Friday, March 30, 2007

Airman Grow Beards To Tackle Taliban

From England's Daily Record: RAF airmen have been told to grow beards - to help them tackle the Taliban. A squadron is heading to Afghanistan next week to defend an airfield from attack. And the normally clean-shaven men from RAF Lossiemouth, in Moray, have been asked to arrive with a full set of whiskers. The move was made because beards represent strength and virility in Afghanistan, says Squadron Leader Tony Brown. And he hopes it will help them forge closer links with people in the country. He said: "The reports I am getting are that the majority of locals are friendly towards NATO forces. "They will also tell us when something unusual is happening so it is absolutely critical to keep them on side." An RAF spokesman believes it is the first time their personnel have been allowed to grow beards for an operation. The troops from 51 Squadron were being put through their paces at Lossiemouth yesterday ahead of their deployment to Kandahar and the south of Afghanistan. The 130 airmen will be supported by 20 part-time volunteer gunners from the 2622 (Highland) Squadron. They will conduct 24-hour ground patrols in the area surrounding the NATO airfield as part of Operation Herrick. In temperatures reaching 50C, the troops will deal with insurgent attacks, protect allied aircraft and co-operate with residents in nearby villages. The airmen, who have been training since November, will carry out their work in a 200-square mile zone surrounding the airfield. Squadron Leader Brown said: "We have been trained for the full threat spectrum of what we might encounter in Afghanistan."

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