FOR those irritated at having to work over the festive period or even spend Christmas away from home, spare a thought for Wiganers serving in the armed forces abroad.
One soldier who is gearing up for Christmas away from his Hindley home is Lance Corporal Rhys Lavin, currently stationed in Afghanistan.
Now on his first call of duty in south Asia, LCpl Lavin is a vehicle commander with the 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment, normally based at the Claro Barracks in Ripon, North Yorkshire.
His job involves servicing and being responsible for the operation of a 40-ton specialist mine clearance vehicle, designed to protect troops from explosive gadgets such as improvised explosion devices (IEDs). His regiment is part of the 4th Mechanized Brigade, known as “The Black Rats.”
The 21-year-old, who is also an army physical fitness instructor, said: “I am really looking forward to making a real difference and help people whilst serving in Afghanistan.
“It is an exciting challenge, I particularly enjoy the search aspect of my job, it is really satisfying knowing that I am stopping something potentially horrendous happening and that the kit I am using can protect my friends.”
A former pupil at Golborne High School, Rhys has previously served in Canada, Germany and France but admits that his family, friends and home town are never far from his thoughts when he is serving his country around the world.
He said: “I joined 21 Engineer Regiment in 2009 and have greatly enjoyed the challenges and opportunities that the Army has brought me. When I return from Afghanistan I’m planning to complete a marathon and a tough-guy competition and triathlon. I have received lots of support from my friends and family and really miss them whilst I am away.” As a fitness instructor, Rhys is also responsible for ensuring that his troop maintains its fighting-fit physique by conducting stamina challenges to help motivate his colleagues.
UK forces are currently deployed in Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The 4th Mechanized Bridage is the lead formation of British troops in Helmand Province, South West Afghanistan.
• For more information about the Army or to follow the progress of LCpl Lavin’s 21 Engineer Regiment in Helmand Province visit www.mod.uk