted the Freedom of Larne in early November.

The soldiers will also join servicemen and women from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force for a full military parade through Belfast on November 2.

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