DEEP in the Hampshire countryside, there is a war going on as hundreds of sailors prepare for operations in Afghanistan.
Nothing is left to the imagination at Longmoor Training Camp as Royal Navy personnel go on patrol, fight with ‘insurgents’ and deal with horrifying, but fake, casualties.
The realism extends to a new £500,000 Forward Operating Base (FOB) which opened at the camp yesterday to replicate life on the front line.
About 800 sailors go to Afghanistan every year on a one-in, one-out basis to fill a variety of positions – be they medics, explosives experts or intelligence specialists.
But before they can go, the sailors bed down at the FOB for training run by Royal Marine Commandos.
Captain Kev Cripps, executive officer of the navy pre-deployment team, said: ‘It’s almost a “zero to hero” two-week package. The idea is they’ll be able to go out of the complex where they are and if they get into a situation they’ll know what to do.
‘We are not training them to become Royal Marine Commandos. We are training them to look after themselves and those around them and not become a liability.’
Fifteen of the 60 sailors in pre-deployment training at Longmoor this week are from the Royal Marines Band Portsmouth, who are due to travel around Afghanistan to play to troops for a month.
Band leader Sgt Trevor Naughton, 31, said: ‘You can find yourself in any situation at any time, it doesn’t matter what job you’re there to do.
‘Travelling is dangerous business in Afghanistan and we don’t want to be caught short.’
Their patrol dealt with a Taliban attack on an outpost yesterday, featuring gory casualties played by real-life amputees.
Musician Jo Darby, 23, who plays the flute and saxophone, said: ‘I didn’t expect it to be as graphic as it has been.
‘It’s a bit of an eye-opener to see the amputees and what we could be presented with but the training we get to prepare us for it is really good.’
Also in training for duty in Afghanistan is Commander Paul Hammond, who until recently was second-in-command of Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless.
He said: ‘Going from sea to Afghanistan, we’ve got to learn to deal with the issues we are going to find there.
‘I’m going out to a headquarters role so hopefully a lot we’ve been learning to do on this training course I won’t need to get involved with. But should the worst come to the worst and we find ourselves on the ground or in a helicopter that has to make an emergency landing then we need to be able to deal with situations in exactly the same way as the guys on the front line.’