Campaigners demand Army cuts are shelved until troops return from Afghanistan
CAMPAIGNERS fighting the Government's defence cuts are demanding the changes are shelved until every soldier has returned from duty in Afghanistan.
The 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Staffords) is poised to complete a final tour of duty in the war zone in autumn next year.
And campaigners say it is unreasonable to expect the regiment – or any other soldiers facing uncertainty over their jobs – to be deployed to the frontline.
The Staffords' name is set to be withdrawn from the Army's Order of Battle as part of plans to cut the number of full-time soldiers by 20,000 before 2018.
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A total of 16 other units will also be disbanded over the next two years.
But thousands of servicemen, veterans and residents raised objections through campaigns organised by The Sentinel and Staffordshire Regimental Association.
The association's Stafford branch chairman Dave Lovell served with the Staffords between 1975 and 1992 before taking redundancy in a previous wave of cuts.
His son David, aged 35 and a father-of-one, is expecting to be deployed to Afghanistan in September but is unsure if he will still be sent there.
Mr Lovell, of Stafford, said: "He's worried for his job.
"The Government is making troops unemployed and then asking 3 Mercian soldiers to go to Afghanistan next year with a P45 in their pockets.
"They are going out there knowing fully that they may not have a job.
"Morale will be a problem leading up to, during and after the next tour.
"They are apprehensive about going into a war zone when they feel they do not have the support of the Government that is sending them there.
"It's a really horrible situation for all the soldiers involved.
"The review should be put back on the shelf and only brought back up for discussion when Afghanistan is completely finished and all of our troops are back at home.
"Even then, they should be starting at the top and working downwards – not the opposite way around."
Fred Williams, of Fegg Hayes, secretary of the Stoke-on-Trent branch of the Staffordshire Regimental Association, said: "These cuts should just not be allowed to happen.
"What incentive is there for these soldiers to go and serve in Afghanistan and risk their lives when they fear they could be on the streets when they get back? It is difficult to even get your head around what they are doing.
"And my fear is that whatever happens, we are going to be back in this situation in five years time because the cuts just keep going."
For more on the campaign or to sign the petition to preserve the Staffords' identity, visit www.saveourstaffords.com