AN APACHE helicopter squadron from Suffolk is preparing to return home from Afghanistan this week.
The 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, are on their way back to base in Wattisham after a four month deployment to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province.
The 130 troops took part in thousands of apache missions, including escorting casualties and supporting ground troops in contact with the enemy.
They trained for two months in Arizona, USA, in order to acclimatise to the harsh desert conditions in Afghanistan.
Quartermaster sergeant Darren Nunn, 39, from Lowestoft, said: “It was good conditioning because, unbelievably in Arizona, it was hotter than the 40 plus degrees centigrade that it reaches out here in Afghanistan.
He added: “I’ve served on operations in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan once before. Out here in Helmand Province the temp of operations is faster than on other operations.
“I’m very much looking forward to going home. I’m going to take a short holiday to Frankfurt to see my favourite band, Depeche Mode, and also enjoy a bit of down town.”
This is the first tour of duty for Lance Corporal Cherie Ali, 19, from Ipswich, who is a Class Two Avionics Technician.
She said: “I’m the only woman in the squadron’s workshops out here. When I first arrived I only knew a few people and I suppose it was a little daunting. But when you get to know everybody you just fit right in, just like all the other lads.”
Stowmarket resident, Warrant Officer Class Two, Artificier Quartermaster Sergeant, Alex Fortune is also looking forward to coming home and seeing his girlfriend Chloe.
“It’s been a great tour and I’ve really enjoyed it. The job satisfaction is immense. On this tour we’ve produced just under 2,000 Apache flying hours.”
The squadron fly the Apache AH-MK1 attack helicopter, which carries a mixture of weapons including rockets, Hellfire missiles and a 30 mm chain gun.