Thames Valley Soldiers prepare for home-coming

Two Army officers from Wokingham are preparing to return to the UK after completing their first tours of Afghanistan, discovering what life is like on operations.

28 year-old Lieutenant Stuart Girling and 25 year-old Lieutenant Ross Arnold have spent the last six months based in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province - but they have had very different roles.

Stuart works for the Task Force Helmand Media Operations team, while Ross is commanding his troop of signallers as they provide vital battlefield communications to the troops on the ground.

In his normal role in the UK, Stuart is a Command Post Officer for 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. With the constantly changing nature of the operations in Helmand he has found himself having to adapt to a very different working environment.

Working as a press officer for British forces in Helmand province, Stuart’s primary role has been to escort embedded journalists, enabling them to report on what our front line troops are up to. It has provided him with a well rounded view of what is taking place from day to day and, as such, he is also been trying his hand at some reporting himself, writing press releases about important operations for military publications and the mainstream media back in the UK.

Stuart said: “It’s really just a case of trying to get the right picture and then telling the story as it happened. There are lots of Army publications to write for but I’m also writing press releases for newspapers and other media organisations.”

Ross is deployed with his troop of 28 men and has been responsible for ensuring that the hi-tech communication equipment that allows the troops on the ground to communicate with their headquarters is properly maintained and functions correctly.  

Ross says, “I enjoy the technical aspect of my job, in that the equipment I use requires skill and high quality training. It is a vital role, because without effective communications it is extremely difficult to maintain command and control over the entire battlefield.”

Both Ross and Stuart, who attended Ranelagh School in Bracknell, have enjoyed their first experience of an operational theatre.

Ross, who commissioned from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Aug 2009, grew up in Wokingham with his two brothers Sean and Paul. Since being in the Army, Ross has taken part in an exchange program with French military and has organised
and run a skiing trip to the Alps.

He is the second generation of Arnolds to have served in the Royal Signals. His father Dave Arnold, who lives with his Ross’s mum Judi in Wokingham, served for 13 years reaching the rank of Sergeant.

Ross added: “I was inspired to join the Army after listening to the stories my Dad used to tell. I have never looked back and relish every new challenge.

Leading soldiers on operations has proven to be a very demanding, but also a very rewarding job.”

Stuart also commissioned in 2009 and has gone on to complete the arduous pre-parachute training selection course, earning his Para wings. He has also conducted a six week exercise in Kenya and spent ten weeks learning Dari, one of the two national languages of Afghanistan.

Stuart grew up in Wokingham with his parents and two brothers. He played rugby for Bracknell Rugby Club before leaving for university. His hobbies include foreign travel, eating out at nice restaurants and watching the soap opera that is Southampton Football Club.

Stuart said: “Working with the media is not something I ever imagined myself doing, but that’s the beauty of Army life - you never know what new challenge is going to be sent your way. It’s a great opportunity to see a lot of what is
going on and try my hand at a new skill set”.

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