Poachers half-way through Iraq duties

Wednesday, 11am - BOSTON soldiers reaching the half-way point of their operational tour of Iraq have been reflecting on a 'different Basra'.

The 2nd Battalion Anglian Regiment – known as the Poachers – are operating as military transition teams. They live alongside the Iraqis, supporting them and training them out on the ground.

Commanding officer Lt Col Simon Browne said: "It is a different Basra from the one we left behind at the end of our last operational tour in 2006.

"Iraq, and in particular Basra, has changed out of all recognition and all the changes are positive."

He added: "Areas which were on the previous tour virtual no-go areas are now peaceful and the locals accept our presence, with them at worst being ambivalent towards us, whilst the vast majority are pretty positive about our presence.

"The Iraqi Security Forces are now taking the lead in maintaining security and confronting all those who perpetrate violence. And stood right behind pretty much every Iraqi Army unit in Basra is a Poacher offering advice, giving them support, helping them and giving them access to things that their armed forces don't have yet, such as bomb disposal teams."

Lt Col Browne has spoken of how proud he is of all the Poachers.

"I cannot stress enough the change I see on a daily basis – it is staggering and the majority of it is very much driven by the example our soldiers are showing to their Iraqi colleagues," he said. "I am so incredibly proud of them, I know the separation is tough on the families that are left behind, but I hope that the fact their loved ones are making a huge difference is a small consolation."

He added: "What really makes it happen is the good old Poachers charm; it has created an incredible bond of trust and respect between them and the Iraqi Army."