BEING away from loved ones is a hard fact of life for Britain’s servicemen and women.
That is particulalry so for Sergeant Simon Patterson, who has reached the half-way point of his third tour of Afghanistan as he works on a specialist artillery team.
The 30-year-old, from Durham, was deployed to Helmand Province on Operation Herrick 14 in March, as part of 35 Battery, 39 Regiment Royal Artillery.
The team is due to return to the UK in October, and he is looking forward to seeing fiancée Lisa and son Lewis, who was only six weeks old when dad was deployed earlier this year.
“Being away from home and your family is tough, but it’s part of the army way of life,” said Sgt Patterson.
“However, I can’t wait to be reunited with them when I return to the UK.”
In Helmand, Sgt Patterson has been assigned to command gunners who operate the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GLMRS).
The Army says the system can fire a rocket up to 70km, and to an accuracy of five metres.
In Afghanistan, guided rockets are being used to hit precision targets while safeguarding friendly forces and the local population.
Sgt Patterson joined the Army at 17, and has previously served on Operation Herrick six and nine, launched in 2007 and 2009 respectively, as well as on Telic seven in Iraq in 2005.
The former St Leonard’s School pupil said: “This is my third tour of Afghanistan of which they have all been summer tours.
“In my experience, from Herrick six to 14 over the past five years, the pace of life has slowed down considerably to the point that we have only fired a fraction of the number of rockets we fired on previous tours.
“This shows that our mission in Afghanistan is working, and that we are winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan population.”
Sgt Patterson is also a keen boxer in his spare time, and is looking forward to getting back in the ring on his return home.
He gained a place on the Army Boxing team for five seasons and won the Light Welterweight Combined Services Title in 2003.
The 39 Regiment Royal Artillery is based at Albermarle Barracks.
It is the only regular army unit equipped with GLMRS, which provides the Army with large amounts of firepower.