GOSPORT MP Caroline Dinenage visited Afghanistan to talk to troops about life on the front line.
The Conservative, who is married to a Royal Navy officer, went to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province at the weekend to get a first-hand account from soldiers, sailors and airmen in the warzone.
She said: ‘It was a whistle-stop tour for 48 hours but it was a great opportunity for members of parliament and peers to go out there, meet some of the troops and experience a bit of what it is like out there.’
Many local troops are serving in Afghanistan, including soldiers from Hampshire’s Prince of Wales Royal Regiment and those in the Royal Artillery based at Thorney Island, Emsworth.
Ms Dinenage said: ‘These people are awe-inspiring. I met two guys from Gosport, a guy from Lee-on-the-Solent and another from Portsmouth. They are all incredibly upbeat about living in really tough conditions.
‘They work hard, 18-hour days but they just get on with the job.’
Ms Dinenage called the trip – part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which aims to give MPs an insight into defence issues – ‘very emotional and mentally overwhelming’.
She said: ‘I do sometimes think “why are we mounting such a massive campaign so many miles away from home?” But the troops there are sure about why they are doing it and the more of their friends who are lost as the war goes on, the more determined they are to see it through and make sure those friends did not die in vain.’
The government has announced a withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and the military operation which began in 2001 is now focused on training up the Afghan government’s security services prior to the handover.
Ms Dinenage said: ‘It’s starting to turn a corner now. We are getting some progress and that is driving the troops on.
‘They are incredibly brave people and it was humbling to go there and see a bit of what they do.
‘It’s an incredibly tough environment but these people just rise to every challenge facing them.’
She added: ‘They really are inspirational and a credit to us all.’