Northern Ireland-based soldiers deploy to Afghanistan
Hundreds of Northern Ireland-based soldiers have deployed for operations in Afghanistan.
The troops from Second Battalion The Mercian Regiment, based at Palace Barracks in Holywood, flew out last night for a six-month tour of duty in Helmand province.
They will form part of 20th Armoured Brigade and will be based in the southern districts of Helmand tasked with training and mentoring the Afghan National Army during the operation known as Herrick 15.
Major John Stanier (35) said: "We are going as ground-holding troops and will be spreading security. This tour is about the Afghans doing things for themselves. The emphasis has changed from finding and fighting the insurgents ourselves to providing security for the local population and conducting training and mentoring of the Afghan National Security forces."
Troops from Ballykinler-based 2 Rifles started deploying last week while soldiers from the Combat Service Support Battalion based at Kinnegar are due to leave Co Down over the coming weeks.
Private Joshua Roberts (20) has been in the Army for three years and is about to embark on his first operational tour. He said: "I am looking forward to seeing what it's actually going to be like on the ground.
"I always wanted to join the Army, my brother was in the same battalion and served two tours in Afghanistan, so I wanted to do the same."
The soldiers will be carrying out patrols and providing support to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.