A cavalryman from Burnley has exchanged his horse and sword for helicopter and rifle this summer as he serves on the front line in Helmand Province.
Trooper Craig Ashurst (20) was preparing for the Diamond Jubilee and Trooping the Colour this time last year. This month he is preparing for more operations to find and strike insurgent ammunition supply chains.
Craig, a trooper in the Household Cavalry Regiment, spent 2011 and 2012 carrying out state ceremonial and public duties in London on his horse Beatrice. While serving on mounted duty he rode at the Royal Wedding, the Diamond Jubilee and three Queen’s Birthday Parades, known as Trooping the Colour.
But this summer he is on a six month deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Household Cavalry’s Brigade Reconnaissance Force.
Craig said: “We are in a constant state of readiness to deploy in helicopters or Warthog armoured vehicles in order to strike and disrupt Taliban arms caches and enemy strongholds throughout Helmand.
“This is the job I joined the Army for. As a Household Cavalryman I am a fighting soldier first and foremost. However, I was incredibly proud to ride on all the parades last year, and wearing the kit on parade certainly helps prepare for journeys in 50 degree heat in the back of a Warthog, or five hour patrols carrying 110 kg of kit in the midday sun.”
While on operations in Helmand, Craig has been working side by side with warriors from the Afghan Army. These soldiers, who have been trained by the British and have served on around eight tours, are held in the highest regard by the BRF.
He said: “The Afghan Warriors are just really professional, brave young lads who want to bring security to the lives of their countrymen. They are a battle winner out here now.
“ The Warriors can read the ground and atmospherics in a way we can’t because this is their country.”
Craig, who went to Ribblesdale High School, in Clitheroe, joined the Household Cavalry in 2009.