PORTSMOUTH soldiers are ready for action on the front line in Afghanistan after tough heat training operations in Cyprus.
Gunner Luke Casey from Portsmouth, was among 100 troops based at Thorney Island in Emsworth who have spent three weeks training in the sweltering summer sun to get ready to deploy to Helmand province in October.
‘The biggest challenge is coping with the heat,’ said the former St Luke’s school pupil.
‘The training has given us an introduction into what it’s like in Afghanistan with the climate. Even though it’s a bit hotter in Afghanistan, it’s still very hot here.’
During the training, Luke experienced life as it would be on a Forward Operating Base on the front line.
The 22-yeaar-old said: ‘It’s the most realistic training I’ve done so far. Life on a FOB is basic – eating ration packs, using solar showers and living as basic as you can. We’ll deploy for six or seven months over the winter so it should be better heat wise. I’m looking forward to it because I’ve trained so hard to go and do my work.’
While many of the soldiers on the exercise have yet to experience a tour of Afghanistan, Gunner Steve Blackman, 27, has been there before and was able to share tips with his colleagues.
The father-of-three, from Gosport said: ‘I’ve been out there before and this has been pretty realistic. The terrain is pretty much the same, pretty sandy. The FOBs and patrol bases are set out the same as in Afghanistan. The heat and the lack of sleep are the worst aspects.’
The gunner spoke of the hardship of being away from his family while on tour, adding: ‘You miss them all the time but it’s nice to come back after six months and see their smiling faces it gives you something to look forward to.’