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Afghanistan looms for the Welsh Cavalry



afghanistan loomsSITTING in the back of the army land rover, I am driven through the rough and rugged terrain at the Castlemartin firing range, which is used frequently for training exercises by various regiments of the British army.

Today however we have been invited to observe over a hundred soldiers from the Queens Dragoon Guards as they take part in a 36-hour operation, which consists of various tasks and exercises. The sheer determination and fitness of the soldiers is evident in their energetic and prompt responses to adverse situations, which have been cleverly elaborated and manufactured to recreate the real life scenarios of modern warfare. The regiment are likely to be deployed to Afghanistan sometime in May for possibly 6 months or longer and will be presented with various obstacles and potentially dangerous and hostile situations, so the necessity to prepare them to deal for the unexpected is paramount for them to complete their tasks safely and effectively. All members of the vehicle crews are expected to make decisions on route selection for the vehicle as well as assisting with target acquisition and the decision on whether to fire or not, which is ultimately down to the vehicle commander.

Wooden cutouts with the painted faces of Middle Eastern men have been placed strategically around the range to prepare the frontline soldiers for ambushes, while small explosives, which produce, loud bangs are hidden in the grass verges to recreate the effect of an I.E.D (improvised explosive device). Once the devices are detonated the countless hours of training comes into play as soldiers retaliate with return fire at the wooden cutout targets, panic stricken faces run towards me in an attempt to restore order and bring the situation under control. Live rounds are fired and the scenario seems very real indeed. Captain Rupert Robinson tells The Herald the aims and objectives of the operation:

“The exercise is progressive, initially confirming soldiers’ ability to fire their personal weapons accurately before progressing to more complicated shoots, culminating in more complex scenarios where soldiers in section, troop and squadron-sized groupings undertake live fire ranges with support from mortars and airborne assets.”

Some of those involved will have previous Afghan experience – in 2008, 2009 and 2011/12 –although for some troops this will be the first time they have trained for an operational tour so the experience is invaluable and potentially lifesaving for them with some soldiers having only joined the Army last year.

For Lieutenant Corporal Scott Roystonhalpin from Carmarthen, this will be his second tour of Afghanistan and is all too aware of the dangers that lay ahead.

“I have been trained to an advanced standard as a gunner which leaves me exposed and vulnerable at the top of a battle tank, but I have been trained by the best army in the world so fully comprehend the risks”

He also explains the physicality requirements of a British Soldier serving in Afghanistan

“I lost three stone on my last tour. The conditions are extreme, from 40 degree heat in the day to freezing temperatures at night it certainly takes it’s toll on your body, both physically and mentally”.

Once the range package is complete the QDG will conduct a second exercise in Thetford the following week. The troops will return to home base in Sennelager, Germany, where they will take part in simulated training prior to returning to the UK to carry out other exercises in preparations for a likely operational tour. Left tenant Colonel William Davies reiterates the importance of the British Military presence in Afghanistan

“We are essentially deployed to restore order to the country, one of our objectives for example is to carry on training the Afghan National Army to operate at a brigade level so we can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they can carry on our work once we leave”

The past 50 years have been busy for the Regiment which has seen active service in Borneo, Aden, Lebanon, the 1991 Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, the 2003 Iraq War, two further tours of Iraq and, most recently, deployments to Afghanistan in 2008/09 and 2011/12.

QDG was awarded the Freedom of Cardiff in 1985. Hopefully 2014’s tour of Afghan will be a safe and successful tour for the regiment and will allow them to accomplish their tasks and objectives.

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Body found in missing person search in Carmarthenshire



IN THE LAST few moments, Dyfed-Powys Police can confirm that a body has been found this afternoon, Wednesday, November 29, during the search for Angharad, who had been reported missing.

Formal identification has not yet taken place, however Angharad’s family has been informed of this development.

Police said: “Our thoughts remain with the family at this difficult time.”

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Excellent progress on construction of new Welsh medium primary school



A CELEBRATION event was held on the site of the new Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro in Pembroke on Tuesday 14th November to mark the reaching of the highest point of the building, traditionally known as the ‘topping-out’ ceremony.

