Battle gets hairy for troops

Our beards ... troops ditch razors

March 29, 2007

RAF Lossiemouth

RAF ground forces have been urged to grow beards to help in the battle with insurgents in Afghanistan.

A squadron is heading to Kandahar next week to defend the local airfield from attack.

And in an unusual move, the normally clean-shaven airmen from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray have been asked to cultivate facial hair.

Four of the bearded gunners from the 2622 (Highland) Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), the volunteer reserve part of the Royal Air Force (external - login to view).

Squadron leader Tony Brown said today this was because in Afghanistan beards represent strength and virility.

He added that it was hoped it would help them forge closer links with the local communities.

An RAF spokesman said it is thought to be the first time personnel had been allowed to grow beards for an operation.

The troops from 51 Squadron of the RAF Regiment were put through their paces at Lossiemouth yesterday ahead of their deployment to the south of Afghanistan.

The 130 airmen will be supported by 20 part-time volunteer gunners from the stationís 2622 (Highland) Squadron.

They will conduct ground patrols in the area surrounding the Nato airfield as part of Operation Herrick.

In temperatures reaching 50C, the troops will deal with insurgent attacks, protect incoming and departing allied aircraft and co-operate with residents in nearby villages.

Today at RAF Lossiemouth they took part in a training exercise demonstrating how they will defend the airfield.

During the exercise, troops mocked up a fierce firing battle with insurgents. They were supported by Tornado aircraft which flew low over the base in a show of force.