SOLDIERS from the Royal Scots Borderers are among the latest troops to be honoured in the most recent list of military operational honours, writes Mark Entwistle.
It follows an 18-month period in which the battalion (1 SCOTS of the Royal Regiment of Scotland) has had units in Afghanistan, where it suffered three men killed plus a number of injuries.
And now back at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh, the soldiers are already preparing for another visit to the Afghanistan trouble spot next year, but this time under a new commanding officer, Lt Colonel Ben Wrench, pictured right.
Their new CO is a former Edinburgh University student and was commissioned in 1994 into the Black Watch following advice from his padre at school in the south of England, because the latter had been in the regiment.
His promotion to lieutenant colonel came at the end of last year and he says he was delighted to take over command of 1 SCOTS.
“To be given command of any battalion is a great privilege ... this is something you aspire to and hope it comes your way,” he said. “I also feel privileged at taking on a battalion which has a fine operational pedigree of its own.”
Having taken over following an operational tour in Afghanistan with the prospect of another tour there next year, his soundings appear to show that the soldiers are still in high spirits about it. But Lt Col Wrench says he doesn’t really want anyone talking about Afghanistan at the moment and wants to wait until the final training exercise later in the year before they focus in on it.
“You can almost get too tired of something before you’ve got there because you’ve been focusing on it for too long.”
While acknowledging the honours to his soldiers, he makes the point of paying tribute to the unsung heroes – the families and girlfriends left at home, anxious and worrying.
“Without the support of the families, you don’t have an army, or don’t have the soldiers that will go and do what they are asked to do,” said Lt Col Wrench.
And he said that what he has been trying to do over the current period is to make sure that soldiers are at home seeing their families before the treadmill of being deployed on operations.