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Airborne sappers restructure for the future

14 October 2013

Members of 12 Sqn 23 Engr Regt are awarded operational service medals for Afghanistan. Cpl Obi Igbo (phot)An Engineer Regiment squadron has celebrated the achievements of its sappers in Afghanistan as it is placed into suspended animation.

Reorganisation of Woodbridge-based 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) as part of the Army 2020 reforms has seen 12 (Nova Scotia) Headquarters and Support (Air Assault) Squadron mothballed. The disbandment was marked with a parade at Rock Barracks, which also saw 10 members of the squadron who have recently deployed to Afghanistan presented with Operational Service Medals.

'suspended animation'

The troops deployed from March to September to run a resources cell in Camp Bastion. Their role was to ensure that engineers working with troops on the ground had the equipment and material they needed, as well as preparing 170 shipping containers of kit for return to the UK in support of the drawdown of British forces.

Major General Richard Davis CBE, Director General Army Recruiting and Training, presented the campaign medals before 12 Sqn marched off the parade square and into history.

12 Sqn can trace its history back to 1784 when a Corps of Royal Military Artificers unit was formed to build fortifications at Halifax in Canada. Under different identities and including at least five previous periods of suspended animation the squadron has served with distinction in the Crimea, Boer War, First and Second World Wars, Korea and Aden and was disbanded in 1999.


'celebrating the work of its personnel'

It was reformed in 2002 with the creation of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) and has deployed on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since returning from a third tour of Afghanistan in 2011 the squadron has supported the regiment’s standing commitment to provide close combat engineering to 16 Air Assault Brigade.

12 Sqn’s specialist capabilities - reconnaissance, resourcing and bridging – will be retained and shared between 9 and 51 Parachute Squadrons, providing two larger and self-sufficient squadrons to deploy on contingency operations. Most of its troops will move to other roles within 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) and some will be posted to other units, while the regiment is gradually reducing in size by approximately 130 personnel.

12 Sqn parades for a final time before being placed into suspended animation. Cpl Obi Igbo (phot).Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hones, Commanding Officer of 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), said: “This parade has been a bittersweet occasion. It is sad to see 12 (Nova Scotia) Headquarters and Support (Air Assault) Squadron disband after 229 years of service.

"However we are celebrating the work of its personnel recently deployed to Afghanistan, and know that it can return to the order of battle if ever needed in the future. 12 Sqn has disbanded and re-emerged in a new guise many times throughout its long history; this may not be the last time that the squadron will exist.


'Poignant occasion'

“Looking to the future, this reorganisation means that the Regiment has retained its capabilities in a leaner structure and is fully ready to meet the military engineering needs of the British Army’s only very high readiness contingent force – the Air Assault Task Force.”

Lance Corporal David Bourner was among the soldiers on parade to have deployed to Afghanistan. The 31-year-old from Ipswich said: “It was my first operational tour and it was exactly what I expected from the training. We pulled together well in Afghanistan and the work was hard but rewarding.

“Today’s parade was a poignant occasion and it’s only right to send the squadron off in the proper, formal fashion.”

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