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Colchester: Window into soldier life in Afghanistan
Snapshots of life for paratroopers in the dust and danger of southern Afghanistan have been sent back to Colchester.
Some 250 members of the town's 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment are based at Forward Operating Base Inkerman in the Upper Sangin Valley, standing as a buffer between the Taliban and the relative safety of the town of Sangin.
On every patrol they go out on the soldiers of B Company face an 80 per cent chance of getting involved in fighting, and this is the first time a unit has served an uninterrupted six-month tour in the dangerous outpost.
When they engage the Taliban, the paras can call on the support of artillery, attack helicopters and airstrikes, as well as the mortars, snipers and unmanned aerial vehicles based at FOB Inkerman.
Company commander Major Russell Lewis said: "I think we are achieving our objectives, definitely, and I think certainly over the last two months that has become quite obvious."
But that has come at a cost, with the company losing Privates Nathan Cuthbertson, David Murray and Daniel Gamble in a suicide attack on June 8.
Maj Lewis, 35, said: "They were the first losses for the battalion out here, and as you can imagine the atmosphere was incredibly sombre and upset, but what was amazing was how quickly people dealt with it either as individuals or groups."
Everyday life at the base, which was set up in 2007, is simple.
Soldiers sleep in the open under mosquito nets and wash under solar showers.
But they have links back to home with satellite phones and post, including charity welfare packages, while a generator powers DVD players and Playstations.
Major Lewis said he does not feel that they have been forgotten by people back in Britain.
"The amount of welfare parcels that we have been sent from people that we have never heard of nor have any connection with the armed forces is touching, like when we get a parcel with a small note from a small church somewhere saying we just wanted to say how much we are supporting you," he said.