The event was hosted by Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure Ltd and attended by pupils and staff from Ysgol Gelli Aur, the Executive Headteacher of the new school, governors of the Temporary Governing Body of Ysgol Bro Penfro, Cabinet members, senior Council officers, and a members of the project team.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language, Cllr Guy Woodham, said that he was extremely pleased with progress at the site.
“Whilst I was unfortunately unable to attend the ceremony, my Cabinet colleagues have shared with me their experience, and the excellent progress being made on the new school.
“I am particularly pleased that the project remains on budget, and on programme, which means that Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Penfro will be in a position to admit pupils in September 2024.”
Members of the school’s Temporary Governing Body expressed their delight with the building.

The Executive Headteacher of Ysgol Bro Penfro, Mr Dafydd Hughes, confirmed that pupils and staff thoroughly enjoyed the event and that everyone connected with the school is excited at the prospect of moving to the new school next year.

“The fact that a new Welsh medium primary school is being built in Pembroke is an important and exciting development on so many levels.

“As Executive Headteacher of Ysgol Bro Penfro I am committed to ensure that when the school opens its doors in September 2024 every pupil will be given opportunities to flourish and thrive in a welcoming Welsh medium setting. I am also focused on ensuring that the whole Pembroke community takes great pride in the school.”

Pupils were very excited to see the new school. Among the comments received were: “We loved signing the steels, it will help us to remember when we came here when our school was being built and we will always be a part of our new school”

“I can see that everyone is working really hard to build us our school. The school is so much bigger than we expected and can’t wait to start learning in our new classes”.

The project is being funded by Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire County Council, and will provide a significant contribution to the Council’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan.

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County mourns loss of revered priest and community pillar, Father McGreal



THE CATHOLIC community in Pembrokeshire is in mourning this week after the passing of one of its most well-known priests, Father Owen McGreal, aged 88, former parish priest of St Teilo’s Catholic Church, Tenby and former governor of Mary Immaculate RC School in Haverfordwest.

It is understood that Father Owen passed away peacefully on Tuesday morning (Nov 28).

Although he had retired from his role as parish priest in 2014, he remained active in the community, serving as a cover priest. He attended a Paul Sartori event in Haverfordwest just a few weeks ago.

In 2009, family, friends, civic guests, clergy, religious, and parishioners gathered together at St. Teilo’s Catholic Church, Tenby, to attend a Concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving for the Golden Jubilee of Father Owen’s ordination to the priesthood.

His brothers, Lt. Col. Patrick McGreal and Mrs. McGreal, Fr. Michael McGreal (who passed away last year, aged 92), and many nephews, nieces, great-nephews, and great-nieces came from Ireland to celebrate this great event. Among the guests were Rt. Rev. Bishop Thomas Burns SM, then the recently appointed Bishop of Menevia; Bishop Emeritus Rt. Rev. Daniel Mullins, former Bishop of Menevia; and fellow clergy.

In 2014, on his retirement, there was a concert at St Teilo’s bidding farewell to Father Owen after a total of almost 25 years of dedicated service.

Father Owen had dedicated a large part of his life in the church to the service of young people, so it seemed fitting, many said, that the concert included young talented musicians from not only Tenby but also from as far away as Norway and the USA.

On the news of Father McGreal’s passing yesterday, Leanne Prevel, Acting Headteacher of Mary Immaculate RC School, said in a letter to parents and guardians: ‘It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the death of Father McGreal, former parish priest, school governor, and long-term supporter and champion of Mary Immaculate School.

‘We understand that this news will have come as a shock to members of our school community.

‘Should you or your family need any support at this time, please do not hesitate to contact the school, or the Parish…’

‘Our Mass planned for December 8 will now be for the repose of the soul of Father McGreal. We also intend to hold a gathering at the school to remember and celebrate his life in the next couple of weeks. Further details will be shared with our school community in the coming days.

‘We remember in our prayers, Father Owen McGreal, and those impacted by his death.'”

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