Sunderland soldier trains in Africa before Afghan mission

African Mission: Captain Moses Legwaile, from the Botswana Defence Force, with Warrant Officer John Stubbs by the Okavango river.
African Mission: Captain Moses Legwaile, from the Botswana Defence Force, with Warrant Officer John Stubbs by the Okavango river.
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A SOLDIER is preparing for battle in the deserts of Afghanistan – in the wetlands of Africa.

Warrant Officer John Stubbs, who serves in the Territorial Army (TA), has travelled to Botswana’s Okavango Delta to help hone his skills ahead of his unit’s deployment to Helmand Province.

The 51-year-old, from Sunderland, is attached to the Surrey-based Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG), carrying out a study into how prepared the country is for disaster planning.

The human resources specialist is also responsible for pay, documentation and accounting on the exercise, drawing on his 30 years’ experience as a civil servant with the Department for Work and Pensions.

“The Okavango Delta region of Botswana is a Unesco world heritage site and is a unique habitat for birds and wildlife,” he said.

“It is the main tourist destination in the country for safaris, and the people who live along the Okavango River and on the delta itself make a living from fishing and agriculture in the only part of Botswana not covered by the Kalahari Desert.

“The whole area is susceptible to flooding on a cyclical basis, and this has seen people being displaced from their homes and roads crops and cattle being damaged and destroyed by floodwater.”

John and his six-strong team have been based at headquarters in the town of Maun, in the north west of the African republic, helping to run the exercise, as well as talking to government officials, local leaders and village chiefs about their knowledge of flooding in the region.

“The findings of our study will help Botswana’s people and has also provided invaluable training for me and my colleagues, in the very kind of skills that we will need to deploy on military operations,” he said.

John, who is married to Carol, has been in the TA since 1982 and, in 2007, served in Sierra Leone with International Military Advisory and Training team.

“I joined the TA to experience the Army, to learn skills and become involved in activities you just can’t do in civilian life,” he said.

“This exercise certainly is one of those.

“I’d never have the chance to do this with any other organisation.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho