Father follows son to Afghanistan

A father will see his son depart home for service with the British Army in Afghanistan this weekend – with the roles likely to be reversed in six months.

Fusilier Billy Dawson serves in 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh, but is heading to Helmand attached to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), which is deploying out to Afghanistan now for a likely six-month operational tour.

His father, Trooper Gary Dawson, serves in C (Cheshire Yeomanry) Squadron, the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry. He is currently going through a selection process which could see him deployed to Helmand in six months time.

Gary, 38, and Billy, 20, from Rhyl, are Territorial Army soldiers, normally training with the military on a part-time basis in their spare time from everyday civilian life and their ‘day jobs’. The TA is an integral part of the British Army and represents over a quarter of its total manpower.

Gary Dawson said:  “I am quite worried about my son going to Afghanistan but I am also excited for him. I hope he has a good tour and learns a lot. With all the training he has been doing, he just wants to get over there now. It is what he wants to do. Going to Afghanistan is also the reason I joined.”

Gary is originally from Birmingham and moved to Rhyl when he was 14. He attended Rhyl High School before joining the Regular Army in 1990. He served for four years with 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, living and working in the UK, Germany and Northern Ireland. He left the Regulars in 1994 and is now employed in civilian life as a steel fabricator.

Billy Dawson also attended Rhyl High School and then studied law at Llandrillo College.  Billy completed his Phase One Recruit Training on ‘Welsh Challenge’, a four week course run every summer for TA recruits, and ‘passed off’ in August 2009.  Gary also completed his Phase One Recruit Training last year.

Billy Dawson mobilised for duty in Afghanistan in January and after several months of intensive training is now only days away from deploying to the country.  His father is currently going through a selection process for the next ‘roulement’ (change over) of British troops in Afghanistan in the autumn.

Wife and mum Clare is a school teacher.  Clare and Gary met at Rhyl High School.  They married after Gary completed his Army training and moved to Germany.  The couple have a younger son Elliot (six) and an older son Stuart (21).