AROUND 80 soldiers from the 57 (Bhurtpore) Battery of 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery (The Wessex Gunners) marked their final homecoming from Afghanistan by holding a medals parade in front of family and friends at their regimental home at Robert Barracks, Larkhill.

The homecoming parade also marked the end of an almost continuous 11 years of operational deployments by 32 Regt RA in Afghanistan and Iraq and 57 Bty is the last local unit to be deployed to Afghanistan.

In perfect June weather, The Wessex Gunners were presented with their medals by Major General Tim Radford, Commander, Force Troops Command, who told the troops: “The challenges you have faced have been immense and in a few words it is impossible to explain the complexity that you lived with on a day to day basis.

“Your results speak for themselves; in your seven-and-a-half month deployment you have flown 1,910 sorties, accruing 7,379 flying hours. Your continuing professionalism ensured you received The Commanding Officer 903 Expeditionary Air Wings Flight Safety Award. This is an impressive set of statistics and a credit to you and your commanding officers.”

Following the parade, a delighted crowd watched and cheered as the children’s medals parade took place, in which children of deployed personnel marched onto the parade square under the watchful eye of the Battery Sergeant Major and were presented with mini-medals in Royal Artillery colours by the General. The Royal Artillery Band provided music.

This will be the first time since 2003 that 32 Regt RA has been free from operational commitment in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Now, after some well deserved leave, they will concentrate on honing their skills on the Watchkeeper Unmanned Arial System, which they will be flying from Boscombe Down.